BOX OFFICE REVIEW: The Hunger Games
The fan-favorite book hits the big screen...
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Let me first start by saying even as an avid reader, I’ve yet to pick up The Hunger Games book trilogy by Suzanne Collins. I’ve heard a lot of great things about the books especially how Collins writing is - what one of my friends called "a crack-laced PB&J." My friend described The Hunger Games novel as nothing really special...except it's so filled with non-stop action and break-neck pacing, you don't want to put it down. Thankfully, The Hunger Games movie - out today nationwide - also features plenty of action and steady pacing, which keep it engaging, entertaining, and fun.
Directed and co-written by Gary Ross (along with the book's author Collins), The Hunger Games stars Jennifer Lawrence as main protagonist Katniss Everdeen, Josh Hutcherson as Katniss’ co-tribute Peeta Mellark, Woody Harrelson as the duo’s mentor Haymitch Abernathy), and a host of other talented actors and actresses. Like the book, the film is set in a dystopian future. Where once stood the United States now stands Panem, made up of The Capital and 12 surrounding districts. The Hunger Games, which is now in its 74th year, is the result of a rebellion that saw The Captial rise to power and the poorer districts become subject to a brutal, annual event unlike any other. To keep the districts in check, The Captial holds “the reaping” every year, drawing from each of the 12 districts one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18 to serve as “tributes” in a televised event called The Hunger Games.
Barbaric, sadistic, and all together violent, The Hunger Games are reality TV at their worst…and best. Watchers observe bravery, treachery, manipulation, anger, glory, grace, and – all too often – massive amounts of bloodshed. It is during the reaping that we begin to realize our heroine - Katniss - isn’t the typical 16 year old. She provides for her family by having her name entered multiple times in the drawing, which provides her family with more food throughout the year. Likewise, she hunts and sells her kills to locals to keep her family fed. However, we gain a true sense of Katniss when her 12-year old sister Prim is chosen as tribute and Katniss immediately volunteers in her sister's stead. It is at this time we see the type of sacrifice Katniss is willing to make for those she loves.
Throughout the film, viewers grow to love Katniss, not only for her willingness to sacrifice for those she loves, but for her physical prowess as well. Having grown up poor and needing to hunt to provide for her family, Katniss’ abilities with a bow make her both dangerous and effective in the arena. Likewise, though she obviously regards the game as sick and twisted, she participates knowing if she does not win, she will die and her younger sister and mother will be without her, thus starving. Keeping one’s family safe and alive are a big incentive to stay alive and win.
While the film's story obviously features elements of both Richard Connell’s The Most Dangerous Game and Koushun Takami’s Battle Royale, The Hunger Games likewise includes a unique attribute in which the youth are forced to serve as entertainment and required watching for all Penam citizens. All of the suffering, hunting, and struggling to survive endured by the tributes is observed, goaded over, and entertaining to the crowds. Of course, once the winner is crowned, they enjoy a life of wealth and prosperity as a celebrity of sorts. That means, however, that the winner has beaten others as well as the elements and adversities the producers of The Hunger Games have throw at them – including mutated animals, poisonous plants, unpredictable weather and climate change, and more. These manipulations made the story seem a bit contrived at times, though it remains entertaining throughout.
Social commentary no doubt, The Hunger Games seems all too real as no doubt many will recognize in The Capital’s citizenry watching, goading and enjoying the bloodshed and violence some familiarity to our modern day society’s obsession with reality TV, televised violence, and the need to be constantly entertained. While I’m in no way concluding we’ll eventually be throwing our youth to the wild armed with battle axes, I have to honestly ask “How many of us would watch The Hunger Games were it real?” I’m betting, in all honesty, it’s more than you think.
No doubt if you’re a fan of The Hunger Games books, you’ll love the film. The Hunger Games features an engaging and entertaining story that – while maybe not as original as some think – is at least addictive. Likewise, the film features an impressive main character in Katniss, solid supporting characters, and a talented cast in all parts. While I personally enjoyed the film and it's many fine attributes, I found it failed to live up to the astronomical amount of hype surrounding it. It was a bit ordinary and lackluster to me and I’m still mystified at the reason for the film's popularity. I guess I should read the books and find out what all the fuss is about first hand…
The Hunger Games is rated PG-13 for intense violent thematic material and disturbing images - all involving teens and opens today nationwide.
- Jess C. Horsley