Just so you are all forewarned, I’m a sucker for YA fiction, both in movies as well as books. Back in 2010, I finished reading the Harry Potter series. This was right before the last two movies came out. So as it was, I was on the search for a new book series. While my wife and I waited in line at the midnight premiere of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1, a friend of ours mentioned a book called The Hunger Games. For some reason I didn’t read it for several months, but once I did, I was hooked and immediately bought the rest of the books. If you have seen the movie and haven’t read it then you must pick up the book. The movie does a good job telling the story, and bringing the world of Panem to life, but like many book adaptations, there were a lot of little details left out. With that said, I still really liked the movie. This is a review of the movie, but don’t be surprised if I make a few references to the book.
Before we get into the details of the movie. I want to mention that this is a Dystopian movie. For those unfamiliar with the genre, a dystopia is the opposite of utopia. So instead of a good or ideal society, it is often a structured society in which the conditions of life are deliberately made miserable, characterized by poverty, oppression, violence, disease, and scarcity for the benefit of a select minority or some unnatural societal goal. Generally there is an oppressive government that suppresses the people in some way. Some other movies that fall into this genre are: The Island, V for Vendetta, 1984, Equilibrium, Fahrenheit 451, Gattaca, and The Matrix.
A few more comments before we get into the story. First off, if you’ve never heard of this story, it may sound extremely dark and morbid. There is a fair amount of violence, however most of it is not graphic and it isn’t glorified. The “Games” that the tributes must participate, is not portrayed as a good thing. It is shown as the sick and demented thing that it is. Also, just so you know, the following will contain some spoilers.
The Hunger Games is based on a book by Suzanne Collins. It takes place in a future post apocalyptic continent of North America. The central government known as The Capitol is located in the rocky mountains. From there it controls the 12 districts, which make up the country of Panem. There was once a 13th district but it rebelled against the the Capitol and in response was completely destroyed. As punishment for the other districts, every year each district must select 1 boy and 1 girl between the ages of 12 and 18 to fight to the death in an arena designed and controlled by the Capitol. This event is televised for all the districts to watch, with the hope that it will discourage the districts from ever rebelling again. Only 1 of the 24 tributes is allowed to survive. The survivor is given great honor and wealth and their district is provided with extra food for the rest of the year. This is the story of the 74th Annual Hunger Games and Katniss Everdeen the tribute from District 12.
Each of the districts have a resource that they provide the Capitol. For District 12 this is coal. This poor, dirty, and rundown area is where Katniss Everdeen calls home. Most who live here, have very little. Many die at an early age from either starvation or accidents in the coal mine. For her father it was an explosion in the mine.
Before his death he would take her into the woods and teach her to hunt and forage. Those trips, gave her the skills she would need in order to provide for her mom and sister. With her father gone she takes on the role of provider and protector, supplying just enough food so Prim(her sister) and her mom can survive.
The movie starts out on “reaping day”, the day when the tributes for this year’s Hunger Game are selected. Names are drawn from a bowl that contain each kid’s name written on a piece of paper. The older you are the more pieces of paper in the bowl and the more likely you are to being chosen. As the odds would have it, Prim whose name is only in the bowl once, is chosen. In order to protect her sister Katniss volunteers to take her sisters place. Peeta Mellark a baker’s son is chosen for the boys. After being allowed to say a short goodbye to their family’s, Katniss and Peeta are sent to the Capitol, to receive training.
Before we go on, I’d like to take a quick look at the choices that Katniss has made. After her father’s death, her mother completely breaks down. This leave Katniss the choice of either starving or providing. She chooses the later, but she doesn’t just go out and beg for help. She works for her food. She takes responsibility for her life and the lives of her mom and sister. This sense of responsibility and love for her sister, is what also prompts her to take her sister’s place in the Hunger Games, knowing that she will most likely die. We see here a sacrificial attitude, one that is willing to give up ones own desires to help another. Today we live in a very selfish world, where sacrifice and responsibility are not as common characteristics as they should be. We should all strive to have these attributes.
Once in the Capitol, they are paraded around for all the people to see. It’s important to stop here and talk a little about these people. The Hunger Games is what the citizens of the Capitol live for. It is their focus year around and their source of entertainment.When they take vacations they often go to old arena’s to celebrate and remember the games. They are very vain people, who dress up in all sorts of gaudy clothes and makeup. They enjoy an abundance of food, money, and pleasure. They live to please and amuse themselves.
So the questions is, am I ever like these people? They are portrayed in an extreme way, but I think it is easy for us to fall into these same attitudes. Are you grateful for all you have in your life, do you help those less fortunate than you or are you focused solely on yourself. We are extremely blessed in America, even in a recession few go hungry. Many of us are still able to enjoy many luxuries. May we never be like these people, who are only concerned for ourselves.
