As the early minutes of the movie unfolded, it seemed to me that its principal premise was assembled by prominent ideas that came before it. When the story reveals to us that young men and women would have to slaughter each other for survival’s sake, we cannot help but be reminded of the infamous Japanese cult classic, “Battle Royale”. And later, when we learn that the bloodshed is to be controlled and televised by a game master, “The Truman Show” comes to mind. We can sit here and try to draw parallels between these different worlds, but no. Any discussions regarding the film’s possible influences would end in useless futility. “The Hunger Games” is independent in its desires and ambitions. It has a life of its own.
This adaptation of Suzanne Collins’s bestseller takes us to a dystopian future where the North America of today has become, in a word, kaput. Wars have destroyed democracy, and out of their wreckages the nation of Panem comes into being. The poor and powerless are distributed in the destitute 12 Districts while all the douchebags and oddballs can be found in the thriving, dominating Capitol. I like how the movie ignores the common vision of how people in the future dress in bland costumes. The citizens of Capitol have fascinating taste; their daily lives are spent with hairstyles and clothing that would startle cosplay addicts. The fashion trend there is so perplexing that if Lady Ga Ga lived during that era, she would easily blend in.
The rulers of Capitol exercise their superiority against the 12 Districts through The Hunger Games, an annual event that features teenagers, weapons, murders, and live television. (Disturbing, yes, but not as disturbing as that TV show about the Kardashian folks.) Here is how the event goes: One boy and one girl from each district are randomly selected. Once drafted, the chosen district members, called Tributes, are brought to the Capitol. That they undergo special training is not really a surprise. What intrigued me were the movie’s subtle examinations regarding both ends of reality television. How much of a Tribute’s identity is sincere when it is broadcasted through the lens of the media? Where do the viewers of The Hunger Games find the entertainment in its mindless violence?
The story starts off with the happenings leading to the 74th Hunger Games. Most of our attention is focused on District 12’s Katniss Everdeen, who is impeccably played by Jennifer Lawrence. The movie demonstrates patience in the way it builds the Katniss character. Before she is thrown into the game’s deadly arena, we are given a chance to study her thoughts and memories, fears and feelings, strengths and weaknesses. As the movie progresses from District 12 to the Capitol, we realize that she’d rather be with a bow and arrow than with a camera and an interviewer. Though she is at first shy and awkward, she makes her way in the hearts of a number of people. When she finally steps foot in the arena, we see her more than just another participant in a televised bloodbath.
While the movie was still in the process of casting, I heard rumors that my love, Saoirse Ronan, was one of the actresses that were being considered to play Katniss. Without thinking of actress/character compatibility, I rooted for her. And now that I’ve seen the film, I realize that the role was made for Jennifer Lawrence. Ms. Lawrence is slowly becoming one of those tremendous talents that should always be aiming for high challenges. She played Mystique in last year’s “X-Men: First Class”, but that character didn’t deserve Lawrence. (If you’ve seen her in the excellent “Winter’s Bone”, then you know exactly what I’m talking about.) I’m glad that they chose a real actress to play Katniss. Imagine if Katniss was portrayed by Selena Gomez or Vanessa Hudgens. LOL.
I mentioned earlier that two Tributes are selected from each district. Katniss is joined by the sympathetic Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson); he specializes in camouflage and cheesy dialogue. His special feelings for her have remained hidden for years, but The Hunger Games have provided him an opportunity to finally express his love. Teenagers will be teenagers. A romance is expectedly developed. Most girls will disagree with me on this, but I thought that the romance was far too overworked. To attract a bigger audience, the movie sacrifices a lot of its compelling content in exchange for more common ones. If you’ve read my review of “Real Steel”, then you know exactly what I’m talking about.
Another downside in “The Hunger Games” that isn’t exactly the fault of the filmmakers is the movie’s exaggerated hype. It’s a satisfying movie, but it won’t match the impossible expectations set by its fanatical fans. Lower your standards for “The Hunger Games”, and you should have a jolly good time. On a similar note: Lower your standards for “The Dark Knight Rises”, and you should enter Movie Paradise.