Rest easy, The Hunger Games is not another Twilight franchise. It promises more, much more.
It seems director Gary Ross made sure the newest installment in the teen drama canon has no cheese. And this lack of cheese is made possible by the brilliant script adapted by the author of the franchise, Suzanne Collins. Let’s be real, if the novelist is adapting the script, there is a greater chance it might actually be decent writing and as close to the plot as possible.
But The Hunger Games is a strong narrative in its own right. It is the riveting chronicle of apocalyptic North America that sacrifices its youth in the annual Hunger Games, a fight-to-the-death Battle Royale between a teenage boy and a teenage girl, or “tributes,” as they are called in the film. While there is a developing romance between tributes Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), the romance begins in the midst of a dually intelligent and exhilarating plot. The intellectually driven plot assumes a certain element of maturity of the audience, unlike its teenage cinematic counterparts (Twilight).
A plot that incorporates both action and romance often proves to be a recipe for enjoyment by both males and females, particularly teenagers. But while the plot is likeable, the characters are gripping.
Peeta Mellark is strong yet kind. Born into a wealthy family, Peeta saves Katniss’ life by providing her with bread from his father’s bakery when her family is on the cusp of starvation. In doing so, Peeta introduces young audiences to the severe separation of class in apocalyptic North America that is also indicative to society today. The film explores the war on the lower class via the emerging relationship between Peeta and Katniss who both live in District 12 but are of a different social status. Teenage boys can take a cue from Peetra—both strength and kindness are not dichotomous attributes. It is true, you can have it all.
Katniss Everdeen is a strong-willed and independent. Rather than allowing her younger sister to enter the Hunger Games, she volunteers (nearly sacrifices) herself. Her selflessness and power constructs a unique and compelling character. And Jennifer Lawrence appears to be a smart choice for Katniss. She appears to accurately portray the poised badass with a heart of gold—again, not a combination we find often. Lawrence even took archery lessons for an added authenticity, and of course, she actually looks the part as described in the novel. Katniss has the potential to be the newest (and best) teenage role model young girls have seen in years. Perhaps we can finally set aside society’s affinity for Disney Channel sensations.
In addition to the well-chosen cast (which also includes Donald Southerland, Liam Hemsworth and Lenny Kravitz), Grammy-winning producer T Bone Burnett crafted a profoundly meditative soundtrack to compliment the darkness of the film. The 17-track album is surprisingly soulful and laced with sounds of the South. Country darling Taylor Swift and folk duo The Civil Wars both lend their voices to two tracks and collaborate on the track “Safe and Sound.” The Punch Brothers, led by Chris Thile of Nickel Creek, lend their progressive bluegrass melodies to the song “Dark Days.” Other artists include the likes of Miranda Lambert and Maroon 5.
In short: there is an intelligent plot, a gripping cast and a soulful soundtrack—the film has great potential. While these teenage franchise films are often victim of their own expectations, there is hope in The Hunger Games!