Monday, March 26, 2012

Film: The Hunger Games (2012)

On Friday, my family (my wife, my teenaged son, and me) took in a movie. It was the opening day for The Hunger Games, a sci-fi, action-drama film directed by Gary Ross and based on the 2008 novel of the same name by Suzanne Collins.

The cast of the film includes Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Elizabeth Banks, Woody Harrelson, Lenny Kravitz and Donald Sutherland.

Collins has crafted a dystopian reality where the nation of Panem has risen up from a war-torn and ravaged North America. There is a controlling, lavish Capitol surrounded by twelve poverty-stricken districts. As punishment for a rebellion, the Capitol holds an annual Hunger Games tournament where twenty four youths (one boy and girl from each district) compete in a battle to the death.

From the coal-rich district 12 comes Katniss Everdeen (Lawrence) and Peeta Mellark (Hutchison). They are guided by the absurd escort Effie Trinket (Banks) and a former district 12 victor Haymitch Abernathy (Harrelson). Their stylist Cinna (Kravitz) is given the task to make these two youths presentable and memorable. For, you see, the Hunger Games are televised through out the Capitol for entertainment and wagering. And they are broadcast across the districts to remind the others the brutality that faces any who chose to rebell again.

For me, I went into this film knowing very little about the books. Apparently, they are a popular trilogy among teen and young adult readers. My wife has finished reading the first book just hours before our seeing the films. After the movie ended, my son expressed interest in reading the books so we immediately picked up copies for him (he prefers printed books to digital e-books which my wife was reading).

The film started out a little slow for me with the dull and depressing daily life in district 12. Where it gets interesting is the Reaping event, where one boy and one girl (from ages 12 to 18) are drawn at random to participate in the Hunger Games. From there, the story moves to the shiny Capitol with all its residents dressed in flamboyant, technicolor garb. And, of course, the main tension of the film comes from the action-filled later portion where the youths battle it out in a Roman gladiator-style event that puts any current reality TV show to shame.

The film was engaging and entertaining. Once it got moving, it kept me enthralled for the remainder of 142 minutes. There was just the right balance of action and drama. I easily found myself routing for Katniss and questioning the motives of all the other characters. And, of course, I truly despised the Capitol classes and those behind the games (including Donald Sutherland as President Coriolanus Snow).

Like my son, I am ready to move on to the books (have started the first one today - he is already almost through book two while my wife finished the third today). I'll offer more thoughts on the storyline itself when I get to those.

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