The Hunger Games (2012): Dystopia Versus Utopia

The Girl on Fire

I first read the novel this year in preparation for the world premier of the film that had been adapted from the book. I will not hedge nor will I guild the lily, I only read the book and preprepared myself for the film for one reason and one reason only. To hate them both.

Like a lot of people who have been intellectually blown off their feet by a concept so far beyond anything seen to date in a book and a film that took dystopia filled worlds to a different level, I felt that Suzanne Collins who wrote the original novels had taken a huge leaf out of  1996’s Battle Royale written by Koushun Takami .

I then further decided that the film made from Collins’s book would use as much of the film version of Battle Royale as possible to ensure it’s success.

I knew that this was a blatant rip-off of a Japanese  futuristic film about children killing children that had not even seen the light of day State side until December 2011

Furthermore, I knew all this without ever having read a single line from the book or watching a single trailer from the film.

How comfortably correct and outraged  we allow ourselves to feel, cocooned in the depths of our ignorance.

If you look in my archive you will find a review I did for all three of Suzanne Collins’ books in the Mockingjay Trilogy. So in the area of the novels, at least, I could hold my hand up with an embarrassed grin on my face as I did a 180 degree turnaround on the story, the author and the book’s themselves.

I then waited impatiently for the film adaptation to hit the big screen (which it did at roughly the same time as my review was posted). Unfortunately due to the flow and ebb behaviour of my finances this year, I had to pass on the big screen viewing. Last night, I watched the high-definition downloadable version via iTunes.


I was not disappointed.

Director Gary Ross (who co-wrote the film’s screenplay with author Suzanne Collins and Billy Ray) manages to catch the look and feel of the novel. He puts us right behind Katniss (katnip) Everdean (played by Jennifer Lawrence who brought Katniss to living breating life) from the very beginning of the film and keeps us there until the film’s dangling ending.

And before I go any further, a quick word about csting, it – was – perfect. Elizabeth Banks as Effie, Woody Harrelson as Haymitch. But the winners in the above and beyond category for simply sublime casting has to go to Donald Sutherland as the scary President Snow and to Josh Hutcherson as the lovelorn Peeta with honourable mention to the genius who talked Lenny Kravitz into appearing as Cinna in the film.

Honourable mention: Lenny Kravitz as Cinna.

As with many adaptations from favourite novels there were some things changed or added, but, they did not ruin the film in the least. The one added thing was the chance for readers of the books to see how the orchestrations of the ‘games’ were performed. A hugely modern television control system combined with CGI effects that could kill and you had the reality tv show from hell.

Of course in the books where we see everything from Katniss’s point of view, we don’t get to see the mechanizations behind the arena and it’s killing fields. We, like Katnip, can only wonder where the cameras are located and just how much the audience can see. With the film we can see it all. It really helps sell the film and it’s feel of a dystopia dictatorship that yearly punishes it’s unwilling denizens.

Like the book, this film has been aimed at the ‘young adult’ market and this is most obvious in the scenes of battle which are almost curiously bloodless. But the scene at the very beginning of the games where the ‘tributes’ arm themselves from weapons stored in the cornucopia, the lack of blood does not detract from the horror of what these children face as this is where half of them will die.

Do yourself a favour and get this film on blu-ray. If ever a film deserved to be viewed in high definition its The Hunger Games.