The Hunger Games

Distributed by Lionsgate

Reviewed by Melissa Minners


            My sister has been trying to get me to read this series of books by Suzanne Collins for quite some time.  Having heard the synopsis of the story, it sounded vaguely familiar to me, so I decided to skip the novels.  But when I saw the promos for The Hunger Games, I was intrigued and not because of all of the hype.  This movie looked to be one of those great action films with an interesting storyline that just so happened to be based on a book.  I was so interested in seeing this film that I decided to check it out on opening day.

            The Hunger Games is set in the not-to-distant future.  Years before, there was a horrific war in which a number of districts, spurned on by famine and drought, rose up against the government.  What was known as North America collapsed and was replaced with Panem, a continent divided into the Capitol and twelve districts.  As penance for the uprising, a male and female are chosen via lottery from each district to participate in a competition known as The Hunger Games.  The contestants will compete with each other in an arena created especially for the event and will fight to the death to survive the environment, the elements and each other.  Of the twenty-four contestants, there can be only one winner.

            Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) is a sixteen-year-old girl who has learned how to hunt in order to help her family survive in the 12th District.  Her father is dead and her mother (Paula Malcomson) and sister (Willow Shields) are all she has left.  This is the first year that Katnissí sister Primroseís name will be entered into the lottery to Katnissí horror, she is chosen.  In an effort to protect her sister, Katniss sacrifices herself, volunteering to compete in the games so her sister will not have to.  Also chosen from the 12th District is Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), a strong, yet unassuming young man with a crush on Katniss.

            The two embark on a journey neither of them are quite prepared for.  After years of living in poverty, Katniss and Peeta are taken to the Capitol where everything is about luxury and indulgence.  Their mentor, former Hunger Games survivor Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson), appears as a drunk who hates his part in all of this, but takes a liking to Katniss and decides to help her all he can to survive. 

            And Katniss will need all the help she can get as she learns that The Hunger Games survival tactics are not only about skill and hunting prey, but cunning and popularity also come into play.  Alliances must be made to stay alive and one must make themselves liked by the audience in the Capitol to gain sponsors who can supply much needed supplies during the competition.

            Once the game begins, itís every contestant for his or herself and Katniss finds herself smack dab in the middle of a bloodbath from the very first couple of minutes.  Does Katniss have what it takes to survive the treachery and murderous competition that is The Hunger Games?

            Having never read the novels, I canít swear to the filmís faithfulness.  I can only review what Iíve seen and therefore will not have any difficulty in only reviewing the film and not be distracted by what I might have read.  That being said, The Hunger Games is everything I had hoped it would be.  There was action, suspense, drama and a terrific post-apocalyptic world storyline.  Despite the fact that the story is very familiar to me (though I canít place my finger exactly on why), I found it to be incredibly enjoyable.  The extravagances of the people living in the Capitol make it easy for the audience to side with contestants like Katniss, Peeta and Rue (Amandla Stenberg), who come from poverty stricken, hard-working districts and are only in this competition thanks to the perceived sins of their forefathers.

            The scenery and cinematography are amazing in this film and I loved the beauty of the woods and how it contrasted so drastically with the bloody evilness of the competition.  One would think it impossible to find beauty in such carnage, but the greens of the fauna, the clear water and the majestic tall trees make for a perfect background because they are so opposite to the purpose of the competition.

            The special effects are also amazing.  I loved the flame effects, whether they were on the costumes themselves or being shot at the contestants in the woods, each effect was breathtaking.  The quality of the futuristic effects made the keepers of the game and their duties incredibly believable.  The camouflage effects were off the charts.

            The costumes, make-up and hairstyles were a bit over the top, but they added to the idea that the people in the Capitol can afford to be incredibly extravagant.  Yet another thing that separates them from the contestants and the districts they come from. 

            The actors, with a few exceptions, are relatively unknown to me and I felt they did an amazing job making the characters seem real to the audience.  You found yourself rooting for Jennifer Lawrence, forgetting she was just an actress in a movie and truly believing she was in over her head competing to the death for all of Panem to watch.  Betrayals and deaths had a greater effect on the audience thanks to the terrific acting abilities of those playing the roles of the contestants.  I am not a huge Woody Harrelson fan, but I found that I even enjoyed his performance as the unhappy mentor who had finally found something in his life worth fighting for.  A nod also goes to the perfectly evil performance by Donald Sutherland as President Snow.

            So, to sum it all up, I think I will now take my sisterís advice and read the novels by Suzanne Collins.  If they are anything like the movie I just watched, they ought to be awesome.  The Hunger Games has something for every movie fan - action, adventure, intrigue, romance, drama, great storyline, special effects - you name it, itís in there.  I didnít even mind the price of the movie ticket as I felt that the quality and content of the film was well-worth the price.  I canít wait to hear what Justine thinks of The Hunger Games.  I, for one, loved it!


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