At my old film school in British Columbia, we had a little basement room. When I was growing up people called it a “rec room” because the room was… recreational I guess. Furniture, lamps, shelves with books and movies, and that’s it. But the school had a great selection of old, hard to find gems – things you should definitely see if you’re going to call yourself a film school student (whatever that means). Anyway – I’m bring it up now because it was in that little rec room that I first saw Kinji Fukasaku’s “Battle Royale”.
Chilling, brutal, violent, scary, funny and unlike anything I’d ever seen before, I remember turning to a classmate and saying, “I can’t believe they haven’t remade this yet!” – THEY being Hollywood.
Well now they have.
Only this time author Suzanne Collins has transported events to a fictional dystopian world where everybody has a stupid name. After the unsuccessful rebellion of District 13, the other 12 Districts are punished by the ruthless “Capital” where the evil President Snow (see what I mean about the names) sits there being corrupt and smelling “like blood and roses”*.
The prose is weak and unoriginal and I pretty much hated every second of my experience of reading it.
But almost as soon as I started the book I knew it would make a good movie. In a movie we could do away with all of Collins’ drivel and spice up her dialogue. In the movie we could condense the story to the essential action, making things actually suspenseful and even genuinely moving.
And I think (and I’m not alone here) that they did just that. They took Suzanne Collins’ turd of a novel and brushed off the worst bits and polished up the rest and then handed the whole thing over to the incredible Jennifer Lawrence and got her to carry it. Ok, I’ll admit that’s a gross metaphor.
But Jennifer Lawrence does carry the movie – and does so effortlessly – and if this franchise remains successful it will be because of her. She brings to Katniss something real and vulnerable, something that Daniel Radcliffe never managed, a genuine humanity. The scene where (**SPOILER**) she lays her dead comrade in flowers and does that three fingered salute thing… I got a little choked up. It’s just one of the many examples where Lawrence does some real honest to god acting in a movie that she’s way too good for. It makes you wish that Warner Brothers had gotten as lucky with the child cast of the Potter movies as they did with the grownups. ANYway…
Here’s the summary of my review (you call this a review?)
The Hunger Games. Dir: Gary Ross. Lionsgate Studios. 2012
Rating: 7/10 – especially if you like bows and arrows as much as I do.
The performances make the movie – especially Jennifer Lawrence.
Gary Ross delivers the story in a much better way than Suzanne Collins did (I know she’s a co-screenwriter).
The trilogy should be a hit – and Lawrence will certainly be a star.
Interesting Facts: The movie claimed the third highest grossing opening weekend of all time (All time being until The Avengers, Prometheus, The Dark Knight Rises and The Hobbit come out later this year and set new records) and the highest grossing opening weekend ever for March, or for a non-sequel. Cool.
That being said, if you haven’t already, go check out the far superior “Battle Royale” (2000). Or, for that matter, “Winter’s Bone”(2010).
*Actual description from the novel.