“The only thing stronger than fear is hope.” – President Coriolanus Snow
Swift shot: Suspenseful, thought-provoking, primal, saga that will have no end, and I am dying to know more about the beginning. Not since 1977′s Star Wars has a saga captivated me in this way, where I wanted to know everything that led up to the small chapter that I just watched. The Hunger Games is exactly like that, and when the film reveals how many “happy hunger games” there have been – my imagination was overloaded by the possibilities. I knew almost nothing about this series other than it was set in the future and that districts would send children to fight to the death for some reason. Once I heard that much, I put a moratorium on my friends from mentioning anything that might spoil the slightest essence of why this series is so popular. And while the target audience is teenagers, unlike Twilight – this film was nothing short of EPIC! Pay attention, or be the first martyred for your district.
Suzanne Collins came up with the idea for The Hunger Games, because she was fascinated with the Greek myth of Theseus and also noted the rampant up-rise of our reality TV and war coverage, wondering where the end might come, having found none, she created Katniss Everdeen. Most good writers put themselves in their protagonist’s shoes, and I can imagine she envisioned herself, or her daughter, as Katniss, pitted in a brutal lethal game for survival and penance. And much like the boys and girls, sent every nine years, to fight the hideous Minotaur, her Tributes faced mortality for the amusement of others.
Jennifer Lawrence is going to have a problem, she is going to forever be Katniss Everdeen – she will go on to do other things, she will excel, because she is beyond incredible, all of 22 now though, her future is marked. Maybe she will turn to Carrie Fisher for some advice, because she managed to avoid type-casting, but still, she will always be Princess Leia. The casting department deserves to be, forgive the obvious nod, placed on a pedestal for recognizing Lawrence as the perfect fit for Katniss. She damned near simply reprises her role from Winter’s Bone, where she plays the poor, destitute, starving care-giver for her siblings. Katniss is no different, she sacrifices her life to protect her sister, Primrose, whom she lovingly calls little duck. She is also handy enough with a bow that her family doesn’t starve, despite their coal mining district’s low place. Apparently, the higher your number, the lower your status in Panem. With 12 districts, and Katniss being from the 12th, she is the ultimate under-dog.
But, thankfully, each district is allowed two tributes, and her partner, chosen in a surreal lottery, known as Reaping Day, is Peeta Mellark who is played by Josh Hutcherson, oddly enough, he was in a little movie called Zathura: A Space Adventure, where a game approaches lethal risks. So, casting Josh as Peeta was another no-brainer for the film-makers. Josh impressed me, because he always had this air of attitude about him on screen that I never quite appreciated before. He seemed to wear it as Peeta, but it wasn’t as overt and in your face, and he managed to add a real empathy to his character that I wasn’t expecting. I am not sure if he will forever be labelled as Peeta, like Lawrence as Katniss, but I know he has a huge teen-scene following that is sure to endure.
The real show stealer has to be Amandla Stenberg, who takes so little screen time and creates a wonderful character, on screen, in District 11′s Rue – and in one touching scene, we see the world through her little eyes, a very powerful moment that Director Gary Ross handled beautifully. Finally, Stanley Tucci as Caesar Flickerman, Woody Harrelson as Haymitch Abernathy and Elizabeth Banks as Effie Trinket all come to life because of Oscar-nominated costume designer Judianna Makovsky who magnificently captured the various conflict of society with her brilliant costume work. Each district had a personality, a conflict could be immediately surmised and a comparison, felt, in a manner that hits you right in the gut.
The cinematography was stylized and balanced well to create the future – I didn’t notice any cartoonish effects either, even when what I am calling the Man-Bear-Pigs make their appearance, they felt very real! The violence was brutal, but mostly takes place off screen, but you don’t have to use much imagination to know how people are dispatched.
This film, and this series, no doubt, will be dissected politically for years. It is part Running Man, Logan’s Run, and The Lottery all with one rather disgusting twist, it’s the kids who must be sacrificed, and what is their crime? Nothing, many, many years before they were born, their ancestors fomented some kind of revolution. As a cruel reminder, the victorious controlling government, led now by President Snow (Sutherland) selects two 12-18 year old citizens from each of 12 districts to compete in a viscous battle where only one will survive. One of the better lines of the film comes when Snow reminds his game-master Seneca Crane (the always creepy, Wes Bentley) that a little hope is why they allow a winner, but a lot of hope is dangerous. This series is a political scientist professor’s wet-dream. Power, control, sacrifice, revolution, penance, all the makings of a great debate!
What I find incredible about the film, and the novels (apparently) is that much like a Rorschach test, people are seeing different messages – yet they are all raising the same banner of appreciation. Oddly enough, the Tea Party sees the fear of big government, whilst the Occupy Movement finds the disparaging juxtaposition between The Capitol and the Districts as reminders of the class struggle they so desperately want to maintain. To true Patriots, might the subtle mention of 13 districts be a calling to revolution to battle tyranny, like the original 13 colonies? Hell, even teenagers will take from it the perils of blind-obedience . . . to parents that would serve them up to slaughter. This is why I give the film my patented Swift Six Stars, if you leave the theater and aren’t thinking all day and night about The Hunger Games – newsflash, you would be the first to die when they raise the pedestals, because everyone else is thinking about it. I have even seen people on Pinterest posting work-out motivational images saying, “I don’t want to be the first to die in The Hunger Games!”
Better yet, listen to what another popular “young-adult” author Stephanie Myer had to say, “The story kept me up for several nights in a row, because even after I was finished, I just lay in bed wide awake thinking about it.” That’s pretty much how I felt when I left the theater too, and while this was purported to be sci-fi, much like Star Wars, that wasn’t what interested me at all, it is the entire universe, the characters, the plight of the heroines and heroes, the mythology and wanting to know EVERYTHING about this fascinating saga – which is exactly how I felt in 1977. I have to go now, I need to add The Hunger Games to my eBooks – you know, so I can sleep!