The best film adaptations are the ones that take a little bit of poetic license with the original text and make the story their own. Having not read a single word of Suzanne Collins's trilogy, the first of which the film The Hunger Games is based upon, it is interesting to observe yet another teenage-young adult phenomenon translated onto the big screen.
The first thing that comes to light is that Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) is the polar opposite of Kristin Stewart's irritating "Bella Swan" from the ubiquitous Twilight series. As Bella longs and waits to be rescued by Edward, her vampire lover, four tedious films (the last is yet to be made) unfold. In The Hunger Games the story begins immediately as Katniss speeds into action with her bow which she uses to hunt animals to feed her sister and mother. Katniss does, as Bella waits. Unfortunately, just as it is unfair to compare the book to the film, it is also a little unfair to compare heroines from popular novels however much one might find one of them superior to the other.
So let us dwell on the magnificent Katniss, one of the bravest, and most likeable heroines yet to grace the gender-skewed world of action movies. Katniss volunteers (instead of her little sister) to participate in "The Hunger Games" a horrific competition forced onto the remaining 12 districts of a post-apocalyptic world by a totalitarian government. The games require a teenage boy and girl, picked through a lottery, from each district to participate in a globally televised reality show where the victor is the only one who remains standing after being released into the wild where they must survive on their own, and kill each other to win.
While there is an undeniable horror at the inherently voyeuristic nature of cinema that allows us to reflexively rejoice at the event of one nasty teenager offing another (there are some evil neo-Nazi type, uber Aryan blonde kids from District 1 that are specially trained to win each year in the games), it is also essential to state that without a measure of self-identification with the characters, no conventionally motivated film could succeed.
Still, as with the deeply disturbing Lord of the Flies, the premise of any story (film or novel) where kids are made to kill each other, always invites food for thought. Perhaps it is simply that children are supposed to be innocent of adult faults, and when they take on adult traits, especially the particularly deviant one of murder, it is all the more distressing and therefore all the more powerful and, thus, as a tool should be used with caution and distinct purpose.
The Hunger Games is worth watching for Jennifer Lawrence's portrayal of Katniss. Katniss is the archetype of what humanity ought to be. She is clear of eye and true of heart and we root for her because she represents the best of our flawed human race. In this way, her character manages to transcend gender. Watch the film, but at the risk of sounding overly didactic, be aware, because every time you want to cheer for Katniss, you are also somehow, however inadvertently, cheering at the death of a child. Even in fiction, this is a disturbing thought.
The Hunger Games is currently playing at QFX cinemas.