Movie review: ‘The Hunger Games’

I’m pretty sure by now, I’m one of the last people on the planet to read “The Hunger Games” novel. 😉 However, I finally picked up a copy last week, and since then, I haven’t been able to stop reading it. It’s a smartly-written, fast-paced and thought-provoking novel, and the good news for fans is, the film version is just as powerful.

The story takes place in a civilization called Panem, a post-apocalyptic society in North America that’s divided into 13 districts. Years ago, the districts of Panem tried to rebel against the oppressive government but were brutally crushed (the 13th district was even obliterated). As punishment for the rebellion, the government started the “Hunger Games,” a televised gladiator-style competition where teenagers are forced to fight to the death.

The names of all 12- to 18-year-olds are placed in a lottery, and each year, two names are drawn from each district (one boy and one girl) to compete as “tributes” in the Hunger Games. The tributes are trained and then placed in an arena with weapons and a limited number of supplies. The last one standing wins.

It’s a rather horrific and brutal concept, and at times, “The Hunger Games” isn’t an easy film to watch (or an easy book to read). So what makes the story so compelling, and why has it attracted so many fans? The answer lies with the story’s main character, Katniss Everdeen.

Katniss is a tough, smart 16-year-old from one of the poorest districts in Panem, who’s had to fight for survival her whole life. When her 12-year-old sister Prim’s name is drawn in the Hunger Games lottery, she volunteers to go in her place. It’s this act of selfless love and devotion that gives the story its humanity.

In the film version, Katniss is embodied perfectly by young actress Jennifer Lawrence, who also appeared in last summer’s “X-Men: First Class” and was nominated for an Oscar for her role in “Winter’s Bone.” Lawrence’s intense, emotional performance brings the “Girl on Fire” from the pages of Suzanne Collins’ novel to life, and we can feel her pain as she struggles to come to grips with what competing in the Hunger Games will mean. She hates the injustice of the games but realizes that in order to survive and get back to her sister, Prim, she’ll have to commit horrific acts in the arena. She also knows eventually she may be forced to fight the other tribute from her district, Peeta Mellark. He’s declared his love for her, and while she isn’t sure how she feels about him, she doesn’t want to have to take him down in the arena.

It’s a terrible choice to force teenagers to make, and as I mentioned before, the movie isn’t an easy one to watch. It’s rated PG-13 and isn’t overly gory or bloody, but that doesn’t make it any less horrific. It’s disturbing to see the teenagers fight each other while the people in Panem’s capital casually watch the televised competition as if it were nothing more than a season of “American Idol.”

However, I think “The Hunger Games” is a film people should see, and it’s definitely a conversation starter. In our post 9/11 society, we know what it’s like to live in a world where people can die suddenly and unjustly, and I think that’s why this book has really resonated with young adults. There’s several other themes in the film that emerge as food for thought, such as poverty, government control and the way a culture can sensationalize violence to the point people become desensitized to it.

The film may not be for everyone (I have some friends that really liked it and some that didn’t), but it certainly lingers with you after you watch it. I thought it was a powerful, well-made film and a faithful adaptation of the books, and it is one I’d recommend watching.

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8 thoughts on “Movie review: ‘The Hunger Games’

  1. I wasn’t a fan of the film myself as I felt that if all the districts were against the Hunger Games there would already be huge resistance from the start. It was weird how they just gave in and didn’t fight back against the least scariest 70’s sci-fi cops ever. Acting was a bit stiff too especially from Donald Sutherland and it lacked a good menacing bad guy.
    I agree it has some strong meaning to it with today’s society and killing off innocent kids is obviously going to have people talking but it just doesn’t stand up as a good film. If they do make more films then at least it won’t be as bad as this one.

    btw I like your site! looks very professional.

    • Thanks for reading! I do think in the books it explains a little more clearly why none of the Districts fight back against the government. One of the districts was wiped out in a previous attempted rebellion, and now the people are too scared to actually fight back. I’ve read the first book and am working my way through the rest of the series now. The first book is more of a story of survival, and Donald Sutherland’s character starts to emerge more as a bad guy in the second novel.

  2. Great review! I agree that they did a great job on the movie. It really captured the spirit of the book, thanks in large part to Jennifer Lawrence. I’m glad it’s doing well at the box office, too. I haven’t seen my local theater as packed as it was during matinee time on opening day since Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 came out.

    Those books are addicting, though. Once you start the first one, you’d better have the next two on hand to just so you don’t have to suffer the frustration of waiting to see what happens next!

  3. Thanks! 🙂 I heard the movie topped the box office for the second weekend in a row, and I’m already excited about the sequel. I went out and bought the other two books in the series before I finished with the first, and you are absolutely right – once you start the first book, you don’t want to stop. 🙂

  4. I went and saw this opening weekend since most of my students saw it opening weekend.

    For the most part I thought they did a good job. My biggest complaints were with the pacing (I mean the after the Hunger Games part is really condescended into a couple of minutes) and Peeta. The actor didn’t really reflect what I had from the book. That and he seemed kinda wimpy, especially compared to Helmsworth as Gale. I was also disappointed the toned some stuff down in the film. I didn’t feel like they really emphasized the Games being kids killing kids. Everyone pretty much knows that’s what the movie/book deals with, but they kinda skipped that in the movie. I dunno. I guess even with the book I wished she highlighted those issues more than she did.

    They did a good job filling in details though since the book relies in Katniss’s thoughts.

  5. I also thought they did a good job conveying Katniss’s story, especially since the book is written in first person, present tense. I thought Jennifer Lawrence did a really good job capturing who Katniss is and conveying how much she cares about her family and friends.

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