Based on the wildly popular novel by Suzanne Collins, the movie adaptation of The Hunger Games hits theaters this weekend. Watching The Hunger Games is like seeing Survivor, American Idol and Willy Wonka all rolled into one.
The movie begins in District 12, one of the poor districts far removed from the wealthy Capitol in the nation of Panem. As punishment for a rebellion against the Capitol, one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 to18 from each District must compete to the death in the Hunger Games for the entertainment of those in the Capitol.
While participants are picked by lottery, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) volunteers to take the place of her younger sister Primrose who is chosen as one of the “tributes.” Also joining her from District 12 is Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson).
Jennifer Lawrence does a great job of blending vulnerability with a tough edge as Katniss. She first made a name for herself in the independent drama Winter’s Bone for which she received an Oscar nomination. Lawrence is a compelling leading character who helps give Katniss an edge that better-known Hollywood Starlets may not have been able to achieve.
Katniss and Peeta are taken to the Capitol to be trained by their mentor Haymitch Abernathy, played by Woody Harrelson. Haymitch is more of a drunk than a mentor at first, but the role seems perfect for Harrelson. He’s both frustrating and likeable at the same time. Besides training them, Haymitch also teaches them to learn the talents of the other tributes and to use the audience of the games to their advantage.
The tributes are brought on display to a live television audience where they are presented and interviewed by Caesar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci). The interviews are important as they are how tributes gain favor with the audience and sponsors who can send gifts like medicine and food to help the tributes along the way. In his interview, Peeta professes his unrequited love for Katniss. She thinks it's just to gain audience favor and not a real confession.
Twenty-four tributes enter The Games and eleven of those die in the first day. From there, the tributes must survive by any means possible and Katniss must rely on her strength with a bow as well as her ingenuity to stay alive.
Originally, the rules were that all twenty-four tributes would fight until there was one victor, but the television audience begins to root for the Katniss/Peeta love story and the rules are changed so there can be two victors from the same District. Once they know this, Katniss and Peeta begin playing the part of being in love. Katniss nurses Peeta back to health after an injury and even kisses him at an opportune time for the cameras to catch them. You'll have to see the movie for yourself to see if the ending matches up to the book though . . .
There can be much symbolism found in Katniss’ sacrificial acts throughout the movie. She reaches out to help the hurting and shows sacrificial love by putting others above herself. Check out this interesting article from Huffington Post that argues that the whole movie is an allegory of Christian love.
Truth be told, I’m one of the five people in the country who hasn’t read the book. But I’m told by our Church Leadership Editor that the movie was faithful to the book and that diehard fans will be pleased.
For a movie about kids killing each other, the film is surprisingly tame in terms of violence. Parents should know it fully earns its PG-13 rating, but one can see how it could have easily turned into an R-rated blood bath. The film focuses on the characters and the underlying love story more than it does on violence, which makes for a better movie. I give the movie 4 out of 5 stars.
Have you seen the movie? What did you think?