The Hunger Games – A Review
The much anticipated, highly acclaimed feature film,”The Hunger Games,” has been the talk of the media world for months. As the book has topped the charts since it’s 2008 release, fans and movie goers alike anticipated the suspenseful plot coming to life on the silver screen. The movie did not disappoint, capturing the life-and-death struggle of 16-year old Katniss Everdeen, as she is forced to volunteer for the deadly Hunger Games to prevent her 12 year old sister, Primrose, from competing…
The story takes place in post-apocalyptic North America in the nation of Panem, the capital of which evokes complete control over the 12-Districts that comprise the country. Since a district-wide rebellion almost 75 years prior to the story, the Capital implemented a tradition of “The Hunger Games” – where each District is mandated to send one boy and girl Tribute between the ages of 12-18 to participate in a competition to the death, where only one “victor” survives. The movie opens to the day of the Reaping, in which the names of all eligible boys and girls are submitted for random entry into the contest. One element that isn’t made very clear in the movie compared to the book, is that the Districts are under strict food regulation from the Capital, with most citizens on the brink of starvation. In order to obtain an increase in food rations, the qualifying youth can enter their names in the Hunger Games’ drawing additional times. Katniss’ close friend and the closest thing she has to a boyfriend, Gale, had his name entered in the drawing 41 times – it goes unsaid that Katniss herself has traded her name in for food for her family at least 20 times. Primrose’s name has only been entered one time – the required minimum.
As the children line up by age to have their names drawn for the Games, Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks), takes the stage in one of many impressive outfits reserved for the Capital-elite, in staunch contrast to the basic and mundane attire of the of the District 12 peeps. She cheerfully encourages the audience before drawing the first name (ladies first) saying, “May the odds be ever in your favor.” She then withdraws a plain sheet of paper with the name “Primrose Everdeen.” In a gut-wrenching display, Katniss, the natural heroine that she is, hysterically volunteers to take her sister’s place. The onlookers lift their right hands in the air, the three middle fingers raised, in a gesture of respect and admiration for the bravery of Katniss. The rest of the scene unfolds very quickly: The baker’s son, Peeta, is selected as the male Tribute, a classmate of Katniss. They quickly say goodbye to their families and are ushered away to the Capital for the commencement of the games.
True to tradition, the Capital constructed a massive dome to hold the game where the officials control all of the elements, playing a hand in the outcome based on the entertainment value at stake. The best way for Tributes to stand out is for them to be likeable and establish a sympathetic audience among the cruel Sponsors from the Capital. Sponsors can send the Tributes gifts throughout the games that contribute to their survival – so as is explained early on in the film, the likeability factor of each participant is huge.
If we are going to apply the principals of The Hunger Games to modern society (oxymoron considering the storyline takes place in the future), the forces ruling the Capital are the 1%, completely unaware of the suffering taking place in the other impoverished regions. They eat and live in sheer decadence, have access to the most advanced technology, and effectively want for nothing. The youth from the wealthiest districts, 1 & 2, volunteer for the task as trained “career” combatants, determined to kill anything that gets in their way. The rest of the children selected from the Districts are just unlucky and often ill-prepared.
Panem as a nation is on edge, basically on the verge of a massive uprising. Peacekeepers are assigned to each district to keep order amongst the citizens by regulating their every action and ensuring that they maintain the discipline of the nation. As the citizens of the country are forced to watch their youth fight to the death – the Games are literally broadcast in every public place and living room for the duration of the competition – the social unrest escalates. In the interest of not wanting to give anything away, Katniss’s courage transforms her into a figure of hope for the individuals in the Districts – much to the chagrin of the leaders in the Capital. As contributors to the general outcome of the game, the leaders are left with serious decisions that could either maintain peace or lead to up rise. By the end, the damage may have been done.
Overall the film accurately conveys the gist of the novel, portraying a heroine of strength with an admirable moral compass. With a well-cast range of characters, Director, Gary Ross, does a tremendous job of communicating the power of the Capital and the vast differences between the citizens of the Districts. Overall, it earns a solid B, but the future of this Trilogy lies in its ability to keep the story going in a clear and concise way – something that Suzanne Collins struggled with in the latter part of the written series.