Anthony's Film Review

The Hunger Games (2012)

Although not presented in great depth, The Hunger Games still delivers suspenseful entertainment...

The Hunger Games, based on the novel by Suzanne Collins, is a science-fiction action thriller aimed at the young adult audience. What makes this story stand out among other young adult stories is its violent content. It's not that it's overly gratuitous and explicit in general. It's that it involves teenagers. When I think of the Harry Potter movies, another recently popular series, I recall how they thrust adolescent characters into dark violent situations, and while there may be some death, it's generally not done with an in-your-face approach. The Hunger Games, it seems, takes it one step further by depicting teenagers getting killed without toning it way down (though fans of the novel may still say it's more toned down compared to the book).

It's all because of the premise. The Hunger Games refers to a contest in which teens, willingly or against their will, fight to the death. Naturally, the first question that comes to mind is about the purpose of this competition. Because not everyone has read the novel and because the film only provides a cursory explanation, I shall spend a little extra time discussing what these Hunger Games are about, as I interpret it. But don't worry. I will still get into the plot, characters, and other elements. Just be patient.

Years before, North America had a violent rebellion that led to war. The war did come to an end, with a new ruling power assuming control, but the policies of this new government are oppressive towards the very poor. Basically, North America has become land for a country called Panem, comprising a Capitol and 12 Districts. The inhabitants of the Capitol all live in freedom and massive wealth. In contrast, the people in the Districts are very poor, live in rustic rural homes, and are kept in check by totalitarian policies.

You would think that the ruling class would be afraid of another rebellion by the poor. But as briefly stated in the middle of the film, a little hope is a good thing, but too much hope is dangerous. Hence, instead of trying to prevent a rebellion by providing resources and rewards for the Districts, the solution is to make it possible for District inhabitants to finally get out of poverty, but with a price. Hence, the Hunger Games, a contest where a boy and a girl from each District is chosen to fight to the death until one person remains standing. The winner will be rewarded with wealth, while the losers will simply be dead.

There are other strings attached. For one thing, this contest is mandatory. Maybe it's a way to keep the District people in fear. Who knows? Also, the Hunger Games are an annual televised event that everyone is required to watch. The Capitol residents watch it purely for entertainment, while the District residents are watching to see if their teen contestants, known as Tributes, will live or die. To me, this situation seems to be an allusion to two things I've recently observed in real life: growing wealth inequality and the craziness of reality television where fans obsess over the participants looking for a way out of their otherwise ordinary lives.

With that said, here's the story. In District 12, a young girl named Primrose Everdeen (Willow Shields) is randomly selected to fight in the Hunger Games. To protect her, Primrose's older sister Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) steps in and volunteers to compete instead. Alongside her is a boy named Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson). Both are escored to the Capitol on a high-speed train that is far more luxurious than the homes they've just left. On the way, the two are mentored by a former Hunger Games winner (or rather, survivor) named Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson).

All of the scenes before the actual start of the Hunger Games take place in the first hour of this 140-minute movie. There are scenes of the Tributes undergoing combat training, the Tributes being showcased in a lavish parade, a television host named Caesar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci) maintaining excitement among the Capitol residents watching the Hunger Games, and discussion of the importance of impressing sponsors who may help their favorite Tributes in the competition by providing them with survival supplies during the game. Then there is suspense when the Hunger Games officially commence. The Tributes are placed in an area storing weapons and supply backpacks. In a matter of seconds, the Tributes rush to grab armaments and kill whoever is nearby; anyone who is still alive snatches a bag of supplies and runs off into the woods.

Whatever these surviving teens, including Katniss and Peeta, do next, everyone is watching. Behind the scenes, there is a control room that monitors all of the action of the Hunger Games through hidden cameras. It also has the ability to broadcast audio and visual messages across the sky to the Tributes. But that's not all. To keep things interesting for the viewers in the Capitol, there is highly advanced technology that could create threats for the Tributes, either to destroy them directly or to lure the Tributes toward each other. As for Katniss and Peeta, they are doing their best to stay alive. I won't say how, but it's all an interesting and dramatic spectacle.

The plot isn't too full of surprises, and the characters have minimal character development, if any at all. But what I spent a lot of time thinking about (even while enjoying the action) was the lack of exploration of themes. For example, I couldn't help but wonder what it's like for a teenager to compete in a life-or-death contest that he or she cannot turn back from. Do these teens suddenly forget about their unwillingness to harm another when they're put in these circumstances? This is a pretty serious moral dilemma, and I did wish the film would look at it in at least some depth. Also, do any Capitol inhabitants ultimately question the ethics of the Hunger Games? Is there even one person who sees this contest as being inhumane?

Then again, The Hunger Games is the first in a trilogy. The end of the movie leaves it open for the rest of the series (Catching Fire and Mockingjay) to come to the big screen. So maybe my questions will be answered later. In any event, I still enjoyed the movie for its action and suspense, not to mention courage in portraying teens in violent situations. Even though it's not close to being the best movie I've ever seen, I can understand why fans of the book were dying to see the movie, even as early as midnight on opening day. Given how successful this movie has been during its opening weekend, I will not be surprised if the two sequels are made into movies. The fans, I am sure, will be hungry for more.

Anthony's Rating:

For more information about The Hunger Games, visit the Internet Movie Database.

In addition, check out my review of the following:

The Hunger Games Films


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