Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Movie Review - The Hunger Games

We just got back from seeing this movie and I fully recommend it.  The store is based on a series of young adult novels by Suzanne Collins. On the recommendation of my daughter, I had attempted to read the first book of the series a few years ago and found it tough going and gave up about a third way in. She saw the movie over the weekend and liked it, and since it had gotten great reviews, we decided to go. My daughter joined us for her second viewing.

The story takes place in some dystopian future (apparently America). The country of Panem is divided into 13 districts, ruled from a nameless Capitol. Katness, the girl on the poster, lives in District 12. It looks like depression era Appalachia.  70 years prior to the story, the districts had revolted against Capitol and were brutally put down. District 13 was apparently wiped off the map.

The Hunger Games are a reminder from Capitol that the districts are firmly under their boot. Each year 2 children, between 12 and 18, a boy and a girl, are chosen by lot to represent their district in the Hunger Games. The chosen, called Tributes, compete in a televised battle-to-the-death. Katness volunteers to take her 12-year-old sister's place.

There is a lot of substance here, portrayed very well. The abject poverty of District 12 compared to  Capitol. The sullen acceptance of the lottery. The little acts of rebellion. When Katness and the boy. Peeta, chosen from the District are paraded on stage prior to their departure, the quislings on the stage call for applause. Instead, the residents raise their right hands in what looks something like the Boy Scout salute. We don't know what it means but it's clearly meant as a sign of resistance. This hand sign takes on a particular poignancy later when, after a particularly sad event, Katness turns to a camera and gives the sign.

The kids, once they get to Capitol,  are cleaned up, given a few days of training, rated by a panel and try to get sponsors who can offer help during the game. Then they are injected with tracking devices and let loose into the woods. A woods filled with hidden cameras and mics. A director controls the images streaming out to the populace. He also can rig the game if necessary.

I can't tell you any more than this without spoilers. Jennifer Lawrence, who played Raven in X-Men: First Class, is excellent as Katness.  The sporting cast of kids are all pretty good although not many of them get much screen time, much less names. Katness's training team is headed by Woody Harrelson, as the only previous survivor from District 12. Although it's a relatively minor part he does a good job. Elizabeth Banks plays one of the quislings I mentioned early, a District 12 resident, working for Capitol. As such, she wears the absurd styles of Capitol which make her wildly out of place in the district. Her makeup and clothing are so outlandish that I didn't realize it was her until I saw her in the credits.

The movie is rated PG13 and I would strongly recommend that younger children do not be taken to see this. Each child who dies in the Game dies pretty graphically and almost all of them die on screen.

1 comment:

Play at the Plate said...

Excellent review. I took my oldest son who had read the books. I had no expectations, but really enjoyed it. I have to say I wasn't as disturbed by the graphic violence as much as the Nazi-esque themes. Katness was well done and until I read it here, I had no idea that was Elizabeth Banks.