First, I have to tell you, before seeing this movie, I'd heard all the hype and I wasn't planning to see it. Hell, who wants to see kids killing each other, right? Wrong! Well, let me tell you--I couldn't take my eyes off the screen and thought the adaption was pretty well done.
Below is a review by Tristian K. Evans, a junior majoring in Mass Communications at Texas Wesleyan University that I thought was extremely well done. Tristian has given me his permission to post his review.
The Movie: The Hunger Games - In a futuristic America, violence and reality television are used as a way of controlling and intimidating the population of a dystopian society. This is the theme of recently released movie The Hunger Games, based on the novel of the same name. This film, although it has its flaws, is a well-done adaption of Suzanne Collin’s novel. Director Gary Ross had the tough task of creating a film about kids killing each other, without glorifying the violence and still retaining the emotional impact of each death. He managed to achieve that task. The premise of the story is pretty easy to follow in the movie. For the past 73 years, the ruling powers of the 12-district nation of Panem have kept the citizens in line by hosting a nationally televised death match known as the Hunger Games. The rules are simple, a boy and girl between the ages of 12 and 18 from each district will compete in a nationally televised death match. The last one standing wins.
Academy-award-nominated actress Jennifer Lawrence portrays the protagonist Katniss Everdeen. Katniss is a 16-year-old who has been born and raised in the poor, coal mining District 12. When her little sister Prim is chosen as the female tribute of the district for the 74th Hunger Games, Katniss quickly volunteers in her place. Soon, she and her fellow District 12 tribute Peeta Mellark, played by Josh Hutcherson, are whisked away from District 12 and find themselves in Panem’s ruling city, the Capitol. They are trained alongside their fellow tributes, the most menacing being the Careers, tributes from Districts 1 and 2, who have trained their entire lives for the chance to bring their district glory by winning the Games. Once in the arena, the deaths come quickly and Katniss struggles to survive.
My .02 worth: While the game is in action, every district can see exactly what's going on as the action appears on huge billboard-sized screens strategically placed throughout the twelve districts. There are twenty-four contenders, two from each district, each as scared as the next person, except for one egotistical guy by the name of Cody, who's the ringleader and confident he's going to win. Katniss and Peeta are from District 12. She knows him from when she used to hide near his house while waiting for him to throw stale bread out to the pigs. She's trying to find food for her family.
Caesar Fleckerman, aka Stanley Tucci, the host who’s there to promote sponsorship for the challengers from the audience, individually interviews the kids. Katniss is way ahead because they see her as a caring and loving individual because she stepped in for her sister. She’s also seen as an expert archer for someone so young because she’s shot an apple right out of a roasted pig’s mouth on the banquet table. She was trying to get their attention—she did!
When Peeta is interviewed, he reveals he has a crush on her. This really works well to the Nation of Panem's advantage because now they can use a love story to draw in more sponsors. In the beginning of the film we're led to believe Katniss has a boyfriend at home, and we get a glimpse of him watching everything that’s going on. And while she makes no commitments to Peeta, we know by the expression on her face, she's feeling those warm fuzzies toward him and we wonder how she'll be able to kill him. It isn't until later in the film that it becomes obvious neither wants to kill the other, but there can only be one winner.
After the training, Cody seems to have gathered a following as the leader. For some reason, Peeta's on his team. When Katniss sees him, she's perplexed, but we ultimately realize he's there to protect her from them. The death scenes in the Hunger Games, while they may be a little graphic, are quick and the camera doesn’t linger on the after effects too long.
The important messages from the book; the horror of totalitarian governments, the struggles of the poor to survive in a world ruled by the rich and the bond between family members are still in the film, and although these things translate to the screen well, others do not. Jennifer Lawrence shines as the independent and brave Katniss. She is definitely a character that both men and women can root for. Josh Hutcherson also does well in his role as the kind and naïve Peeta, who realizes that he will have to toughen up if he hopes to survive.
Donald Sutherland does an excellent job of portraying the calmly malevolent President Snow. Sutherland’s facial expressions manage to be foreboding and full of malicious intent. His expression in the final scene of the film foreshadows his plans for Katniss Everdeen, and they aren’t good.
As the playing field begins to narrow, the manager makes it more difficult for the remaining survivors by giving them bigger challenges. In the movie, vicious animals are generated from the carcasses of the deceased challengers, and are sent charging after the remaining contestants. In the book, the animals are not generated from the remains of the dead challengers, and the remains were not left for the animals to eat; they were cleaned up right away.
Ultimately, Katniss and Rue, a 12-year old girl from another district, team up, deciding to help each other survive. Neither has killed anyone yet but they keep hearing the canon go off indicating someone has died. Katniss has an immediate fondness for Rue because she reminds her of her sister, Primrose. They separate and Rue is the first to find a pile of junk in the middle of a clearing that the audience is led to believe has been set up and booby-trapped by Cody. The pile is high, and at the very top is a bag of apples. Obviously Cody wants Katniss, his strongest challenger, to attempt to get the apples and be destroyed in the process But she's too smart for that. She uses her mighty bow and shoots the apples down causing the entire pile to blow up. Shortly thereafter, the two girls are attacked, and while Katniss kills the attacker, Rue is fatally wounded. We see a tender moment where Katniss has decorated Rue's body with flowers. This is in the book as well.
Another rule change is instituted mid-way through the Games due to Katniss and Peeta's beloved image with the audience as "star-crossed lovers", stating that two tributes from the same district can win the Hunger Games as a pair. Upon hearing this, Katniss searches for Peeta and finds him wounded. She nurses him back to health and acts the part of a young girl falling in love to gain more favor with the audience.
With all other contestants having perished, Peeta and Katniss are pursued by the wild animals and seek refuge on the roof of a building, where Cody surprises them. It’s a fight to the death, ending with Peeta throwing Cody off the roof. In the movie, it appears to be quick without much suffering, although the animals charge for his body and you know they’re eating his remains. Katniss ends his misery with a well-placed arrow. In the book, he doesn’t die until the next morning after suffering throughout the night. Katniss would have put him out of his misery had she realized what was happening, but she didn’t know because it was dark.
The couple has managed to outlast all the other tributes, so the Game makers, somewhat predictably, reverse the rule change and try to force them into a dramatic finale where one must kill the other to win. Instead, they both threaten suicide with poisoned berries. Just as they’re about to take them, the manager tells them to stop and they are subsequently both declared as the winners. In the book, upon returning to the Capitol, Katniss must deal with the aftermath of defying the Capitol publicly and President Snow is not a happy camper. Her on-screen romance with Peeta also comes to a halt when he is heartbroken to learn that their relationship was all an act for the audience, though Katniss is unsure of her feelings.
When Katniss returns home with the prize money, she feeds the poor and hungry, and she's not in love with either of the two men, Peeta or the guy she left at home. Most of this did not make it into the movie.