I know some of our readers are out there are wondering “Can anything help us over our Post Potter blues?” In the fall of 2008, author Suzanne Collins introduced Katniss Everdeen and the world of Panem to the masses with The Hunger Games. The book became an instant bestseller with over 2.8 million copies worldwide. The Tributes of Panem’s 12 Districts have arrived onto the silver screen and are ready to be Number 1 – by any means necessary. Whether you’ve read the famous trilogy by now or not, get ready for an epic adventure that will make you say “I’m ready for the next movie” by the time the credits roll. The Hunger Games has everything – intense action, chilling moments, and a love triangle – to make it a new movie franchise in the making.
In the not-too-distant future, our beloved country becomes the sovereign state of Panem with its twelve districts. In a tradition in its 74th year, one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen are selected in a random lottery to represent their District in an event known as the Hunger Games. The games take place in an outdoor arena that is controlled by the Capitol. Twenty-four players will use their training to try and survive this brutal bloodsport – until one wins. The victor receives gifts, food and the honor of being a champion.
In District 12 (a mining district and the poorest of them all), we meet 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) as she is hunting food outside the boundaries of the district in order to keep her family fed. She has taken care of her mom and her younger sister Primrose ever since she lost her father to a mining accident. Today is Reaping Day and Primrose is afraid of being picked for the games since she has just turned twelve. The official District 12 escort Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks) does the honors of picking the two tributes and out of all the entries, Primrose is selected. Katniss, fearing for her sister’s life, decides to volunteer and take her place as District 12’s female tribute. Katniss is soon joined by Peeta Marlark (Josh Hutcherson) and after a few quick farewells, the two are heading to the Capitol for training and their taste of the good life before their games.
Along the way, they meet their mentor Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson), the victor from their home district at the 50th Hunger Games. He immediately takes a disliking to Katniss. When they arrive at the Capitol, the Tributes are treated like royalty at the most grandiose of quarters, interviewed on live television and primped and primed for their grand entrance. Kat becomes fast friends with her stylist, Cinna (Lenny Kravitz), whose sole purpose is to make his tributes look spectacular in front of the crowds. Young Peeta takes his sudden fame to a whole new level by announcing on Ceasar Flickman’s show that he has a crush on Katniss. While this angers her, she has much more to focus on including the Career Tributes who trained their whole lives for the games and the games themselves. Our young Everdeen must rely on her hunting skills, stamina, and wits to win – or die trying.
The question on the minds of the followers of The Hunger Games for numerous months was who could play Katniss. Many famous young starlets were considered including Hailee Steinfeld, Saoirse Ronan and Chloë Moretz but Oscar nominee Jennifer Lawrence won the coveted role. While Lawrence is four years older than the character and maybe considered “too old,” Jennifer truly captures the essence of Katniss. She delivers a strong, convicing performance that’s nothing short of brilliant. Katniss is smart, sweet and can stand against any competitor in the arena. Veteran young star Josh Hutcherson holds his own as Peeta. Peeta appears to be shy at first but shows true strength when showing his devotion to Kat or taking potshots from Hunger Games host Caesar Flickman, played by Stanley Tucci. Speaking of Tucci, his performance as the host of the Games seem to bring out the worst qualities of a reality show host – kind and caring to the crowd yet he knows he’s giving the last interview to most of the tributes.
I could have sworn that Lenny Kravitz’s role of Cinna was tailor-made for him. He provided the cool yet subtle charisma to make Peeta & Katniss more than they appear to be. District 12 maybe the poorest of Panem but thanks to Cinna’s eye for hotness, he made the District 12 Tributes the IT couple of the 74th Games. If they were going to go out, Cinna made sure they got to do it in style. The rest of the cast rounded out pretty well. Woody Harrelson’s Haymitch may be a sloppy drunk at times but you have to tip your hat to him for he wants what is best for his home district tributes. Then we have the third side of the love triangle with Liam Hemsworth who plays Katniss’ friend Gale. We can expect Team Peeta and Team Gale forming up in droves when Catching Fire hits theaters in the near future.
My only quibbles with the Games are the preparation for the games scenes. They were several minutes of drivel until the Tributes arrived into the arena ready to take out the competition – literally. The killing scenes are cleverly filmed. We get to see the Cornucopia, the Feast and their aftermath with minimal blood and gore. The cinematography flowed like a calm river. Director Gary Ross and Cinematographer Tom Stern truly capture the perspective of Kat’s journey as it was portrayed in the novel. The films capitalizes on the full range of Katniss’s expressions and emotions so well at time that no words are needed. Please check my favorite scene of the movie when Kat’s gives a solo test to earn her rating. Let’s just say she caught the attention in one memorable shot.
Can The Hunger Games satisfy our appetite? Absolutely – it is one of the best science fiction movies made in recent times. Games delivers great performances by the cast, smooth cinematography, and a movie franchise that shows great promise. I may not be a betting man but The Hunger Games has great odds of being successful in the box office this weekend.
Final Grade: A