The Hunger Games
May the odds be ever in your favor!
The hype surrounding The Hunger Games was immense. The first book was published in 2008, and just 4 years later it is coined to be the next big young adult film franchise. With the Harry Potter series coming to an end and the Twilight series ending soon, the call for the next young adult blockbuster was being made. The Hunger Games book series is fantastic and has millions of fans, so itís safe to say the film had a lot to live up to. The end result is a film that doesnít quite reach the heights of the source material, but is still able to shine regardless of its shortcomings.
The film takes places in a nation called Panem, which is located in a post-apocalyptic North America. It consists of 12 poverty-stricken districts that are all controlled by one tyrannical district, the Capitol. As punishment for the districts once rebelling against the Capitol, a boy and a girl between the ages of 12 and 18 are chosen from each district to compete in a battle to the death in what is known as The Hunger Games. Our heroin, Katniss Everdeen, finds herself competing in these games when she volunteers to take her younger sisterís place. With 24 combatants and only one victor, the odds arenít exactly in her favor.
What is strange, however, is that The Hunger Games is an event that is viewed by all of Panem. Yes, the fighting and killing of children is entertainment (for the Capitol anyway, the other districts are just hoping their children survive). Each person picked to compete in the games, called tributes, is taken to the Capitol where they meet all kinds of flamboyantly dressed people who adore them and treat them as royalty. Each tribute gets their own stylists and mentors to make sure they look good and are in good shape for the games. Basically, the tributes get to live the good life before their lives are ended.
The one area that shines the most, which is also the area that I was worried about the most, is the acting. Jennifer Lawrence shows once again that she is a talent that is unmatched at her young age. Katniss Everdeen was a very tough role to cast, as every single move and mannerism would be scrutinized by millions, but Jennifer Lawrence nailed it. Josh Hutcherson playing Peeta Mellark, the other tribute from Katnissí district, is what had me worried the most because the films he had been in previously did not seem like they required much in the acting department. However, he played the part of the pitiful, loveable Peeta very well and was on the same acting level as everyone else in the film.
The leads in the film are great, but the supporting cast is just as good, if not better. Woody Harrelson is absolutely phenomenal as the drunken mentor Haymitch, creating a character that was so funny and at the same time so intense. Itís a shame that he could not be in the film more, but this is not Haymitchís story (boo!). Wes Bentley and his awesome facial hair is down-right evil as Head Gamemaker Seneca Crane. He plays the ĎI am so evil that I have actually convinced myself that the murdering of innocent children is a good thingí angle very well. Lastly, Stanley Tucci is amazing as Caesar Flickerman, acting with such charisma and poise that made him a very likeable and believable Hunger Games host.
However, not everything in this film is flawless. One thing that definitely could have been improved upon is matching the bleakness of the book. We donít quite get the sense of desperation the characters are feeling as they struggle to survive; instead we just see them cut and bruised from fights or natural disasters (the Capitol screwing with them). This is partly due to the lack of the first-person narrative that is present in the book. We still understand that the characters are struggling, but a little more depth into their inner conflicts and worries about being able to stay alive would have been appreciated.
Then thereís the shaky cam, and shaky cam is ALWAYS a problem. Shockingly, we arenít given a very good view of any of the action sequences; instead we are watching the action from the perspective of someone who is having a seizure. It is very annoying, and itís a shame that the director decided to take that route. I understand that they want to keep it PG-13, but it would be nice if they could come up with other ways to secure the rating rather than assaulting the camera. This is a gritty story, and sugarcoating the most intense and compelling parts detracts from it.
The final problem I had is the biggest problem, and it is the fact that they show Seneca Crane in the control room planning and unleashing his attacks on the tributes throughout the games. During many of the action sequence, we are constantly being juggled back and forth between the tributes and the control room. I know it is important to show that these attacks are coming from the Capitol, but knowing what is coming removes all of the surprise that was present in the book. I know we donít have the luxury of hearing Katnissí thoughts and having her realize that it is the Capitol launching many of the attacks, but they could have come up with a better way of showing it on film. At the very least it would not have taken us out of the heat of the action and would not have killed the surprise of what the Capitol had up their sleeves. It just felt like the director was spoon-feeding the audience and giving away too much.
The Hunger Games isnít perfect, but it is good enough that you are able to overlook the films faults. With a story so solid, even if everything isnít executed perfectly you still come away satisfied, and it all moves so quickly that the over 2 hour runtime feels much shorter. Just like any book-to-film adaptation, there are parts that are skimmed over or left out completely that I would have loved to see brought to life, but not everything can make it into the film, obviously. The important thing is that the material that was used was implemented well and offers enough information to satisfy both fans of the book and newcomers alike. The film crew definitely succeeded in creating something that is worthy of the book, and that alone is quite an achievement.