Today’s review is a movie that I have been waiting all year to see and it is the third-biggest movie of the year, behind The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises. So what movie would this be? Well, in a word, it’s The Hunger Games.
Before we get started with this review, I have a bit of a confession to make. Going into this movie, I had never read any of the Hunger Games books yet I heard that it was really popular. When I heard that it was another series of books that had an enormous fan base and that it was going to be a movie, I was like, “Oh, great. This is going to be another Twilight.” Then I heard all the reviews and the positive word-of-mouth coming in and I was like, “Maybe I should check this out.” It took me months to see it and I finally saw it last Friday before I went into school and sure enough, it was everything that the critics and moviegoers said it was.
The world of The Hunger Games takes place in the future where the whole continent of North America has been turned into the fictional nation of Panem. That means no US, no Canada and no Mexico. At least we can’t blame Obama for that one. Panem was supposedly divided into 13 “districts.” (kind of similar to how America got started. Get it? 13 districts, 13 colonies?) However, at one point, all the districts revolted against the Panem government, a revolt that the president ruthlessly suppressed by wiping out District 13 (I think they nuked it or something) and they passed what is known as the Treaty of Treason, which created the idea of the Hunger Games. The Hunger Games was designed as punishment for the failed uprising in which every year each district offers up one boy and one girl (usually between the ages of 12 and 18) to compete in the Hunger Games, which can basically be described as the Olympics from Hell. However, there is no gold, silver, or bronze medals rewarded. There can only be one winner. Everyone else dies. And we’re talking about kids here. Kids killing kids, unpleasant to say the least.
So I’ve said enough, now onto the movie.
The movie actually starts in District 12, which is a coal-mining district that looks like something out of the Depression-era. I did mention this was set in the future, right? Here we are introduced to our main heroine, 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen (played by Oscar nominee Jennifer Lawrence) who is actually the strongest female character we’ve seen in movies in ages. She is sort of the man of the house (her father was a coal miner who got killed in a mining accident) who goes out and hunts with a bow and arrow which she is pretty good at and will serve her later on.
Soon enough, the government of Panem comes a calling because it is Hunger Games season which means time to round up their one boy and one girl to see die on national television. Sent to pick the District 12 contestants is a rather flamboyant reporter (played by Elizabeth Banks.) Normally, Elizabeth Banks is a hot chick. She appeared as Betty Brant in the Sam Raimi Spider-Man movies but she’s probably best known as the sexy yet freaky girl in The 40-Year-Old Virgin. Here, she’s virtually unrecognizable under the excessive make-up, bizarre hairstyle, and an outfit that looks like Victorian Era-meets-80’s era MTV. In fact, when we get to the Capital, you’ll notice that everyone is practically dressed like her, but I’ll get to the capital in a bit. However, all this works for the character and she ends up stealing the movie.
So they come and they pick their two contestants: A boy named Peeta (played by Josh Hutcherson) and Katniss’ 12-year old sister Primrose. Horrified that they would pick her younger sister, Katniss volunteers to take her place, which moves everyone in the movie. So Katniss and Peeta are taken to the Capital of Panem which is ruled by the rich and by the media. (Sound familiar everyone?)
There they are introduced to luxuries that they are not used to, like exotic food, a comfortable penthouse apartment with a remote-control window that can change the scenery at any time, and more elegant clothing and spa treatment. Apparently Panem wants its contestants to live like celebrities before they kill each other. And everything leading up to the games themselves (a parade and talk show interviews) kind of resembles American Idol from Hell. Katniss wows the audience by wearing outfits that emits fire which leads everyone to call her “the Girl on Fire.” Take that, Kristen Stewart!
And finally, we get to the main event, where Katniss puts all her skills to the test against the other contestants, who have been training for this their entire lives. And yes, things do get very intense. After all, this is a duel to the death. Now there have been some criticisms about the violence in the movie and the harm it may have on children. I have to say the violence in the movie isn’t really that bad. It gets its point across without being overly excessive.
As far as the performances go, everything’s pretty good. As I mentioned before, Jennifer Lawrence is a really effective screen heroine. She’s vulnerable when she needs to be but otherwise, she is pretty strong-willed and fearless. In short, she has characteristics that have been missing from big-screen heroines for years. The male performances were pretty good, most notably Woody Harrelson playing Haymitch Abernathy, a former Hunger Games champ turned mentor who spends his time drinking and cracking jokes. In short, he’s playing Woody Harrelson and we wouldn’t have it any other way. Another actor in the movie I didn’t recognize right away was Lenny Kravitz (who plays Katniss’ stylist.) I mean, it’s been years since I last saw or heard from him. And Donald Sutherland turns in a chilling performance as the President of Panem who at one minute is heaping praise on someone and showering complements on someone and at the other minute is plotting to have that person killed. In short, he’s like the Emperor in Star Wars.
And there is something else I like about this film that I don’t like about the Twilight series (both book and film incarnations), the author of The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins (who also co-wrote the screenplay which gives it a degree of authenticity) treats its readers with dignity and intelligence, unlike that OTHER young adult movie series!
So how does The Hunger Games compare to Harry Potter and that franchise that will not be named? For one thing, the film is as good as the best of the Harry Potter movies (maybe even better) and it completely blows the Twilight Saga out of the water. And by Twilight Saga, I am also including Breaking Dawn Part 2 in the mix even though it’s not out in theaters until next month. I saw the trailer for that movie and it sucks! It confirms every bad thing everyone has been saying about that series for years. That while I have said in the past that it’s not required to have seen a Twilight movie to know it sucks, I think I’m actually going to see Breaking Dawn: Part 2 when it comes out so that way if it really does suck, I’ll be able to show it no mercy. Besides, I hope it bombs worse than John Carter and Battleship combined.
But back to Hunger Games. Awesome movie, really worth checking out. I’m glad I saw it. Trust me, it was well worth the really long wait I had to endure just to see it. And if the next two movies (because there are two more books to adapt and the next one comes out next fall) are as good as this, we’re gonna be in for a really awesome film series.