The Hunger Games
Director: Gary Ross
Screenwriter/Written By: Suzanne Collins, Gary Ross
Producer: Nina Jacobson
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Stanley Tucci
Running Time: 142 mins
The Hunger Games is the much-anticipated feature film based on the novel (with the same name) by novelist Suzanne Collins—who also adapted the screenplay with the movie’s director, Gary Ross. Katniss Everdeen, played by Jennifer Lawrence (Winter’s Bone, X-Men: First Class) is a citizen of the futuristic city of Panem, which consists of twelve districts and the Capitol. The city of Panem was born out of the ashes of a great war that nearly ended civilization. The districts live in famine and poverty while those in the Capitol live off the goods produced in the districts. The governing bodies of Panem, led by President Snow (Donald Sutherland), hold the annual Hunger Games to remind citizens of the rebellious acts of their ancestors that led up to the war.
A boy and a girl from each district, between the ages of twelve and eighteen, are selected in a lottery known as The Reaping. Those selected are the games Tributes (or players) and are whisked off to the Capital to train and prepare for The Hunger Games—for the entertainment of the Capitol. Twenty-four contestants are left in the wild to hunt one another and fight until there is only one sole survivor. When Katniss’ younger sister, Prim, is selected the day of Reaping, Katniss selflessly volunteers to go in Prim’s place. Josh Hutcherson (The Kids Are All Right) plays Peeta Mellark, the second Tribute from district twelve selected for the games.
To some degree, The Hunger Games, as it stands alone, lacks a clear and concise theme beyond never giving up. With such a large fan base, it’s nearly guaranteed that the following two books in the series will also be made into movies, likely piecing together a more cohesive theme of sorts. The fictional government of Panem can be arguable compared to any government anywhere. It’s a stark comparison between those who have and those who have not or the one percent and the ninety-nine percent. The prosperous people of the Capitol are so out of touch and desensitized that watching teenagers fight to the death is a form of entertainment to them. The citizens that live in the districts, unable to object, are forced to watch the games in silence.
The director, Gary Ross, was faced with the challenge of bringing the young adult (YA) novel to the big screen. Not an easy task with a YA novel so laden with violence.
Ross successfully manages to walk the fine line between gratuitous and unavoidable violence within the film. In a scene depicting the start of the games where the violence was most imminent, Ross utilized jerky camera movement, and camera shots that were out of focus, so not to make the gore the focal point. He exercised the same technics portraying the dismal life within the districts along with a lack of color, whereas, the Capitol was a hodgepodge of colorful fashion worn by its citizens.
Jennifer Lawrence gives a captivating performance as Katniss Everdeen. Her on screen chemistry with Hutcherson is plausible but lacks the complexity one might expect in comparison to the book. Hutcherson manages to elicit sympathy as the meek, love-struck bread maker. A strong supporting cast with the likes of Stanley Tucci, Woody Harrelson, Donald Sutherland, Lenny Kravitz and an almost unrecognizable Elizabeth Banks is the icing on the cake. Overall, The Hunger Games is pleasing, refreshing, and original. Lawrence challenges the status quo and shows everyone that a leading lady can be a heroine and sell movie tickets.