After months of anticipation, The Hunger Games has finally been released and it was well worth the wait.
To put it simply, The Hunger Games is a movie that will more than satisfy fans of the book series and fandom newbies alike. Director Gary Ross had quite a challenge on his hands when bringing the world of Panem and the story of Katniss Everdeen to the big screen. He met that challenge and exceeded it.
Two things to know: 1) Life is good for people in The Capitol where virtually everyone lives in luxury and has very little to worry about in terms of their own survival. 2) Life in the 12 districts surrounding The Capitol is not so easy—and every year at least one kid you know could be killed for entertainment.
Think of a brutal tournament played by children that is equal parts "Survivor", UFC bout, Olympic games and beauty pageant. That should give you an idea of the deadly battle that is the Hunger Games. For two weeks, randomly chosen combatants between the ages of 12 and 18 are forced to fight to the death in an unforgiving wilderness. The last one left standing gets away with not only his or her life, but also a lifetime of riches. If the prospect of keeping your own head isn’t enough to push you to perform your best, then the prizes certainly are.
Gary put a lot of thought into the visual tone of the film, which is pretty bleak. District 12 is shown mostly in muted colors and all of its scenes, which have a dusty sort of feel to them, are washed in tones of blue and gray. Even scenes of Katniss in the woods seem a bit foggy. Images of The Capitol, a bustling metropolis, burst from the screen in brilliant color by comparison.
This all served as a fitting backdrop for spot-on performances by Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Woody Harrelson and Lenny Kravitz.
Jennifer’s portrayal of Katniss Everdeen is exactly as readers likely envisioned. She’s deadly with a bow and arrow while hunting in the woods, but incredibly gentle with her sister, Prim. In fact, the first impression that the audience gets of Katniss is a very nurturing one as she comforts Prim after a nightmare.
After getting her sister back to sleep, she heads out to the woods to track down some game that could be traded for goods and/or taken home for supper. Katniss has no problem killing animals, but the challenge of killing another person is a hard idea for her. Make no mistake, in the end, Katniss is a survivor who will do whatever she needs to do to save herself and anyone else that can be spared. Jennifer’s performance, though, brought a certain softness to Katniss. At the base of it, she is still a young woman thrust into the very dizzying and treacherous spotlight and Jennifer plays to that very well.
Casting Josh as Peeta Mellark was the right decision. Not only does Josh have the perfect look for Peeta, who is pretty solidly built, he’s as instantly likeable as the young man he portrays. You want to root for Peeta, who was bewildered at his own reaping, because he’s such a nice guy. Even when he seems to be turning on his allies, he’s actually doing it to protect them.
Woody Harrelson made his character, Haymitch Abernathy, a little easier to understand. Although he certainly had the act of town drunk down (let’s just say Haymitch is something of an anti-social drinker), you get the sense that he is weary from years of trying to save kids that have virtually no chance of survival. He’s so tired in fact that he just no longer cares about his ongoing duties in the Hunger Games, but when he gets some contenders like Katniss and Peeta he tries his best to keep them alive by supplying them with valuable gifts.
On screen, the relationship that Haymitch and Katniss is different than it might come across in the books. They may not be the best of friends, but there is a level of respect (and dare we say admiration?) that was good to see since they’re supposed to be working as a team.
Lenny Kravitz may not have been what many people envisioned when thinking of stylist Cinna, but his laid back disposition is exactly what the role called for.
And we loved Amandla Stenberg as Rue, who played the role as more mischevious and clever, than the shy and slightly helpless version from the books. Rue is a smart girl, and we’re happy to see that Gary and Suzanne Collins chose to play up that part of her personality in the film.
What caught our attention from the start is that the movie actually opened with a chat between Hunger Games host Caesar Flickerman and Head Gamemaker Seneca Crane.
The books are told entirely from Katniss’ perspective, but that wouldn’t have really worked for the film adaptation. Much of The Hunger Games does focus on Katniss’ experience, but there are also scenes that take place back in Katniss’ home district, and in the Hunger Games production center. There are even a couple of shots from President Snow’s carefully manicured rose garden.
It was a touch of genius that Gary gave a quietly vicious President Snow more screen time to illustrate just how calculating and ruthless he can be. This move will give readers a richer image of the politician than they might get from the book.
Unfortunately, Gary chose to cut out some scenes that we as fans of the books were particularly looking forward to seeing. Some details of the story, such as the origin of the mockingjay pin and the look of the cornucopia, were also changed. Fortunately, they were changed in such a way that made sense and aided the storytelling.
If you haven’t read the books, but you love a good blockbuster, The Hunger Games will serve as the perfect appetizer to summer movie season!