Clearly hoping to replicate the huge success of the Twilight films, The Hunger Games has seen itself marketed as the latest effort of teen-friendly fare. Those looking towards The Hunger Games in the hope of replicating the angst-driven affair of Stephanie Meyer’s novels will surely be disappointed: The Hunger Games, despite its 12a rating, is a brutal affair.
Taking place in the fictional Panem, twelve poverty-stricken districts are compelled to allow two ‘tributes’ to compete in the annual ‘Hunger Games’, a televised fight to the death, as punishment for an earlier rebellion. These tributes, one male and one female aged between twelve and eighteen from each district, are selected in the full knowledge that they are unlikely to survive.
Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), fully aware of the difficult task ahead, volunteers in her younger, more fragile sister’s place. Katniss, along with her fellow tribute Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) are informed early on by their booze-addled mentor, former Hunger Games victor, Haymitch (Woody Harrelson) that they should accept the likelihood of the impending death, and that there is little that can be done to prevent it.
The tributes travel to the Capitol, where along with their physical and survival training they are told to make use of the opportunity to make an impression upon the games’ viewers. Through proving themselves likeable and memorable, tributes may find themselves provided with essential donations from sponsors during the games: gifts that may help ensure their survival.
Some have criticised both the subject matter and the certification of The Hunger Games suggesting that such a topic is entirely unsuitable for its young adult audience. Arguably The Hunger Games is far more socially and politically engaging than any other teen-friendly film of recent years, encouraging a form of active questioning from its audience. Rather than lulling it audience into passivity, The Hunger Games forces its audience to question the morality of these events.
The roles are well-cast, but it is Lawrence’s central performance that truly excels. Retaining the hard edge ofRee Dolly (her Oscar nominated performance in Winter’s Bone), Lawrence’s Katniss is, despite her tough nature, entirely empathetic and, importantly, eminently watchable. Fast-paced and fully immersive, The Hunger Games is all the more remarkable for its lead female protagonist, another notable departure from the aforementioned Twilight films. Katniss, unlike the weak, passive Bella Swan, does all she can to survive, whilst importantly retaining her humanity. Katniss is a true role model for its young female audience: a contemporary feminist heroine.