The Hunger Games

23 Mar

Story Synopsis: The Hunger Games is based on the novel of the same name written by Suzanne Collins who also contributed to the screenplay.

At an unidentified future date, the nation of Panem has risen out of the ruins of what was once known as North America. Due to an unsuccessful uprising by the districts of Panem, a raffle (known as the “reaping”) is held to choose one boy and one girl (ranging from ages 12–18) from each of the twelve districts to participate in the Hunger Games, a competition in which each contestant (known as the “tributes”) battles until only one is left. The winner receives honor, gifts, and enough food and supplies to never worry about anything ever again. The Hunger Games are a yearly reminder to the 12 districts of the Capitol’s authority and punishment for their rebellion over 70 years ago in which the 13th district was destroyed.

In District 12, sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) cares for her mother (Paula Malcomson) and her sister Primrose “Prim” (Willow Shields) since her father died in a mine accident when she was 11. Each year, since the age of 12, Katniss’ name has been placed in the reaping more than once. In return for taking this extra annual risk, she receives extra grain and oil for her family. In addition, Katniss has been illegally hunting for food outside the boundary fences of District 12 with her friend Gale (Liam Hemsworth), whose father died in the same mining accident.

Prim, now age 12, has her name placed in the reaping for the first time—only once—and it is unexpectedly drawn. Katniss volunteers to replace her sister in the Games. She competes against other tributes, including Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), the male tribute from District 12, who has secretly loved Katniss since childhood and who once showed her a kindness she could never forget.

Before the Hunger Games begin, she is given a stylist named Cinna (Lenny Kravitz) and a Capitol escort named Effie (Elizabeth Banks) to help her make a good impression with potential sponsors. Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson), a drunk and the only living victor from District 12, mentors both Katniss and Peeta before and during the Hunger Games. Once in the arena, Katniss must rely on her hunting skills, stealth, speed, and wits in order to survive. She also has to fight her anger for the Capitol and ‘put on a good show’ in order to receive food and aid from sponsors.

Review: The movie is both intelligent and poignant, as any good sci-fi allegory should be. The story is a metaphor for the current wave of rich vs poor politics that our country faces today, the haves vs the have nots.  Katniss Everdeen is portrayed by Jennifer Lawrence in an understated performance reminiscent of her Oscar nominated role in Winter’s Bone.  She has grit, courage and as with any teenage girl, she also has self doubt.

Peeta Mellark is portrayed by Josh Hutcherson and is convincing as Katniss’ counterpart.

You will find some great character actors dot the film with touches of humor, sadness and satire. The film does make a statement about reality TV, since the games themselves are televised and the citizens of Panem’s 12 districts are forced to watch on giant screens, like the networks force us to watch shows like Survivor. The film also has social commentary on government manipulation of the media, literally in this case.

Stanley Tucci plays Caesar Flickerman the blue haired on camera host of the games. He mixes sarcasm and insincerity so easily with a great big smile you love to hate him. Tucci portrays this to the hilt without going over the top.

Donald Sutherland plays President Snow with an understated insidiousness that reminds us of how good an actor he is.  His voice and look at times goes right through you.

Woody Harrelson plays the drunken, depressed mentor Hamitch Abernathy. Played convincingly he walks the fine line between hopelessness and sympathy.

Amandla Stenberg plays Rue the youngest of the tributes and befriends Katniss during their time in the arena. Keep an eye on this one she did a convincing job.

The tributes all go through several stages of inner turmoil, 1) determination, 2) resolve and finally 3) the reality of only one will survive the games.

I am reminded of the book The Lord of The Flies, whose central theme is about what happens to young people, in this case boys, when they are taken out of civilization and have to survive in the wild. The boys shipwrecked, revert to their basic instincts where only the strong shall survive.  The Hunger Games has that underlying theme as well. I am also left with the feeling that the undercurrent of modern American politics can one day play out  like it does in this story.  The film does portray children killing children and may be unsuitable for the very young.

In short The Huger Games is intelligent, witty, suspenseful and at times harrowing.  The film does have a PG-13 rating due to some blood letting here and there but nothing too gory. May the odds always be in your favor.

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