Every year in the ruins of what was once North America, the evil Capitol of the nation of Panem forces each of its twelve districts to send a teenage boy and girl to compete in the Hunger Games. A twisted punishment for a past uprising and an ongoing government intimidation tactic, The Hunger Games are a nationally televised event in which “Tributes” must fight with one another until one survivor remains.
Pitted against highly-trained Tributes who have prepared for these Games their entire lives, Katniss is forced to rely upon her sharp instincts as well as the mentorship of drunken former victor Haymitch Abernathy. If she’s ever to return home to District 12, Katniss must make impossible choices in the arena that weigh survival against humanity and life against love.
Film informationGenre: Action, Drama
Watching The Hunger Games is certainly an exercise in confusing emotions. The movie is basically about kids killing kids so it is a bit natural I think to have conflicting thoughts. Ironically, however, the movie allows you to somehow walk away from the movie cheering for the protagonist despite the fact that their victory requires the death of other children. Such is the angst and the brilliance of the movie and the books that it was based upon. A movie like this should upset us and if it is done well….it should leave us absolutely thrilled.
The Hunger Games is completely dependent on our ability to embrace the young Katniss Everdeen, played to perfection by Jennifer Lawrence. In a world where the one percent live like Kings while the rest starve, Everdeen finds herself in the middle of a reality show nightmare. The land is broken up into twelve districts where a boy and girl are snatched up by lottery every year. They all then fight to the death where only one survives. Everdeen volunteers for the Hunger Games when her sister is chosen, making her instantly the star of the movie.
These games serve several purposes, but the primary one is to keep the districts down where they “belong” which is underfoot of the rich. They also serve as a horrid reality show for the masses much like a modern day survivor but where the stakes are living and dying. Everdeen is clearly the underdog in the movie, but she is also powerfully present throughout. Her calm and innocence blend perfectly to make for the perfect protagonist.
There are twenty four children all being pitted against one another in a fight to the death, yet somehow this movie was able to procure a rating less than Rated R. That to me is rather insane. While the movie is no gore-fest, the subject material alone should be reason enough to have the movie secure an R rating. It is hard to imagine how kids killing other kids with arrows, bricks and various other weapons could be okay for my 13 year old. This aside, director Gary Ross does an admirable job of keeping the graphic to a minimum while still packing the punch that is needed for the story to make sense.
In the end, we find ourselves cheering for the plucky Everdeen, while still grimacing when one of her opponents meets an untimely demise.
The one issue I have with Ross’s directing is the constant shaking and zoom in shots of his cameras. It causes you to want to scream out in much the same way as when your elder relative gets hold of the home movie handheld camera. This has become a very “in” thing to do in modern film and I will never understand it. It does not look artsy at all. It looks like bad camera work.
Jennifer is the primary scene stealer in the movie but she is far from the only stellar performance. Woody Harrelson is fantastic as her mentor for the Hunger Games. His drunken character finds a way to come across as almost wise.
The movie certainly finds itself as a success, but it does feel neutered a bit in comparison to the book. I am not entirely certain that this is a bad thing, given the subject matter. Putting some of the things that are depicted in the book on film would be challenging to say the least without offending the largest part of society. Still, some folks wanted to get that push. Many wish the movie was allowed the Rated R rating and that Ross would have pushed the envelope.
Despite all of these things, the sweeping epic is a solid film that forces you to think of things that are most uncomfortable. It makes you cheer when you should, while still forcing the melancholy reality of the Capital on your reality. The combination of feelings that it emits is eerily familiar with the feelings one gets from the book, so in that regard Ross has a stunning winner. The Hunger Games could not be made as a comfortable movie, and to be honest, that is exactly the point. It is a must see for anyone that likes to escape in a movie, even when it is to a scary place indeed.