By: Lawrence Foster
Rating: 9 out of 10
Harry Potter, Game of Thrones and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo are all examples of movies or TV shows that got me hooked via a screen. After watching those respective franchises, I got hooked by each respective book series, but, without the TV or movie theater, I would have probably never gotten into any of them.
With the above history, I was obviously intrigued by the theatrical release of The Hunger Games. Before I heard about the film, I was unaware of the Suzanne Collins trilogy. After two and a half hours on Sunday night, however, I was hooked.
The Hunger Games offers up a rich and fully-realized world and, most importantly, characters with whom the audience members can connect.
For those of you like me, who know nothing about the HG universe heading into the theater, here is a brief synopsis — HG follows Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), who lives in the poorest of the 12 districts of Panem, District 12.
Panem is a country that resides where North America once did. I’m not sure if the book goes into more of a back story of how Panem came to be, but, based on the movie, there was a huge war in which 13 districts rose up against the Capitol.
Once the rebellion is squashed, the Capitol creates the Hunger Games, in which each of the 12 districts must provide a boy and a girl between the ages of 12 and 18 for a competition to the death. The tributes are selected via a lottery system and Katniss’ younger sister, Primrose (Willow Shields), is selected as the District 12 female tribute. The selection is essentially a death sentence for Primrose, so Katniss steps up and volunteers to take her spot.
Once the male is selected, Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), the tributes are sent off to the Capitol for preparation for the Games and, most importantly, where they can meet the public because above all, the Hunger Games is a reality-TV competition.
This move, from the seemingly 1800s District 12 to the technologically advanced Capitol, reminded me of The Wizard of Oz. In the classic film, going from black-and-white to a color-filled and outlandish world was shocking. Even though District 12 isn’t black-and-white, the change in scenery is equally as shocking because the Capitol is full of vibrant color (particularly with the inhabitants’ hair) and outlandish outfits.
Once at the Capitol, the 24 tributes train with weapons and survival skills necessary to survive the elements of the Games. As I noted above, however, making an impression on sponsors is the most important thing because they can provide contestants with helpful tools and goods in the competition. Katniss doesn’t think of herself as much of a people person, but, in the interviews and her demonstration of skill with a bow and arrow, she quickly becomes a fan favorite.
I will not go any further into the description of what happens, because discovering it for yourself is half the fun. One thing I will do is commend director Gary Ross for not spending most of the movie with the Games. More than half of the film is a build-up to the Games and that was effective because it allowed the audience to connect to the two heroes from District 12. If he were to spend more time with the Games than the buildup to them, audience members wouldn’t have been as emotionally-invested in the characters, which would have been a shame.
Another pat on the back must go to Collins. When you really think about it, kids killing kids should be horrifying to the audience. Even with that knowledge, when another child was killed off, I breathed a sigh of relief because that was one less foe the “heroes” of District 12 had to deal with. In the same breath, Ross deserves praise for keeping the deaths of the tributes pretty clean. With quick cuts, and an ever-shaky camera, there is very little of the brutality shown.
The Hunger Games is a film for both fans of the series and fans of movies in general. I’m sure there are hidden nuggets that fans of the books enjoy, while newbies like me can be satisfied with a loveable cast of characters and a fully-realized world.