Now back to the story. Once they arrive in the Capitol, they begin training for the games. All forms of training are available, everything from knife and spear throwing, trapping, and painting camouflage, just to name a few. At the end of the training and before the games start, each tribute must go before the Gamemakers to display their best abilities. Katniss who is an expert bowhunter, keeps this skill hidden until she is before the Gamemakers. Since she is in the last district she is also the last tribute to go before the Gamemakers. By this point they are tired and ready for the day to be over. She walks before them and grabs a bow and arrow. After taking aim she lets the arrow fly, but in only hits the edge of the target. The gamemakers laugh and go on to ignore her. She picks up another arrow and now that she has a better feel for this new bow, she shoots the target in the bullseye. Unfortunately no one sees it, which infuriates her. Instead of watching, they are all crowded around a cooked pig and are preparing to eat. She takes another arrow and aims at the apple in the pig’s mouth. The apple is pinned to the wall and the gamemakers are stunned. She takes a bow and says, “Thank you for your consideration” and then walks out. This is one of my favorite scenes and makes me laugh each time I watch it.
The night before the games start, Peeta and Katniss sit on the roof of the training facility, watching the people of the Capitol as they celebrate the beginning of the games. As they watch, Peeta tells Katniss, that he won’t let them change him. He goes on to say, “I just keep wishing I could think of a way to show them that they don’t own me. If I’m gonna die, I wanna still be me. “ I love this quote, his determination to not be changed strikes a chord with me. I am a people pleaser, always have been and probably always will be. With that said, I’ve often allowed, my peers determine who I am. My character has often been based on who I am around. This isn’t a good thing. We should never be ashamed of who and what we are. We should never allow the perceptions others have of us, determine who we are.
The following day the tributes are taken to the arena. This isn’t a sports arena. It’s more of an enclosed landscape. There is a lake, streams, forests, and animals. Each tribute starts in an underground room, where they get prepared for the game. From there they enter a tube, which lifts them into the arena on a circular metal plate. Here they stand waiting for the gong to sound and the game to start. In the middle of the arena sits a giant cornucopia that holds all types of weapons and supplies, which the tributes will need to survive. The gong sounds, the games have begun and chaos ensues. Some of the kids immediately begin attacking each other, while others try to grab some supplies and escape to the forest. Katniss manages to grab a backpack and make it to the woods. In the process, she narrowly escapes death, when a knife is thrown and lodged in her backpack. She runs and runs, trying to put as much distance between her and the others. By the end of the day, 13 of the 24 tributes are dead.
The next day is uneventful until, near evening, when Katniss runs into the Careers. The Careers are a group of tributes who work together to kill off the others first. She is able to get away by climbing a tree, but they have her trapped. Fortunately, the next morning she notices a hive of tracker jackers(genetically modified wasps, whose sting can be lethal) in a branch above her. She climbs up to it and saws off the branch, bringing the hive down on top of the careers. They all run but one of the girls is not fast enough and is overwhelmed by the tracker jackers. Katniss is able to get away, but in the process is stung several times. The rest of the story consists of her blowing up the careers supplies, teaming up with Peeta, being attacked by mutant dogs. And lastly there is a showdown between Katniss, Peeta and Cato(the leader of the careers). How does it end? Well there can only be one survivor…
So what have I left out? A whole bunch. Haymitch the drunk mentor, who is suppose to help Katniss survive the games. The parade in the capitol, where Katniss is given the title, “The Girl on Fire.” The interviews(which is my favorite part of the movie) in which Stanley Tucci does an awesome job of playing Caesar Flickerman, as the host of the Hunger Games. There is also the love story between Katniss and Peeta, but this isn’t fleshed out very well in the movie. I also didn’t mention Rue, whose death nearly brought me to tears. Or the end where a nuclear bomb destroys everyone… Just kidding that last one doesn’t happen. If you want to know the end you’ll have to watch the movie or better yet read the book after watching the movie.
Rating 4 out of 5.
I love dystopian stories where people stand up to an oppressive and controlling government, which is one of the points of the movie. So if you can’t tell, this is one of my favorite movies. Many of the characters feel real and believable. They have flaws, but they also have some excellent character traits. The story teaches about sacrifice, kindness, love, and enduring difficult circumstances. Many times throughout the movie, people show and are shown mercy and kindness. Although the theme is dark I think this movie gets you to think about your own character. Are you someone who will do anything to survive? Or will you show mercy and kindness.