The much anticipated Hunger Games film is based on Suzanne Collins’ young adult novel of the same name. Not having read the book or exposed myself to spoilers, I was forced to rely solely on the film to grasp the plot.
The basic premise is simple: in a post-apocalyptic future, North America is divided into twelve districts, mostly living in poverty, while being ruled by the affluent, high-tech metropolis called the Capitol. As punishment for a previous uprising, each district is forced to send one male and one female contestant each year to the Hunger Games, where they will fight to the death, leaving only one survivor.
When Katniss’ younger sister is selected for the Games, she volunteers to take her place. It gets even more complicated when the other contestant from their district is a boy she has sympathies for, and vice versa – only one can come out of the games alive.
The contest bears an uncomfortable resemblance to today’s reality TV shows. Taking place outdoors, they’re being filmed and televised by hidden cameras, and watched on big screens even in the poor, low-tech districts. The contestants are assigned stereotypical personas and backstories so they can more easily be sponsored and marketed. But the premise of reality TV is twisted an extra turn: having sponsors determines the contestants’ chances of getting extra help during the contest. This makes their very survival dependant on turning themselves into fake media personalities, and their fight for life and death into crowd-pleasing theatre.
So how enjoyable is it? In my opinion, the film is very well executed. It’s suspenseful and it’s easy to identify with the main characters. It’s relatively realistic and down-to-earth, which makes the characters’ situation feel more real (except for the characters’ near-perfect looks, of course, despite scratches in the face and being out in the wilderness for several days). It has violence and gore, but it never revels in it – it uses it to show the seriousness of the situation and add to the realism. There’s romance, but it’s never allowed to take over the storyline.
I only have a few complaints. The premise behind the Games seems a little sketchy, and the authorities blatantly interfere in them, which strains believability. The story also takes the easy way out a few times. The main character (Katniss) is sometimes a little too perfect, and hard situations and choices are sometimes avoided a little too easily, by events outside the main characters’ control.
Fortunately, the film resists a perfect happy ending, instead focusing on the hypocrisy of the Hunger Games and leaving some ambiguity.
Recommended for anyone who likes drama or suspense, and can stand some tastefully depicted violence.