As franchises go, this may become another celluloid New York Yankees or Pittsburgh Steelers, such is the hype for the film version of the popular Suzanne Collins novels.
This much excitement hasn’t been seen since a young Harry Potter set off for his first year at Hogwarts.
The film has been getting some impressive marks from the critics and fans alike.
Our story is set in a post-apocalyptic future where an autocratic government that rules with an iron fist holds an annual bloodbath where twenty-four combatants between the ages of 12 and 18 stage a fight to the death in an “arena” made up of all kinds of natural and unnatural elements.
According to the government propaganda, the “Hunger Games” are too remind the populace of the price they have to pay for the quashed uprising, and the existing “peace” among the twelve remaining districts of the new country of Panem. The thirteenth district was obliterated during the rebellion.
In contrast to the opulence of the capital city, where everyone dresses like Denis Rodman or Lady Gaga, the residents of the outlying districts are living a meager existence where even the simplest items like bread and meat are a luxury.
Katniss Everdeen has become the de facto parent in her house, because after her father was killed in a mine explosion, her mother had a nervous breakdown and was unable to care for the then twelve year old and her sister four years younger.
Katniss has learned to hunt in the nearby woods that is supposed to be off limits. She teams up with Gale, another boy from the district to forage for food and game that they sell on the back market.
At the annual “reaping” where “tributes” are selected to participate in the games, the younger Everdeen sister Prim gets chosen (supposedly) at random to be the female from District 12. Katniss can bear the thought of her sister fighting older, stronger, and better trained kids, so she volunteers to take her sibling’s place. The male tribute is Peeta M, who we find out has long had a crush on Katniss.
The bulk of the movie takes place in the capital, where all the tributes and dressed, paraded before a live audience, and interviewed in a televised spectacle that gets beamed to every person in the country, including District 12, where they watch on giant screens.
This is the ultimate reality show, a combination of Mortal Kombat, ESPN, and Survivor, literally.
The movie sets up a nice love triangle, that will remind viewers of the Harry-Hermione-Ron or the Edward-Bella-xxxx axis from Twilight.
But the comparisons end there. This movie is intense, fast paced (at least when the games begin) and harsh. I will not offer any spoilers as to what happens.
Jennifer Lawrence once again plays a young, impoverished girl, who has to deal with a mother who isn’t all there. Her last major role was her Oscar nominated turn in 2010’s Winter’s Bone.” Josh Hutchinson, who played the son in “The Kids are All right” stars as Peeta Mellark, and Liam Hemsworth the younger brother of Chris, last year’s Thor plays the role of Gale.
Stanley Tucci gives a terrific performance as Caesar Flickerman, the Hunger games’ version of Ryan Seacrest. Woody Harrelson, who always seems to land these roles as offbeat, flawed characters plays Haymitch, a former winner of the games, whose role is to serve as mentor and trainer. Haymitch though seems more content to spend his time as the district drunkard.
While the movie is quite good, I strongly recommend reading the book. You will spend less time trying to figure out what is going on, and deciphering the backstory, even though some of it is presented in flashback, videos, and commentary. The book is told entirely from Katniss’ point of view, and no amount of storytelling can bring forth all the raw emotion she feels throughout this tale.
Other major characters are Donald Southerland, who I’ll always think of as “Oddball” from “Kelly’s Heroes” or Hawkeye from “MASH” is now the quasi-evil president of Panem, bent on perpetuating the status quo, rocker Lenny Kravitz as Cinna, a fashion designer who becomes Katniss’ confidant, and lovely Elizabeth Banks is barely recognizable as Effie Trinket, the District 12 escort for their tributes.
There is a lot of action, some blood spill, and a fabulous performance by Lawrence. I give the movie a home run-three and half stars. Again, go read the book, then see the movie.