After quelling a rebellion, the government finds a way to keep the people in check. They divide the people into twelve districts. No one is allowed to leave their district. And supplies are doled out as deemed appropriate by those in charge. “Peace keepers” are dispatched throughout to make sure everyone is following the new rules.
Also, as a way of intimidating the people into following the imposed guidelines, they develop the Hunger Games. It is sold as a way to not let the people forget the rebellion. Each district must send two “tributes” to the games. One boy. One girl. Every child’s name is entered once, once they reach an appropriate age. You receive additional entries into the “lottery” by doing things like breaking the rules, or accepting extra food, or other actions you take. (Full disclosure: I have not read the book, so I’m basing this on clues/guesses from conversations during the movie.)
The idea of the game, 24 enter. One leaves. The tributes must hunt down and kill everyone else to make it out of the game. The game lasts until only one survives. This means you could starve, die of exposure, starvation, or infection. Basically, any unpleasantry you can imagine can cause you to “lose.” To help your cause, you can win sponsors during the game. Your sponsors can send you gifts of food or medicine, or anything else you might need. Of course, the game is controlled in almost every aspect, letting the organizers influence the outcome.
Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) is from District 12. After her father’s death, her mother (Paula Malcomson) tunes the world out. Katniss is left to care for her younger sister, Primrose (Willow Shields). As luck would have it, Primrose is chosen to go into the game. Katniss, as her sister’s protector, volunteers as tribute, to save her sister.
Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), is the other tribute from District 12. Among the other tributes are those from districts 1 and 2. These districts take tributes and heavily train them for the games. Once they turn 18, they volunteer for the game, helping to improve the district’s odds. (I believe, again, just speculation, the districts get some benefits from being the victor.)
Katniss seems to have become the target, due to pregame rankings. She must use her mentor’s (Woody Harrelson) guidance and her cunning if she wants to survive.
I never thought I would see a film where children hunt and kill other children, let alone enjoy it. I’m guessing it helps to read the books. I did not. I was still able to follow the story, even with as much as was going on.
The movie is heavy on social commentary and governmental control undertones. (Although, I must admit, I don’t exactly get how the Hunger Games fits in with the idea of keeping the people under control.) With this, and the violent nature of the film (as well as the whole premise, itself), I don’t recommend the movie for those under 13. Hence the PG-13 rating. It’s a little intense.
Taking the movie at face value, it is an expertly done film. (I can’t comment on how it does or does not stay true to the book.) The story, as grim and sad as it is, is enthralling. At no point did I find myself wandering away from the plot line or checking my watch, which is impressive for a movie just shy of two and a half hours.
Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson were excellent. You really empathized with Katniss. You could feel the pain and sadness she was experiencing. The cast, as a whole, did a great job conveying the direness of the situation. The characters you are really supposed to care about, they made sure you were invested in their outcome. Obviously, most not having the result you would hope for. But, given the nature of the game, and the film, you were expecting it. Waiting for it.
As for film direction (Gary Ross) and cinematography, again, I have zero complaints. They went as far as to make you experience everything the tributes (especially Katniss) were going through. Be it the onset of hallucinations or an explosion that left your ears ringing. Very well done.
I have to be honest. I didn’t want to get swept up into this latest fad. I wanted to avoid it. But, if I could sit through Twilight (which I did not enjoy in the slightest), I figured The Hunger Games deserved a watch. And I’m glad I gave it a shot. As sad and depressing as it can be, it is a very good movie. I may even have to borrow the book from my son. I just hope they can keep the same pace as they have set with this first film for the next two books.