The Hunger Games Reaches Past the Book Series, and Succeeds
Reviewed by Ashley Christie
Tears, bloodshed, fame, fortune … this could describe The Hunger Games, or any “reality” show on television these days.
“The Hunger Games” is the latest tween-book-turned-film, based on Suzanne Collins’ series, and is tearing up the box office with record sales. There’s a reason for that: it’s a really good movie. Fans of the book, and cinema in general, won’t be disappointed.
For those who don’t know, “The Hunger Games” is set in a future version of our world, called Panem. After a massive uprising against the government, the country was divided into 13 districts. Each year, to remind the people of its power and control, The Capitol chooses two teens from each district, one boy and one girl, to fight to the death in the Hunger Games. It’s the television event of the year.
In richer districts being chosen as a “tribute” is an honor. In poorer districts the people aren’t quite as enthusiastic about being fed to the slaughter for the public’s viewing pleasure. Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), from District 12, the poorest district, volunteers to go in after her younger sister’s is drawn. The movie follows her struggle to stay alive.
Before I go any further, yes, I’ve read the books. As a fan of the series I was happy with how faithful the film was to the original material. It’s impossible to cram a 400+ page book into two hours. For the most part, the changes that were made enhance the movie.
A couple key elements were left out. I think the filmmakers are relying a little too heavily on the entire audience having also read the book. For instance, the mockingingjay pin plays a key element in the movie but it’s never explained why. We’re never told that it’s a failed genetic mutation of The Capitol that has become a symbol of rebellion in the districts. Perhaps this will get explained in the sequel, or maybe word will just spread with all the people asking, “What’s with the bird?”
These issues aside, the movie does a good job of rounding out the world of Panem, especially The Capitol, and adds depth to some of the supporting characters in the world. Where the book stays with Katniss the entire time and her inner monologue, in the film we get the chance to leave the games arena and see the reactions across the country. We also get an insider’s look into the gamemakers headquarters, as well as an introduction to the pure evil of the President , played by Donald Sutherland.
If you don’t care about the details of the book-to-screen adaptation, the movie is still really well made. The cinematography is fantastic. Great care was taken into creating the world of Panem, and in comparing the stark difference between the poverty in District 12 to the lush lives of Capitol residents.
The somber life of the district is reflected in the color palette and the fact that everyone dresses like extras from “The Grapes of Wrath.” Rich, bright colors reflect The Capitol’s status in the world.
My favorite element of the film is the casting. Even though Jennifer Lawrence is about five years too old to capture Katniss’ youth, she does capture her heart and thus makes her character more likeable for me.
The real charm of this film comes from its supporting characters. Woody Harrelson, as Katniss’ mentor Haymitch, is a brash, loud-mouth drunk. He gets the film’s best lines, and his presence steals every scene. Stanley Tucci, as Caesar Flickerman, serves as the games commentator and has all the charm of the cheesiest game show host you can think of. Donald Sutherland, as The President, is evil incarnate. And Lenny Kravitz, in his acting debut, as Katniss’ stylist Cinna, delivers an incredibly heartfelt performance.
Despite a few minor qualms, like too much shaky-cam for my taste, I recommend this movie to everyone. If you’re a fan of the books, you’ve already seen the movie. If you just want to go see a good movie, wait a couple weeks for all the hoopla to die down and then go check it out “The Hunger Games”. And may the odds be ever in your favor.