The Hunger Games

HungerGamesPoster

Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen
Josh Hutcherson as Peeta Meelark
Liam Hemsworth as Gale Hawthorne
Elizabeth Banks as Effie Trinket
Donald Sutherland as President Coriolanus Snow
Woody Harrelson as Haymitch Abernathy
Stanley Tucci as Caesar Flickerman
Wes Bentley as Seneca Crane
Lenny Kravitz as Cinna
Isabelle Fuhrman as Clove
Amanda Stenberg as Rue
Jack Quaid as Foxface
Alexander Ludwig as Cato
Willow Shields as Primrose Everdeen
Paula Malcolmson as Mrs. Everdeen

Anyone ever seen that old George Carlin stand-up in which he suggests that we send prison inmates to the newly vacated, fenced-in states of Kansas, Wyoming, Utah, and Colorado? If not, here it is:

The Hunger Games is sort of like that, except that unlike Carlin, it’s deadly serious. Based on the Suzanne Collins novel of the same name and set in a negative future, The Hunger Games is about a world in which aristocracy rules. To dispirit the population, certain teenagers are rounded up and imprisoned in a training camp to compete in The Hunger Games. The Hunger Games, now in their seventy-fouth annual run, are broadcast for all to see. In fact, the people running The Hunger Games seem more concerned with how many viewers and sponsors they get than the lives of the competitors.

The first thing I noticed as I watched was that the cinematography is extremely refined. The camerawork is just right, the look is convincing, the timing is all effective, and they capture the gloomy feel of the film.

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Even in the makeup.

The performances are good. Not great, but solid. Jennifer Lawrence is about the best in the starring role of an adolescent girl, Katniss, thrown into dangerous situation. Not that the character is helpless. All the contestants in The Hunger Games have gotten some training, so Lawrence shows an appropriate mix of innocence and aptitude.

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She’s got you in her sights!

The real theme of this movie is that survival is important, but not at all costs. There are a few existing friendships between the competitors, but the rules state that almost all of them must die (hence why the cast above is so damned big). Other contestants have single-minded drives to win. So there’s quite a bit of tragedy in this movie.

There is also a romance between Katniss and another contestant, Peeta. This involves reversal of traditional gender roles as it ends up being Peeta who is held hostage at one point. Katniss and Peeta also must grapple with the very real possibility that The Hunger Games could very well force them to fight each other to the death. The fate of those who would force kids into such a contest will no doubt be resolved in the sequels (full disclosure: I haven’t seen Catching Fire as of this writing, so I don’t know how much headway it makes).

This is a mostly great movie, but one criticism I have is that the aristocrats running The Hunger Games and control the kids are too obvious in their fascism. The opening minutes make it clear that these kids are being fed propaganda to keep them in line. The problem is that the overlords make an insufficient effort to hide their true intentions. I guess this is so that even the shallow, no-substance-but-pot teen stereotype would understand what was going on, but for me, it doesn’t look like any of my favorite villains will be in these movies.

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When I first saw a picture of this character, I thought she was a clown. True story.

Luckily, the good and neutral guys and girls (“girls” is obviously necessitated by the star, not that it arguably wouldn’t be anyway) provide enough conflict and drama that the villains’ unconvincing propaganda doesn’t have the impact that it should. I really can’t come up with an excuse for not having seen The Hunger Games until recently, only that it’s a great fantasy film.

Overall: 8 out of 10

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