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TO Hunger1

The Hunger Games

DIRECTOR: Gary Ross

CAST: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Woody Harrelson, Lenny Kravitz and Donald Sutherland

CLASSIFICATION: PG 13

RUNNING TIME: 142 minutes

RATING: ***

Okay, let’s get it out of the way. This is not Twilight. Everything from people actually saying “this is the next Twilight” to the Twilight: Breaking Dawn trailer appearing before this film would have you believe that, if there were some Tween Cult Film trophy, The Hunger Games would next have it firmly in hand. If films had hands.

But I digress. The Hunger Games is not Twilight. It’s better – at least better for the adults. There are loads of similarities between the two films. For one, there’s a love triangle of sorts that plays out where Katniss Everdeen (Lawrence) is caught between playing kissy face with Gale Hawthorne, the good guy back home (played by an oldish, Hansel-looking Liam Hemsworth) and the bad boy, Peeta Mellark (Hutcherson).

The difference between them and Bella, the shiny dude and wolfy what’s-his-face is that The Hunger Games love triangle is not super emo. There is another major difference between the two franchises (a sequel to The Hunger Games is on the cards, but is yet to be announced), which seem to be targeted at the same market: the girl gets to kick some serious butt.

Here’s the lowdown. Way after the apocalypse, a nation called Panem rose to form a wealthy city called Capitol that is surrounded by 12 dirt-poor districts. As things tend to pan out when people feel disenfranchised, the districts revolted against Capitol, but they lost the war.

For their sins, every year there is “the Reaping”, a day where one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18 are offered up to the Capitol to fight to the death in what is called “the Hunger Games”. The boy and girl are called “Tributes” and names are randomly chosen from a bowl. But, by the end of the games, only one of them will survive.

Before the 74th annual games, a tough-as-nails Katniss, a 16-year-old District 12 citizen, volunteers to be a Tribute after her little sister is selected. Also from District 12, timid baker boy Peeta is selected.

They have to square off with 22 other boys and girls in a synthetically created world controlled by the Capitol.

Using a reality TV style where all of their moves are monitored and sometimes manipulated by the state, these kids have a few days to look for shelter, feed themselves and try not to get killed. Something else straight out of reality TV is when Katniss and Peeta start playing up their star-crossed lovers plot for the cameras. Quite frankly, it’s Peeta’s best shot at staying alive and well, getting some not-so-PG PDA (public displays of affection) out of Katniss. I don’t know what it is about these films that constantly try to make it okay for us to be watching two 16-year-olds get overtly sexual on one another without taking their clothes off.

Is shacking up in a cave together what’s hot on the streets now? What’s next? A look of regret from the teenaged lass and a shirtless young man puffing on grape sherbet the morning after?

Back to the film. Katniss’s archery skills give her a shot at survival. In fact, everyone and their cousins believes she has an actual shot at winning the games. But it’s hard to win a game that’s rigged. By the middle of the film, however, you’re rooting for the brunette who needs a serious attitude adjustment.

Adapted from the trilogy of books by Suzanne Collins, this dramatic dystopian sci-fi is on the money when it comes to the audience’s emotional investment.

But it does itself a disservice with 20 too many shaky camera movements. While the dry colours of the woods and Amish county-looking districts are a good contrast to the rich hues of the Capitol, there is a sense of overplaying the modern vs old look. For example, the constant use of dull silver in the Capitol sometimes looks silly and slightly less than regal. For people in a post-apocalyptic age, you’d swear the inhabitants of the city don’t own mirrors. As if Tim Burton’s Mad Hatter was used as a reference point, the Capitol city dwellers have frozen-stiff hair in all the colours of the rainbow and dress in every shade of a single colour. Think purple outfit, magenta eye shadow, plum lips and rouge to match.

Ironically, the only person who escapes this silly look is the usually over-the-top Lenny Kravitz (remember his relaxed hair phase?) who plays District 12 Tributes’ stylist, Cinna. He wears dark colours and a hint of gold liner on his eye lids. Other downsides?

Some of the Tributes are at times laughably aggressive in their zest to murder. But the script gives good Public Service Announcement lines like when Peeta says: “I just keep wishing I could think of a way to show them (the Capitol) that they don’t own me. If I’m gonna die, I wanna still be me.”

And where they may be cheesy, a dishevelled Haymitch (Harrelson), in charge of training Peeta and Katniss, is the comic relief.

So if you start thinking this film is pandering towards gruesome violence and is too much for you, remember this: at least it’s not Twilight.

If you liked… any of the Harry Potter or Twilight films and aren’t a tween… then you’ll like this movie.

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