This film takes place in an unspecified future, after a rebellion has been put down and what is now North America is divided into 12 impoverished districts, ruled over by “the Capitol.” As punishment for, and reminder of that rebellion, each year one girl and one boy between the ages of 12 and 18 are chosen by lottery (the “Reaping”) to participate in what is called “the Hunger Games,” a fight to the death among the 24 young people. The games are televised, and participants (“tributes”) can win sponsors who will then supply them with food, water, medicine or weapons. The tributes are first wined and dined, and shown the wonders of the Capitol, something most of them have never dreamed of before.
The main character of the story is Katniss Evergreen, a 16-year-old girl from the poor mining area of district 12. The viewer sees her as the loving older sister to Prim, who is hysterical now that she’s old enough to participate in the Reaping. She’s also seen hunting on forbidden land, helping to provide extra food for the family, and extra money (such as there is) by selling her ill-gotten game to the neighbors.
During this year’s Reaping, the worst thing happens, and Prim’s name is drawn. Katniss volunteers to take her place, something that has never happened in the outer districts. Her male friend, Gale, carries Prim home. The next name drawn is that of Peeta, the baker’s son.
After a brief good-bye to their families, Katniss and Peeta are whisked off to the Capitol on a bullet train. They are given rich food to eat, when most of their lives have been spent near starvation. They are given over to media consultants; a “mentor” (a drunken former winner of the Hunger Games); they do interviews as a means of getting their names out there. They do a little gladiatorial training. The names of the people in the Capitol are different. They affect old Romans names, such as that of President Coriolanus Snow.
It is a circus, as well as a punishment, echoing faintly the gladiatorial games of ancient Rome. The name of the 12-district nation is “Panem,” (presumably from Juvenal’s dismissive phrase “panem et circenses”--“bread and circuses” (1)-- though why anyone would name their own country that is beyond me.) By giving the people something glitzy and glamorous to watch, it detracts their attention from their own misery, and also keeps them too busy to rebel again. Or that’s the plan. Is also robs them of any real hope, replacing it with a dream they can watch on TV. The victor will be hailed as a hero. His or her family will be set for life. Hope, as President Snow tells an underling, is a dangerous thing. The people can’t be given hope, or they will want something better than what they have.
There are many elements in the movie that echo other things, both literary and historical, and one could conceivably find whatever one is looking for. There are the gladiatorial games. There is also the Athenian tribute of 14 youths, seven boys and seven girls, to the Cretan Minotaur, until Theseus killed the Minotaur. There is also a satire on media exploitation. There is loyalty and betrayal, cunning versus strength. One could also argue that there is the sacrifice on the youth of the people to perpetuate the state. None of these is taken to its logical conclusions, though.
The woodland setting for the contest of the Hunger Games is as beautiful as the hometown of Katniss and Peeta is bleak. Jennifer Lawrence is convincing as Katniss, both in her fierceness and in her tenderness. Peeta, played by Josh Hutcherson, is likable. Donald Sutherland (President Snow) may have aged a bit since “The Eye of the Needle”—but then, who of us hasn’t?—but he has retained the ability to portray affability turning on a dime to a sinister threat that would take one’s breath away.
The world of the Capitol (it seems to be spelled that way universally) is loud and people dress like they’re color blind, with obnoxious purples and pinks or oranges and reds mixed together, just because they can.
The music seemed unremarkable, though I understand a soundtrack is available. Frankly, I can’t recall it. I guess I could be kind and say that it’s “subtle.”
Overall, this is an enjoyable adventure tale, with one girl raising her middle finger to the establishment as much as she can. But waiting for each person to be offed toward the end did get a bit tedious, and few of them stood out as any more than a suit with a district number on it. The only thing that kept me from really liking the movie was how derivative it is.
Director: Gary Ross
Writers: Gary Ross, Suzanne Collins & Billy Ray
Read all 27 Reviews
Write a Review
Movie Mood: Serious Movie
Film Completeness: Looked complete to me.
Worst Part of this Film: Nothing