Review: The Hunger Games
Hunger Games is another popular book series that is getting the movie treatment. However, Hunger Games does not rely on a love triangle between the three main characters and instead the story focuses more on their struggles to survive. It isn't a original story as it harkens back to popular films like The Running Man and such but it manages to stay fresh albeit it's familiar story. The original novel stayed fresh in large part to the great writing of Suzanne Collins, and the film follows in suit thanks to the directing of Gary Ross and the solid script. Above all else, the story has a protagonist that we can easily buy into as she is not only courageous and brave but she is brash and vulnerable all at once. Collins has stated that her initial inspiration for the story came from the Greek hero Theseus and that Katniss was a futuristic version of him. The Roman gladiator games also helped set up the framework for the hunger games in Collins' novel.
The plot is set in a post apocalyptic world of Panem. The world has been broken up into twelve districts and the Capitol where only the most wealthy of individuals reside. The Capitol and it's government had set up the Hunger Games as a form of punishment for a past rebellion where the thirteenth district was blown up. In the Games, one boy and one girl from the ages of twelve and eighteen are randomly selected to participate in the event as tributes and fight to the death. The winner of the Games gets to go home and the reward is that the winner and it's tribute gets food for a year. The story itself follows a young sixteen year old woman named Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) from District twelve who is a primary provider for her sister Primrose and their mother who previously ran away when their father died in a coal mining accident. The Reaping, where a girl and a boy is chosen, has arrived and Katniss promises a scared Primrose that she will not be chosen. As luck would have it, Primrose was chosen and Katniss does what instinctively comes natural for an older sibling as she volunteered as tribute preventing Primrose from going to the Hunger Games. The boy that is then selected is Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson). The two share a handshake and are whisked away on a fancy train all the way to the Capitol to get people to like them and ensure themselves sponsors for the games. In the world of Hunger Games, sponsors can be a tributes saving grace as whenever you are in danger your mentor can go to sponsors and ask them to send you food, a weapon, or even medicine. On the train ride over to the Capitol, Katniss and Peeta meet their alcoholic mentor Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson). Haymitch does not seem to care too much about his new tributes as previous tributes from District twelve never seem to fair well. However, he quickly begins to notice that these two are different. Peeta is smart enough to play up the crowd and be generally likable while Katniss shows that she is fighter.
Katniss and Peeta aren't exactly friends but, Katniss does remember him as the baker's son who spared her some bread on one dark and dreary day. The two ask Haymitch for advice and he simply quips that they need to make people like them, and in comes stylist Cinna (Lenny Kravitz) who dresses them up for their introduction ceremony. In these ceremonies, tributes are dressed in accordance to their district, and since District twelve is a coal mining area, Cinna dresses them in suits that light on fire. It certainly catches the attention of everyone, which is a first for anyone coming out of District twelve. Katniss also notices a younger girl who has been chosen for games named Rue, Katniss cannot help but notice the similarities between Rue and Primrose. The tributes from all Districts then have to show the Gamemakers what they are best at, and Katniss shines in her ability with a bow and arrow while also surprising them in another way. The Gamemakers based off of what the tributes show them rate them on a scale of one to twelve. The higher your score, the more sponsors you are likely to get and Katniss scores the highest rating. The next thing the tributes have to go through before the Games begin is the interviews with Caesar Flickerman and in these interviews Peeta reveals that he has had a crush on Katniss for a long time.
Having being a fan of the original novel, I enjoyed the film a little more than someone who hadn't read the novel. Director Gary Ross did a terrific job with this film, and one of the standout scenes to me would be when the Hunger Games actually began and every tribute took off trying to get a weapon to fend for themselves. In this moment, once it all began, Ross decided to cut away all sound for this scene. It was a powerful scene seeing all of these children running for their lives attempting to get a weapon that could tip the scales in their favor. Ross also did a great job of capturing what the book was truly about. I personally loved one scene that they added in that was absent from the book between President Snow (Donald Sutherland) and Seneca Crane (Wes Bentley) in which Snow tells Crane that the games are good because it gives everyone a false sense of hope. They did a terrific job in casting all of the roles, most notably the three key roles. Jennifer Lawrence is fantastic as Katniss as she captures everything that Katniss is. Josh Hutcherson, when I heard he would be playing Peeta I was very skeptical, but he also did a surprisingly good job and made the character very easy to like. Gale, while being a small role with limited screen time, shines in large part due to Liam Hemsworth's portrayal and his ability to say so much with so few words. Haymitch and Cinna were also portrayed perfectly by Woody Harrelson and Lenny Kravitz respectively. All in all, it is an enjoyable movie even if you don't read the books and I highly recommend it to all.