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Suzanne Collins’ best-selling novel ‘The Hunger Games’, burst into theaters March 23, 2012 to thunderous success. It reaped over $152 million dollars its opening weekend, making it the highest-grossing film of the year thus far. However, unlike the film trailing its numbers, ‘The Lorax’ (2012), ‘The Hunger Games’ has a rich story, lush characters, and gut-wrenching emotional moments woven into the action and drama.
The plot revolves around the recently war-torn nation of Panem, where society is split between a capital full of rich, carefree socialites and twelve districts where the impoverished losers of a war live. Each year, the capitol holds the Hunger Games—a competition where a boy and girl, ages 12 to 18, are chosen from each district to fight in a survival tournament, until only one of them remains.
The main character, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), has a younger sister named Primrose, who is worried about getting picked for the Hunger Games, as everyone’s name is drawn at random. Coincidentally, Primrose’s name is picked at the Reaping, the ceremony where the competitors are chosen, and Katniss volunteers herself to take her sister’s place. Alongside Katniss is Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), a boy she had seen around her home before.
They are taken into the capitol to be trained and prepare for the games. They meet Haymitch (Woody Harrelson), a former winner of the Hunger Games and their mentor, and Cinna (Lenny Kravitz), who mentally prepares them for the vigor of the Game. Haymitch and Cinna emphasize the importance of Katniss and Peeta becoming memorable players in the Game in order to get sponsors, who will drop off food, medicine, and weapons for them if they grow to like them.
This leads to Peeta revealing that he has a crush on Katniss, thus creating an underdog couple for the citizens to root for. Katniss is angered by this revelation at first, but she eventually learns that there is more to Peeta than she thought. Then, the Game begins and everything in both their worlds becomes chaos.
‘The Hunger Games’ is directed by Gary Ross, who some will know for his work directing ‘Pleasantville’ (1998) and ‘Seabiscuit’ (2003). Ross’ direction is excellent, as every moment during the game feels tense and brutal. However, there will be a problem from viewers who suffer from motion sickness, because of the jittery camera movements at certain intense sequences of violence during the film. Otherwise, the camera work of the film is nothing short of brilliant.
The true appeal of this film is its characters. Katniss is a strong girl with enough flaws to keep the audience interested, and a will that just won’t quit. The most interesting emotional aspect of the film is her reaction to Peeta’s feelings for her. She begins feeling uninterested in him romantically, but the vicious deaths in the Game eventually bring them closer together.
However, the audience is left pondering if her feelings are genuine or if she is only obligated to stay with him due to them being the “star-crossed lovers” of District 12. Further complications come from a friend of hers back home named Gale (Liam Hemsworth), who may have been interested in her before she volunteered to take her sister’s place. The script leaves these relationships open to interpretation and thus all the more intriguing for the next film, ‘Catching Fire.’
There are only two detractors I noted in the film. First, the aforementioned character Gale does not receive adequate time to have a real emotional impact. He spends about five or six minutes with Katniss, and while their friendship is established efficiently, the lack of focus on him for the remainder of the movie leaves things too ambiguous.
Katniss’ relationship with Peeta would have better impact if the film had spent more time with her and Gale interacting because it would show the awkwardness Katniss feels when returning home, knowing that Gale saw them together. Granted, I have not yet read the novels and so this may be intentional, but strictly from a moviegoer’s perspective, it could have been done a little better.
Second, the violence of the film needs to be brought to the potential audience’s attention. These are children forced to murder each other, and some of them enjoy killing one another, so the PG-13 rating should be noted at all costs. Any unwitting parent bringing a child into the film would be horrified by the first sequence and everything after it.
I worry that the trailers do not do the brutality of the deaths enough justice, and thus warn anyone with a weak constitution to consider staying away.
Overall, ‘The Hunger Games’ deserves every cent it has taken in since the premiere. It proves that a great story about young adults can break box office records, without the help of sparkling vampires or teenage wizards. Whether it’s the novels or the film, ‘The Hunger Games’ will leave you wanting more.
Image Courtesy of http://www.thehungergamesmovie.com