The Hunger Games and Catching Fire

Calling the Hunger Games series just a cash in on the Twilight hype is unfair. The Hunger Games is a far more intellectually stimulating and well written set of books/movies. It also doesn’t contain the presenting of abusive relationships as romantic. So while many of the viewers of Twilight will flock to the Hunger Games, this is not because they are similar.

The Hunger Games is set in a dystopian America where after a great revolution the nation has been split into districts all ruled by a fascist overlord who presides in the capital. In order to keep the various districts under control the capital organises a vicious tournament in which every year, each district chooses two tributes (a boy and a girl) to fight the other tributes to the death, to be televised for the capital. Our main character Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) is a teen looking after her shell shocked mother and young sister, until she has to volunteer to be tribute in order to save her 12 year old sister.

 

The Hunger Games

I watched this, having not read the book, but in the knowledge a lot of people had read it, and enjoyed it. And to be honest I was expecting something similar to Twilight, as it had been presented in this fashion and I knew nothing about the story. I was pleasantly surprised to see this film wasn’t a dull fairy-tale about a weak central female stuck in an abusive love triangle. This is in fact a really quite gripping fairy-tale about a strong central female, who eventually finds herself in a love triangle she doesn’t really care about.

First of all Jennifer Lawrence is superb, and the film really relies on her central charisma to move forward. There are other strong performances notably Woody Harrelson as a near permanently drunk and gruff previous Hunger Games survivor, and Elizabeth Banks as the fantastically over the top Effie Trinket, but really Jennifer Lawrence pulls this film along.

There are flaws. There are not many new ideas here, Battle Royale clearly has its influence all over this film and a dystopian America ruled by a dictator is hardly a new premise, but what this film does do well is mix all of those well-known ideas and features into a relatively fast paced and exciting teen thriller. It does also have a few problems with fitting features of the book in, I noticed it felt like parts were missing without having read the book, I did then go and read the book, and discovered there were parts the film either missed out or spent only a little amount of time on. So at times the movie does feel sort of thinly spread especially while trying to give character development to all of the different tributes.

However, despite these problems, it is an enjoyable and solid two and a half hours, which while it is a long film, it never seems to drag. The action sequences are strong and although they are never visually graphic, psychologically just the idea of children fighting each other to the death is very gruesome indeed. Overall then I enjoyed this movie, and really I hope people realise this is much much more than a cash in on the Twilight series.

7/10

Catching Fire

This is the sequel to the Hunger Games and, yet again, having not read the book I didn’t know what to expect plot wise, but I did know that it would probably be an enjoyable film watching experience. I wasn’t disappointed. Essentially this movie tracks Donald Sutherland (the dictator of dystopian America) in his attempt to kill Jennifer Lawrence (Katniss) without upsetting the general public. This leads to a special edition of the hunger games in which all of the previous winners compete against each other.

Again, the central performance from Jennifer Lawrence is sublime, in fact I actually think she has turned what in the books is actually quite an irritating main character into a fantastic cinematic lead which you really root for. This movie also sees a large jump in character development in the character of Effie Trinket, who while in the first edition was essentially just a personification for all of the glitz and ridiculousness of the capital, in this second film we get to see the person behind the crazy dress and smile.

Similarly to Hunger Games they do seem to have struggled to fit everything from the books into the film, and (perhaps naively) I believe that could be why the last film has been split in half. So there are issues with cohesion at times, and parts seem a little rushed. That said it is actually more exciting than the first one, which is a sentence rarely used to describe sequels. I feel like the action sequences were actually stronger, and the sinister elements of the game show (which really should feature more heavily) and the capital are handled far more elegantly in Catching Fire.

At the end of the film, I found myself thinking that I could quite happily just watch all of the Hunger Games story in one sitting, and was a little disappointed when it ended, and you really don’t notice the length at all. I prefer Catching Fire to Hunger Games, and I am now very much looking forward to seeing Mockingjay.

8/10

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