Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Hunger Games

In The Hunger Games, based on the young adult novel of the same name written by Suzanne Collins, the United States as we've known it has ceased to exist and in its place stands the country of Panem, comprised of 12 poor districts whose sole purpose for existence is to support the Capitol with their local resources. As punishment to its citizens for a past uprising by a since then obliterated 13th district, a lottery known as the Reaping is held annually by the Capitol whereby every district sends two tributes, one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 to 18 to participate in the Hunger Games, a televised competition to the death where there is only one victor. Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) is a 16-year old girl from District 12 whose bravery and hunting skills have helped her provide for her family since the death of her father in a coal mining accident. When Katniss' fragile younger sister's name, Primrose, is drawn at the Reaping, Katniss quickly volunteers to take her place. Katniss' male partner from District 12 is Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), the baker's son who helped to feed her family in a not too distant past when her family was desperate and starving. As Katniss and Peeta make their way in opulence to the Hunger Games with their Capitol guide, Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks), they're introduced to Haymitch (Woody Harrelson), their drunken mentor who also happens to be a past winner of the Hunger Games. As they navigate the process of being a tribute and their uncertain future, they'll have to trust and rely on one another in order for one of them to make it back home alive.

Thanks to the endless nagging of a dear friend (thank you again!), last Fall I read the entire Hunger Games trilogy (The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay), so I was eagerly anticipating this movie, as was half the country. Maybe it was all the hype or my own eager anticipation, but I must say I was slightly disappointed. The movie was good, but not great. Jennifer Lawrence did an admirable job in her role as Katniss, but I expected as much given her gut-wrenching performance in last year's Winter's Bone. My problem lies with the characterization of Peeta in the film, not Hutcherson's acting, but the way his character was adapted for the screen. Whereas in the book, Peeta is a quiet yet charismatic figure who brings equal value to the Katniss and Peeta relationship through his strategizing and ease in charming their sponsors, in the movie he's portrayed as a liability or at worst an albatross Katniss is burdened to care for at the expense of her own safety at times. A simpleton whose sole appeal is the fact that he loves Katniss. Since Peeta is my favorite character from all three books, I found this discrepancy highly frustrating to say the least. Another small issue I had was the fact that the director must have used hand-held cameras during some of the action sequences, because they were downright jumpy and a little dizzying at times.

Overall, if you're a fan of the books, the movie is a must see, if for no other reason than comparison's sake. To be honest, whether you read the books or not, you'll enjoy the film because despite my gripes, the movie still kept me enthralled for the whole two and a half hours. Expect drama, action, blood, and a sprinkling of romance to sweeten the pot.