Thursday, November 29, 2012
THE HUNGER GAMES (2012)
In a dystopian future set in the totalitarian state of Panem, a girl and boy between the ages of 12 and 18 are chosen by lottery from each of its twelve districts to fight to the death on national television. This annual ritual (called a reaping) came about because of a failed rebellion years ago. The conflict’s victors reside comfortably in the Capitol and are an elite, oddly-dressed bunch. President Snow (Donald Sutherland) uses the reaping as both punishment and entertainment, but its primary purpose is to quash further rebellion. These most dangerous games are overseen by Seneca Crane (Wes Bentley) who uses computer-generated perils to manipulate and, on occasion, to finish off unruly participants. 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) lives in District 12 and spends much of her time in the woods hunting food for her family with bow and arrow. When her younger sister Primrose is chosen in the lottery by ditzy Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks), Katniss volunteers to take her place. She and the male tribute from her district, Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), head to the Capitol to be trained by former game winner Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson) and primped by Cinna (Lenny Kravitz). Because winning is as much about popularity as survival skills, the tributes suffer through televised interviews conducted by the obsequious Caesar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci) before being thrown to the proverbial lions. The script by director Gary Ross and Suzanne Collins (upon whose novel this is based) and Billy Ray comes off as both faithful and paper-thin. The film takes nearly half its running time to get to the games, yet its world and inhabitants feel artificial and incompletely realized. Director Ross, who lacks the conceptual and visual rigor to pull off successful world building, must shoulder much of the blame. Tucci gives his quirky character plenty of verve, and Kravitz displays surprising charisma. The other performances, however, are standard issue. Nevertheless Lawrence and Hutcherson have good chemistry together – enough at least to keep the film engaging, if less than enthralling.