I didn’t read the book, ok? Hopefully you still find my thoughts on The Hunger Games relevant. I’m not one of those people that must read the book before I see the movie. Movies are my passion, and I haven’t been a voracious reader since adolescence. I think all of this higher education dulled my ability to read for pleasure, and I’m working on getting that desire back. But who cares, let’s talk about The Hunger Games. When I was a kid I read a short story called “The Most Dangerous Game,” about a man who was hunted like an animal by another man. It was a fascinating look into man’s most sadistic urges. The Hunger Games promised to touch on a similar theme of self-preservation, and it presented an interesting portrait of a bleak future – a striking cultural dichotomy.
In a fictional future, the country has been fractured by civil war. The rebellion was quelled, but now instead of states, American territory is divided into twelve districts. As penalty for their uprising, the citizenry must offer a periodic sacrifice, or “tribute.” Each district must randomly select one boy and one girl between the ages of 12-18 to compete in The Hunger Games, a televised battle pitting the 24 contestants against each other in a fight to the death. Katniss Everdeen (Jessica Lawrence, X-Men: First Class) lives in District 12, and here’s the dichotomy I was talking about. Although the movie depicts a futuristic world, District 12 looks like it’s straight out of The Great Depression. Known for coal mining, the residents of District 12 are covered in soot, both downtrodden and hungry. Food is a precious commodity, doled out in parsimonious fashion. People barter for food by agreeing to submit their name into The Hunger Games lottery. If you’re starving and don’t have any currency, you bargain with your livelihood. At least that’s what I managed to glean from the cinematic version. If you literary enthusiasts need to correct me on that point, feel free. Katniss has an adorable little sister named Primrose, who at the age of 12 is newly eligible for the Games. She’s understandably petrified at the prospect of the competition, but Katniss reassures her that the chances of her being selected the first time are slim. Turns out the odds are not in young Primrose’s favor, and her name is pulled for The Hunger Games. Fiercely protective of her sibling, Katniss offers herself as tribute in Primrose’s place. The male contestant randomly selected is Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson, The Kids Are All Right), Katniss’ childhood friend.
That’s the basic gist of the plot, which you probably already knew. Most of the movie takes place in a faux wilderness of sorts, the setting for The Hunger Games. The contestants compete in a controlled environment, manipulated by the producers of the show. Katniss is a skilled huntress, deft with a bow and arrow. She uses this to her advantage in the savage game, one that allows for the possibility of a twelve year old girl fighting an eighteen year old boy to the death. Talk about the deck being stacked against you. Recently the movie has come under fire from the omnipresent vocal minority of racist idiots that call the internet home. Again, I haven’t read the book, but one of the characters named Rue (Amandla Stenberg, Colombiana), has been criticized for not living up to the lily white image some viewers were expecting. I thought she was adorable, and I’m not going to entertain any criticism of her performance, which was flawless. The nubile Ms. Lawrence was equally impressive in her role, both stoic and compassionate as the reluctant warrior.
The film was a provocative exploration of the human desire for bloodlust. It’s just a movie though, right? We’d never have something like The Hunger Games in real life…or would we? I think the idea of a random drawing goes against the very cornerstone of American freedom, but don’t tell me there isn’t a deep dark part of human beings that loves blood sport. Gladiators used to battle in a Coliseum while people laughed and pointed and had a grand old time. And how many people love MMA fighting? Oh sure, it’s not quite the same, but you get my point. Google Faces of Death. People got quite a kick out of that. The Hunger Games was rather intense for the average little kid, and I wouldn’t take my first grader (if I had one). Otherwise, I thought it was a treat, and a definite must-see movie. Grade: A-.