Satisfy Your Hunger
Wednesday, March 28, 2012 Leave a comment
I’m not really sure what started Suzanne Collin’s “The Hunger Games” growing association with the “Twilight” flicks or when exactly having a female protagonist meant that a movie was a chick-flick. Besides the horrendous merchandising decisions (as evident on T-shirts sold across web stores nationwide), the two hit-books-to-hit-film adaptations don’t have all that much in common. Sure, they both star a brunette female protagonist. I guess there are two male characters that can be perceived as love interests — though they’re not, really (at least, not at first) — but that’s where the similarities end. Granted, I don’t know two shits about “Twilight,” though that’s mainly because I have no interest in them whatsoever. But let me set the record straight: “The Hunger Games” is not a a cheesy chick flick with glitter and men that make up for their lack of being able to keep on their shirts with having excessive pecs. Though Gary Ross’s screenplay falls short in a few minor areas compared to the book it’s based on, this is an incredibly well-made and true to its roots flick that you have to check out.
“The Hunger Games” takes place the country of Panem, a nation of twelve districts ruled by the strict and unforgiving hand of the governing Capitol. As punishment for the Districts unsuccessful attempt to overthrow the Capitol, the Capitol will select two children between the ages of 12 and 18 at an annual “reaping,” one male and one female, to be put into an arena to fight to the death. This is the story of Katniss Everdeen, a 16-year old girl selected from the coal-mining District 12, as she fights to stay alive in the 74th Annual Hunger Games.
The film’s biggest shortcoming is not giving enough background on Katniss’ life before the reaping. The movie never quite dives into how dire things really were in the districts. Most people fought starvation and disease daily in the districts, while the people of the Capitol celebrated a life of indulgence and glamour. But the symbolism mirroring our own social divides isn’t the only thing that’s lost because of the rushed set-up. A huge part of who Katniss is is lost without the depth of her history. After an accident in the coal mines kills her father, Katniss is forced to accept responsibility for her family by hunting for food, bartering in the black marked named The Hob, and protecting her younger sister, Prim. When her efforts aren’t enough to fend off starvation, Katniss, like most other children in the districts, are allowed to enter their names multiple times into the reapings in exchange for extra rations of bread. This is barely brushed over in the film, so moviegoers that hadn’t read the book probably won’t pick up on that point much, if at all. A brief exchange between Katniss and her longtime companion Gale about how many times each of their names are in the drawing loses much of its weight because of the poor explanation.
I had a feeling that intro was rough so that the film could nail the rest of the story, and that it did. “The Hunger Games” meets just about every other expectation I had for it. Having read the trilogy of books in the weeks that preceded the film’s release, the bar was set pretty high. What’s great about this adaptation is that you can still enjoy it on its own as a film having not read the source material. “The Hunger Games” delivers perfect pacing, balancing intense action scenes with emotion-filled drama and more of Seneca Crane than anyone expected. That particularly was fine with me though, the extra scenes provided some good insight on the inner-mindset of the Capitol, and I mean, have you seen how bad ass Seneca’s beard was? Overall, I thought the casting as a whole was fantastic. Jennifer Lawrence was a surprisingly powerful Katniss, and even minor characters like Foxface (Jacqueline Emerson) were portrayed so perfectly that I knew exactly who they were even before they were introduced. They couldn’t have found a more charming actress to play Rue, either (Amandla Stenberg), though her and a few others are at the forefront of some terribly unfortunate racial attacks across the internet.
That brings me to another point: Many of the movie-goers (or potential movie-goers) that haven’t read the book may be initially put off by the flamboyance of the Capitol, but this is actually done on purpose. The Capitol is often regarded as fashion-obsessed, often substance-addicted, and just plain gaudy, and I think the costume designers nailed that presentation on the head. Some of the Capitol citizens made me downright uncomfortable with how outlandishly they were presented.
All in all, “The Hunger Games” delivers an incredible story that just barely falls short of its original medium, but it still provides an excellent experience for both those who have read the stories and those that haven’t. It also goes to show how far the art of good source material can go, as “The Hunger Games” finished up its first weekend at the box office with the third best debut weekend ever, raking in a cool $155 million in the process (coming up behind only “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt 2” and “The Dark Knight,” both sequels mind you, which is a statement in itself).
So guys, go see it, there’s plenty of action and gore to to keep your bloodlust quenched and just enough sparks to make your girl do that adorable “awwww” that we all love.