First ‘Hunger Games’ film kills box office

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I’ll admit it, I was nervous when I heard there was a film adaptation of Suzanne Collins’ “The Hunger Games.” Like many who tend to fall in love with the books first, I can usually pick apart the directing, scriptwriting, casting – you name it, I hate it. However, I found “The Hunger Games” to be different from many other film adaptations I have seen and actually enjoyed the surprises.

“The Hunger Games” is a tale about what happens to futuristic North America, in which the nation Panem has risen from the ruins of a catastrophe that destroyed present-day America. The Capitol, a society ridden with extreme indulgence and excess, rules Panem. Outside of the Capitol are 12 Districts that provide for the Capitol – most of which are living in extreme poverty and all are suffering from oppression.

To prove its control over the districts, the Capitol annually extracts a boy and a girl between the ages of 12 and 18 to serve as “tributes” in the Hunger Games, a televised battle to the death between 24 children from the Districts.

For the members of the Capitol, the Hunger Games are a sport and looked forward to all year. This could be compared to an extreme version of the reality television our society already indulges in. There are Hunger Games parties, parades – huge events to celebrate the brutal end of 23 lives.

The Capitol, however, does not view this in any way other than fun. The Head Gamemaker in “The Hunger Games,” Seneca Crane (played by Wes Bentley) begins the movie by telling audiences of the Capitol in a talk show type setting how he believes the games have transitioned over time to become a tradition that “unites” the Capitol with the Districts – showing just how warped their society’s view of humanity has become.

In the Districts, however, the games are a source of fear and barbarianism. In the audiences’ first glance at the Districts, Katniss Everdeen, a 16-year-old from District 12 (played by Jennifer Lawrence), is comforting her 12-year-old sister Primrose “Prim” (played by Willow Shields) as she prepares for her first Reaping. Once the Reaping begins, Prim is chosen as the tribute for District 12 but Katniss volunteers in her place, becoming a tribute alongside Peeta Mellark, the boy chosen from District 12 (played by Josh Hutcherson).

The two are immediately taken from their families, with only minutes to say goodbye, and shuttled off to the Capitol. In this time, they are showered with lavish food, clothes and overall decadence beyond their imaginations. Here they meet their mentor, Haymitch Abernathy (played by Woody Harrelson), who is an alcoholic and the only Hunger Games victor from District 12. Personally, I was pleasantly surprised with the small charisma Harrelson was able to portray through Haymitch – a rude and incredibly pessimistic man.

From their time in the Capitol to being put in the arena, the tributes go through extreme makeovers to make an impression on the shallow people of the Capitol through the many events leading up to the Hunger Games. While Katniss is clearly out of her element in the lavish society, there are hardly any that can match her with survival skills. Lawrence is able to portray Katniss in the way Collins intended – a no-nonsense, strong female lead.

Though I was quite pleased with the film overall, I will admit it had its shortcomings. The lack of intelligible dialogue created some confusion in the plotline; there were very few “why” answers. There were ample opportunities to create thought provoking conversations, as there are in the novel, but many were traded for more action and hunting. Also, the alliances formed were a little too far fetched for my taste. While I appreciate the correlation with the book here, I still find it hard to believe the tributes could actually stick together that closely knowing only one comes out alive.

In spite of the negatives, I found this movie to be an exciting and interesting film to watch. Happy Hunger Games!

4/4 Stars