Monday, April 16, 2012

Movie Review: The Hunger Games

I apologize for the lack of posts, but things have been dry writing-wise around here. Anyway... recently, I saw went and saw "The Hunger Games" with a friend, even though I'd never read the books before. I will give a review, but I also will talk about some issues concerning the books and movie that have been rather controversial in certain circles.


Set in a post-apocalyptic and dystopian North America in the future, the country of Panem (Latin word for "bread") is living under a totalitarian system. The Capitol controls the twelve districts with an iron fist, every year requiring each district to offer two tributes (one male, one female) between the ages of twelve and eighteen to fight in the annual "Hunger Games," a fight to the death among the children that is viewed as entertainment in the Capitol. The protagonist Katniss Everdeen, played by Jennifer Lawrence, is living in poverty and struggles to keep her family from starving. When her little sister Primrose is chosen to be tribute, Katniss makes the brave sacrifice of taking her sister's place in the annual games, and she is joined by Peeta Mallark, a boy who once gave her bread. Katniss goes to the Capitol, where she is trained, witnesses the decadent lifestyle of the residents there, and must make herself appealing to the audience so that she can get sponsors for when the game happens. Finally, the day comes when Katniss and Peeta must go into the arena and fight for their lives.

I thought the movie was very well done. The acting was good, and the characters were memorable. Jennifer Lawrence was very convincing as Katniss Everdeen in showing her bravery and yet sometimes showing off her vulnerability. I liked her interactions with Gale, and I admit I wasn't quite bought with her whole relationship with Peeta (though as I understand it, her feelings were not entirely genuine because she was trying to save his life), though I may change my mind with a second viewing of the movie. The plot itself was easy to follow and understand, especially given the fact that the film is based off a book in the first-person perspective. There were, however, a few short scenes that were a bit tricky to understand, but I think if I read the books I might understand them and their placement a bit better.

Now a few warnings for interested moviegoers. First, be prepared to cry. I got teary-eyed in a few scenes, and in one of them my eyes were so blurry that I couldn't even see the movie screen. And I generally don't cry a lot in movies, but it ultimately depends on the moviegoer. Second, if movies with a lot of jolting, frenzied scenes cause seizures, migraines, or anything like that in you, I would hold back on seeing it on the big screen. There are a few scenes that are blurry, very fast-paced, and, I admit, a bit tricky to watch on the big screen. If this is a problem for you, wait until the movie comes out on DVD and see it then.

Now to talk about the violence in the film. As I understand it, the books were violent, but the movie actually tones it down. A good percentage of the violence was done off-screen, which I personally liked because it left such things up to the imagination and also because it increased the shock value. However, even though most of the violence is not shown, I would be very cautious in showing it to children and younger teens. The movie is very intense, largely because of its premise of kids killing each other, and I would leave it up to parents to decide whether or not to let their children see it because the story is not for the faint of heart.

"The Hunger Games" series and the movie recently have come under fire for its violence and for the fact that the series is targeted towards teenagers. However, I disagree with the view that the story glorifies violence. If that were the case, I believe the movie would have been more violent and Katniss would have actually killed people and not acted only in self-defense. Instead, watching the movie, I found themes of government control, a decadent culture centered around personal entertainment, sacrifice, and even regard for life.

In the end, I really enjoyed "The Hunger Games" and am looking forward to seeing it again. I am also hoping to start reading the book series very soon.

I give it four and a half stars.