Based on the Suzanne Collins trilogy and set in a dystopian Panem where 12 districts are punished every year for daring to rebel against the Capitol, The Hunger Games is about a young girl, Katniss Everdeen (played by Jennifer Lawrence), who volunteers in place of her sister Primrose (Willow Shields) to fight for her life.
Just when it seems like having to fight for their lives in the woods is bad enough, Katniss and Peeta are transported to Capitol City, where they get a taste of “high society” and the very people who keep the Hunger Games gainfully employed.
There’s much more, such as Katniss sealing her fate as the “girl on fire” and becoming the face of the revolt against the oppressive Capitol. There’s the in-your-face message about our own society’s voyeuristic tendency to watch suffering as entertainment — as in such films as the Saw franchise, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Hostel.
Collins’ trilogy mirrors the way we entertain ourselves and the things we watch. We like reality shows such as Survivor. We are a country at war. According to Collins, the idea for Hunger Games came to her late one night while channel surfing and coming across a television news clip of the Iraq war.
Collins, who wrote the screenplay adaptation for Hunger Games with the film’s director, Gary Ross, and Billy Ray, does capture the attention of the audience. Those of us who have not read any of the books are familiarized with the back story very quickly and are immediately in sorrow for what is surely to befall the innocent children of the 12 districts. That is until the kids are in the thick of the Hunger Games and some of them begin killing indiscriminately.
While one may be squeamish about the concept of kids killing each other so that their families and communities can eat, Ross manages to depict the violence, desperation, and sheer will and determination to survive in a way that isn’t offensive. That seems to be the point of Collins’ trilogy: that people think about the violence our children are subjected to, and start a dialogue about what we see as entertainment, without wanting to throw up from the gore.
Lawrence, an awesome actress, brings a certain determination to Katniss and makes her a whole character — unlike Twilight’s Bella who pouts and sulks her way into a vampire’s heart. Katniss is a stronger heroine who does something I have yet to see Bella do, commit selfless acts in honor of the defenseless. This parallel allows Katniss to be strong and gentle. It’s such acts and survival skills that must have attracted the more than 20 million readers and lovers of Collins’ trilogy.
One of the main reasons for the revolt in the districts and one of Katniss’ selfless acts is her protection of Rue (Amandla Stenberg). Rue, the youngest “tribute” of the Hunger Games, is good at climbing trees which helps her stay alive for quite some time. Stenberg, who is slowly but surely making a name for herself as an actress, plays Rue with the childlike innocence that is missing from many of the other “tributes.” She serves as a reminder that kids are supposed to be innocent and protected, not thrust into the jungle to fend for themselves.
KRAVITZ’S COOL CINNA
Lenny Kravitz’s Cinna, who reportedly is flamboyant in the book, chose to play down his character. Cinna is a nice touch with his quiet rebellion and cool demeanor. It’s nice to see Kravitz in this role, because he’s getting to hone his skills as a great actor. Between Cinna and Katniss I’m actually looking forward to the next film in the trilogy, Catching Fire, due to open in November 2013.
While the thought of kids killing kids for the viewing pleasure of people who obviously have too much money and don’t know how to spend it is disconcerting, the message rings true. Even better is the journey being taken by Katniss as a girl fighting the ills of society and doing what’s right. We need more heroines such as her, if for nothing else to give young girls a role model who isn’t just concerned about getting a man, but rather the survival of herself and her people.
Photo: COURTESY OF AllMoviephoto.com/Murray Close
Lenny Kravitz as Cinna in The Hunger Games.