Tearing through the box office to the third-biggest opening weekend ever, and biggest for a non-sequel, The Hunger Games’ inevitable migration to the silver screen supplanted Twilight as the latest popularized young adult franchise. And they responded overwhelmingly. And thankfully, they got their money’s worth.
The Hunger Games is set in a futuristic North America where the country of Panem and its twelve districts are ruled by the tyrannous Capitol. In an intimidation tactic to quell any chance of another rebellion, every year the Capitol chooses two “tributes”, a boy and girl between 12-18, to compete in a tournament to the death. Katniss’ sister, Primrose, is chosen as the female tribute from their District 12, but Katniss volunteers to save her sister from certain death.
While not the most innovative of concepts by any means, considering people have been killing each other to entertain others for hundreds of years, Suzanne Collins (author of the trilogy and co-writer of the screenplay) manages to tell a riveting story of one girl’s fight for survival.
Katniss, played by Jennifer Lawrence, is easily an admirable character, and it’s hard not to root for her. One thing working against the filmmakers was the first-person perspective of the book, mostly involving Katniss’ personal thoughts of the events, and that’s sometimes difficult to translate to screen. But the Oscar-nominated Lawrence, known for her work in Winter’s Bone, played the part remarkably well. Her face broadcasted the overbearing sense of disbelief that one would expect, and the film largely succeeded because of her strong portrayal.
Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss.
The plot, a competition of kids killing kids, probably perturbed some moviegoers, but the director Gary Ross concealed the acts of violence well. Each death is only hinted at, like distant screams or off-camera confrontations, and the constant tension actually portrays them like human beings. There’s one particular moment where Katniss befriends a little girl (I won’t say who, but fans will know) and her reaction to what happens feels genuine. Limited by the friendly rating and to not alienate a majority of the fanbase, it’s obvious careful consideration was taken when dealing with death scenes.
Unfazed by the colourful personalities of other roles, the other cast members also filled their spots beautifully. Peeta could have simply become a bland, forgettable figure to push events forward, but his interactions with Katniss gave him personality. Self-indulgent Elizabeth Banks sports an unusually perky tone and the always gleaming Stanley Tucci seems excessively enthusiastic. And lastly, Haymitch Abernathy, played by Woody Harrelson, shines as an out-of-touch drunk but still manages to successfully train Katniss.
Visually, the overt glamour of the Capitol residents directly clashes with the poorness of its districts; whether intended or not, the flashy costumes take away from the believability of the film. Otherwise, the main city is stunning, intertwined by streams and fountains, and upon first entering it, Peeta is wide-eyed and mystified by the grandioseness.
Film adaptations of Catching Fire and Mockingjay are planned, so it’ll be engaging to see how they counteract the tone of each novel with its respective film. For now, however, The Hunger Games is a marvelous sign of things to come, and worth every penny.
Hi my name is Jeff and I run a little gaming blog called Volatile Mode. Over on VM, I write reviews, previews, news discussions, but I don’t just regurgitate stories. I use various sources to try and give you guys the best experience possible. Come by and check it out.