The world has changed. After war and other damaging events, the shape of North America has changed. Divided into 12 districts, the Capitol reigns over the land. In order to pay tribute to the past and control the populace, members of the Capitol have developed a competition called the Hunger Games, meant to allow all districts to battle for limited resources of food for the next year. Each district sends one boy and one girl between the ages of 12-18 to represent their district’s tributes to the games. The tributes fight to the death, with the last one standing bringing good fortune back to their people. For the 74th Hunger Games, Primrose Everdeen is selected out of District 12, but her sister, Katniss, saves her from the games by volunteering to take her place. Along with Peeta Mellark, the boy tribute, the two young people head to the Capitol to train and compete for their district.
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence (Katniss Everdeen), Stanley Tucci (Caesar Flickerman), Wes Bentley (Seneca Crane), Willow Shields (Primrose Everdeen), Liam Hemsworth (Gale Hawthorne), Elizabeth Banks (Effie Trinket), Paula Malcomson (Katniss’s Mother), Josh Hutcherson (Peeta Mellark), Woody Harrelson (Haymitch Abernathy), Toby Jones (Claudius Templesmith), Lenny Kravitz (Cinna), Amandia Stenberg (Rue), Dayo Okeniyi (Thresh), Leven Rambin (Glimmer), Jack Quaid (Marvel), Latarsha Rose (Portia), Donald Sutherland (President Snow), Alexander Ludwig (Cato), Isabelle Fuhrman (Clove)
Bringing the newest focal novel series to life is no easy task. Leading the way is the talented Jennifer Lawrence, formerly seen in hit films Winter’s Bone and X-Men: First Class. She plays her character with a bit of a social aversion, though she finds a way to be representative of the tough life of her people from District 12. She also shows off quite an athletic ability through her competition in the games. Josh Hutcherson has come off his childhood career with an opportunity to skyrocket onto the scene. He initially plays a boy who is scared and down on himself, but eventually rises to more of a stronger place. Stanley Tucci has more of a flamboyant personality in this film, with his position as the host of the Hunger Games and interviewer of its participants. Elizabeth Banks plays the hoity-toity representative for District 12, often too prim and proper to help the kids recognize what they are up against. She is actually initially unrecognizable until after the “reaping” scene. Woody Harrelson has his common charm on-camera but also shows a number of moments exhibiting care and concern for the kids. Also important to the story are the boyfriend of Katniss (Liam Hemsworth), the timid sister of Katniss (Willow Shields), absent-minded mother of Katniss (Paula Malcomson), the strict game-maker (Wes Bentley), the cut and charming Rue (Amandla Stenberg), the caring Cinna (Lenny Kravitz) and the regal President Snow (Donald Sutherland).
Starting with the first story of the Hunger Games trilogy, Gary Ross has adapted Suzanne Collins’s hit series to the big screen. Focusing on themes of war, dictatorship and poverty, The Hunger Games introduces the story’s heroine, Katniss Everdeen, as the savior for the people of Panem. Each of the districts have been divided by their contributions to the Capitol, including luxury items (1), military items (2), electronics and mechanics (3), fishing (4), power (5), transportation (6), lumber (7), textiles (8), grain (9), livestock (10), agriculture (11) and coal mining (12). While the first few districts are considered wealthier and more in support of the games, the poverty-stricken lower districts see the games as a death sentence. The film builds the monetary disparity through the surprise and awe experienced by Katniss and Peeta during their transportation and stay in the Capitol. Though all of the tributes receive training, there is just as much emphasis placed on getting noticed by sponsors who can supply items during the games. Katniss exhibits her defiance several times throughout the story, attempting to show frustration over the arrangement and existence of the games. The Capitol expresses extreme pleasure over the games but ignore the value of life of its players.
While comparisons could easily be made between the book and the film, the presentation deserves its own assessment. The film’s progression starts with the contrast between the deplorable conditions of District 12 and the Capitol. When the tributes arrive for the ceremonies and training, the feel moves more toward suspense as the viewer is awaiting the start of the games. The action itself is actually realistic (minus the genetically mutated creatures). When the games start, many of the weak tributes are killed off immediately when there is a bloodbath at the cornucopia. As the games continue, it becomes more about strategy over brute force. Secondary to the themes of poverty and political issues is the love triangle between Katniss, Gale and Peeta. While Katniss and Gale seem to have such a strong relationship that is grounded in their shared loss of their fathers, the experience of the games with Peeta has created a challenge to Katniss’s situation. This is very familiar with other teenage romantic series, though it takes a back seat to the rest of the story and themes.
As the first film of the series, it has been well received by theater-goers. It has a great combination of suspense, action and depth that bode well for the next story of the series, Catching Fire.
Dan’s Rating: 4.0/5