The Hunger Games was inspired by reality television, war coverage, and the Greek myth of Theseus. NOT the Japanese film "Battle Royale"
I am a huge fan of The Hunger Games. I read the books just before the release of the final novel in the series was released in 2010 and ever since, I have been waiting for this day. Like any obsessed fan, I've kept up with the casting information, how the fandom reacted, the locations of filming, the incredibly inventive Capitol.pn websites, and I even reported on the Atlanta Mall Tour.
By the time I finished reading Mockingjay, the final installment in the series, I knew that The Hunger Games would be THE NEXT BIG THING. Not only is Suzanne Collins an immensely talented writer, the books are full of actions scenes and layered characters. The Hunger Games series is topical, and wide-reaching in subject matter. As a series The Hunger Games explores oppression, poverty, revolution, war and the tolls those things take on people. It’s a story about how the personal becomes political.
The Hunger Games takes place in the country of Panem (formerly known as North America): a land that had been ravaged by fires, floods, and civil war. As a reminder to never rise against the Capitol, each year one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen is chosen from each of the 12 districts to act as what is euphemistically referred to as a “Tribute.” Tributes are pitted against each other to fight to the death in an Olympic pomp meets Gladiatorial arena known as The Hunger Games.
Katniss Everdeen (played by Jennifer Lawrence) is a 16 year old coal miner's daughter from the poverty stricken District 12. When her twelve year old sister is chosen to compete, Katniss volunteers to take her place. Lawrence's performance of the controlled and nearly myopically focused Katniss is well executed. She is stoic, but not unkind; strong, but not unaffected. You believe her as a survivor and as a vulnerable teenage girl
Also chosen from District 12 is the baker's boy, Peeta Mellark (portrayed by the gentle faced Josh Hutcherson). Peeta acts as a foil for Katniss; where she is reserved and suspicious, he is charming, affable, and eager to help. When Katniss is thinking of purely surviving and existing, Peeta yearns for freedom to be himself and to live by his own principles.
Whisked away by their Kabuki Theater styled Chaperone, Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks), the two are taken to the Capitol. The unusual color, lavish designs, ostentatious decor, futuristic technology, and abundant food will remind you of the journey Dorothy mad from bland, black and white Kansas into the full color Oz. This all illustrates how much the Capitol’s citizens are out of touch with the surrounding districts.
Immune from the Treaty of Treason, citizens of the Capital never have to send their children to The Hunger Games to watch them be paraded around and then murdered on live television. For them, the Hunger Games is the ultimate reality show that unites the country in sportsmanship. The distance, figurative and literal, between The Capitol and District 12 is evident in every way.
The action and brutality are handled very well in this film. The violence in the books is not gratuitous, but it is unforgiving, shocking, and horrifying. Many fans were very worried that the PG-13 rating would diminish the shocking violence forced upon and committed by children. Most of the violence happens just off screen; however, the results—splattered blood and crumpled bodies— are played for maximum impact. One particular scene of nonchalant murder made the entire audience gasp each time. Still, the violence is not as disturbing as it was in the book.
This film is a fantastic adaptation of the book. The book's narrative takes place completely in Katniss' voice; if she is not witness to an event, neither is the reader. This perspective has been abandoned for the film but it does not diminish the quality. Not being in Katniss' head allows for greater freedom to fill in those gaps that Katniss could not have known and creates a richer world on screen. Moreover, this isn’t just a movie for book fans, but it stands on its own as a solid film.