Well, Welcome to the Obligatory Movie Blog about the movie that everyone has already seen. Although it seems redundant, I couldn’t let this one slip by because I feel like ‘The Hunger Games’ has accomplished something that few movies have been able to do. So, for the baker’s dozen of you readers that haven’t seen this movie yet, I hope this can push you out the door, because it really is worth the price of the ticket.
Not since the first of the Harry Potter films were first released, what seems like a billion years ago, has a popular young-adult series been able to gather public appeal, critical acclaim, and be a legitimately good movie. Us young readers who dived into ‘Eragon’ and ‘Percy Jackson’ were forced to watch in horror as the literature was massacred before our very eyes. And then there was ‘Twilight.’ The vampire inspired series of romance novels that none of us read but we all were forced to hear about. As I type this I can hear the moans of thousands of men around the country that were dragged into one of these movies. The movies ended up being awful, but made billions in the process (High-school Girls: Please refrain from throwing your nail polish and ‘My Chemical Romance’ CDs at your laptop screen in anger. I assure you, this is all in good fun.)
Yes, it was painful. But we endured, hoping that someday a movie would come along that would outlast the hype. We dreamed of a movie that would not only meet, but exceed our expectations.
People: the wait is over. ‘The Hunger Games’ is that movie.
The story centers around Katniss Everdeen (played by Jennifer Lawrence). An odd name, I know, but get used to it because it will be the name on everyone’s lips for the next 3-5 years. Katniss lives in Disctrict 12 with her mother and younger sister, Primrose. She often hunts with her hunky- totally platonic- companion Gale, who will later in this blog become the subject of great division and controversy. However, there is something wrong with Katniss’ world, beccause there is an annual event that happens in District 12 that will change her entire life.
Every year representatives from the central powers of Panem (the nation made up of 12 separate city-states known as The Districts), travel to each district to select one boy and one girl, between the ages of 12 and 18, to participate in a national event known as the Hunger Games. During this particular selection, the powers-that-be select young Primrose Everdeen. Out of fear and love for her sister, Katniss steps forward and volunteers to take her place. Katniss, along with a awkward looking teenage boy named Peeta, are then taken to the Capital to prepare for the Hunger Games.
Now, what are the Hunger Games?
‘The Hunger Games’ is a nationally televised event in which 24 teenagers, known as the Tributes, are placed in a large arena and are then forced to fight to the death for their eager audience. The more brutal the better, each kill being broadcasted throughout the Capital as well as all 12 Districts.
So imagine the Super Bowl, but instead of touchdowns and interceptions, we get bombs and axe murderers. The purpose of the event is to remind the once rebellious districts that the Capital is still the supreme power of Panem; a power so great that they take the children of the Districts to be slaughtered.
I would prefer to not reveal any more of the plot than that, again not wanting to ruin the ride for the seven of you that haven’t seen it yet, except to bring up a few key scenes that allow ‘The Hunger Games’ to transcend from popular blockbuster to authentic quality filmmaking.
You see what this movie has that the ‘Twilights’ and other young-adult literature movies do not is a deeper meaning behind the story. Something more than just the characters in the arena. It is a movie that is trying to say something about protest, civil disobedience, and also a yearning within ourselves to be free.
Here are two examples of what I’m talking about…
1. The night before the games begin, Katniss and Peeta are speaking to one another about what to expect the next day. This is a segment of dialogue in the book that I am SO thankful that they left in the script (there is something to be said for a solid adaptation, but I digress.) Peeta tells Katniss that the one thing that he hopes is that these games don’t change him; that he can show everyone watching that the Capital doesn’t own him. He doesn’t care so much about whether he lives or dies, death is almost assured, but he is more concerned about staying true to himself. How powerful is that, in a world today where most movies are telling teenagers that they must compromise their identity to be accepted? You won’t find that in ‘Percy Jackson’.
2. Another breakout scene: Katniss, while in the arena, shows respect to a fallen tribute in the games by decorating the place where the competitor was killed. She honors their district by doing what Peeta was describing the night before the games; she is telling all of the Panem districts that Capital cannot take away their hope. The film then shows one of the outlying districts watching the games, and out of inspiration from Katniss and hatred for the Capital, they begin to revolt. They rise in rebellion against their tyrannical government. It is so powerful and holds so much truth about the nature of hope and the human spirit.
This has to be said as well: ‘The Hunger Games’ is a very tight, well-made film. The movie is directed by the Oscar-nominated Gary Ross, a seasoned Hollywood veteran. Many know Ross for his work in ambitious and creatively written films such as ‘Seabiscuit’, ‘Pleasantville’, and ‘Big’ (one of my personal favorites). Ross, who also co-wrote the script, is able to bring new life to the story that so many have already read. He shows the world of Panem from many different perspectives, not just from the eyes of the tributes in the arena, but also through the Game-Maker Seneca Crane and the drunken mentor of District 12, Haymitch Abernathy. Ross has directed a very compelling, exciting, and beautifully filmed movie, and trust me, fans everywhere appreciate this.
‘The Hunger Games’ is also driven by an exceptional cast. Jennifer Lawrence is just so stinking talented for her age, earning her first Oscar nomination at age 20 for ‘Winter’s Bone’, and she has found a way to make Katniss come to life. Major props to the producers of this film for making an extremely gifted actress the face of the franchise. (There were early rumors that Megan Fox was being pursued for the role. Can you imagine?) Lawrence is also joined by Woody Harrelson, Lenny Kravitz, Donald Sutherland, Stanley Tucci, Wes Bentley, and Elizabeth Banks, all of whom give fine supporting performances. I am always especially impressed by Kravitz, who showed me in ‘Precious’ as well as ‘The Hunger Games’ that the former rock star may have a bright career in acting ahead of him. And of course I wouldn’t forget about future pre-teen poster models Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth as Miss Everdeen’s love interests.
My thoughts on the Peeta and Gale argument: there really is no argument. Gale is her good looking hunting-buddy, Peeta was willing to sacrifice everything for her. Gale taught her how to snare rabbits, Peeta saved her life half-a-dozen times. When Peeta was selected for the games, Gale just stood there with everyone else. If he really loved Katniss, wouldn’t he have volunteered to protect her? In the end, I think Gale hates the Capital more than he loves Katniss, whereas Peeta would rather die than see anything happen to her. That’s that.
My Note: Don’t write off this movie because it is a blockbuster based on a young-adult novel, because it is truly worthwhile in so many ways. (Also, a big round of applause for the writer of this article that did not include any spoilers.)
My Grade: B+