The Hunger Games Directed by Gary Ross
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Stanley Tucci, Woody Harrelson Wes Bentley, Elizabeth Banks, Lenny Kravitz, Donald Sutherland
Release Date: March 23, 2012
Dystopian visions of a once eminent society are a much reliable subject matter in cinema. When done properly the results can be dreadfully potent, resulting in audiences pondering endlessly the future of humanity. Such effectiveness can be traced back to 1929, when the silent film Metropolis shocked audiences with its unprecedented vision of a hopeless future. The Hunger Games, the most recent and disturbing foray into a terrifyingly vivid dystopian society, which is based upon Suzanne Collins’ universally renowned book of the same name, still retains the foundation Metropolis adhered to 83 years ago: a representation of a bleak future that offers little hope.
The Hunger Games is a vicious representation of an American society fiendishly obsessed with violence, spectacle, personas, gluttony, betting, and meticulously concocted relationships doomed for failure. Remembering the first Harry Potter film or Twilight film, one can unhesitatingly perceive how drastically the worlds of those films differentiate from the world Collins has created. Her world is a disenchanted one, sufficiently harboring harsh, painful abominations carried out by teenagers devoid of any semblance of facial hair. For the majority of the film sentimentality and childishness are inadmissible, a kind of drapery thrown upon them in favor of a behavior that some may find confounding, while others may find it, oddly enough, magnificent.
Panem is a country that has 12 districts and one main city, the Capitol. Set in the near future, North America has collapsed due to war and catastrophes. Replacing it is Panem, a country that is simultaneously very rich and very poor. Every year the 12 districts have a drawing, or as they call it, a “reaping,” that selects two youths (“tributes”), one boy and one girl, from each district to participate in The Hunger Games, which takes place in a forest.
These games don’t contain any glittery vampires, nor are they replete with magical wizardry. These games are concerned with violence and superficial, external beauty (make sure you look your best when smashing skulls with stones). The rules are very simple: You don’t win unless all of your competition is slain.
Katniss Everdeen (a commanding Jennifer Lawrence), a district 12 inhabitant and expert archer, displays courage unseen by most Panem civilians. Like she did in Winter’s Bone, Lawrence’s Katniss will go through great measures to keep her family safe. After her younger sister has her name called, Katniss bucks up and volunteers to be in the games so her sister’s life can be spared. Not only is Katniss leaving behind her mother and sister, but she also has developed affections for Gale (Liam Hemsworth), another district 12 inhabitant, whose name isn’t called at the “reaping.”
Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) is a name that is called. He is also from district 12 and has developed feelings for Katniss. They are district 12’s hope for gaining the district much notoriety amongst the other districts. Before they can be acquainted with the Capitol and all of its odious behavior, Lenny Kravitz, a fashion expert, makes Katniss and Peeta more beautiful. Thanks to Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks), an odd woman who revels in the incessant madness of Panem, the two get fully exposed to “celebrity” life. When she introduces them to Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson), a former Hunger Games winner, both Katniss and Peeta realize what is at stake, as he describes to them what it takes to win.
When all the “tributes” arrive at the Capitol, a wealthy, futuristic city seen in countless other sci-fi films, we see a wonderful satire unfold. The society here, unlike the other districts, is full of color, life, and different and odd personalities. Here is a society obsessed with only themselves. Sound familiar? They’re easily capable of sitting down and viewing the violence that will transpire before them as if they were watching a film.
A spectacle is made of these games, one that requires an American Idol-like setting (with Stanley Tucci as the Ryan Seacrest personality). They are televised (thanks to hidden cameras) on TVs both large and small, and even projected onto corroding walls of dilapidated houses so all humanity can witness dolled up youths participating in pulverization. Making sure that pain is never alleviated is the gamemaster (Wes Bentley), who sports a diabolical beard and only answers to Panem’s president (Donald Sutherland).
All of this is unequivocally detestable, but both the book and the film acutely comprehend the horridness. The film, though, does find it necessary to relieve such appalling atrocities. The first half of the film, which is remarkably fascinating, allows us to get acquainted (and not in a tedious expositional way) with all we need to know about Panem and its fiendish behavior. Instantaneously are we made aware of the film’s scathing temperament because of the great quantities of intimate encounters director Gary Ross (Seabiscuit) permits us to have with Panem’s fashionable socialites and their perverted way of living. Ross is always filming with an intensity of interest, which in turn sparks our interest. His direction and screenplay during these initial scenes are enthusiastic, and his imagination singularly vigorous and creative. We are more than ready for The Hunger Games to begin, but when they actually do the intolerable sensation we had soon dissipates, as the games themselves can’t endeavor to satiate our squalid appetites.
The film builds and builds to the 74th annual games. For a solid hour and twenty minutes we have been immersed in an environment that promotes violence and corruption. Very suddenly, and by some inconceivable impulse, we are aroused to see, even if we are shameful to admit to it, teenagers swarming towards weaponry, hoping that the brutality will be blatantly bold. Sadly, the action can’t live up to what the film’s beginning had promised us. Battles turn sappy, characters aren’t fully developed, and violence is never fully unleashed. The Hunger Games works best as a satire and as a film that finds interest in the swollen and disfigured personalities that run a country. If you want teenager violence pressed impetuously upon you, harassing you with blood and overwhelming you with slashing swords, then check out Kinji Fukasaku’s 2000 film Battle Royale. You can thank me later.