March 26, 2012
by Derek Defoe
I guess there was a demand for this kind of a story to be told in the "We are the 99%" days, in this case the 99% being citizens from 12 Districts in a dystopian future chosen to fight to the death and the 1% being the Capitol, full of well-to-do spectators who look as if they've walked off the set of A Clockwork Orange, all led by a seasoned president played by Donald Sutherland. And throwing in some sexy twenty-somethings to play the main characters can't hurt, either. I don't think this is great science fiction, or even great satire, but I think the story is good enough and interesting enough that it at least holds its own in comparison to other stories that have tread similar paths.
It's worth noting how compared to something like Battle Royale with teenage delinquents being taught a very severe lesson, or something like The Running Man where the twisted game show's contestants are expendable convicted felons, the players in The Hunger Games are chosen at random and the Games serve purely as a symbolic reminder of the powers-that-be's stranglehold over the Districts. The Games are an annual televised event and the spectacle is seen as sacred, and with (mandatory) reverence. Considering the state of today's reality TV I wouldn't say it's too far off.
Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen is more than worthy of mention among great heroines, and it seems so obvious, so clear to me now, looking back on Winter's Bone, that the role was always hers for the taking. She plays a similar character that pits herself into extraordinarily dangerous circumstances, powering through with courage, dutifulness, and grace. She was perfect in the role, and I think adapting such a popular fictional character needed to be done very delicately. A lot could have been lost in the translation. The novel is written in the first person so all of her thoughts are laid before us on the page. Lawrence is such a gifted actress and has such a commanding screen presence that Katniss Everdeen's ferocity and defiance can be seen in her eyes. I know a lot of people have compared The Hunger Games to Twilight, mostly because it involves a sort of love triangle and the books are very popular with young adults and it seems to have become this cultural phenomenon almost overnight. I assure you though, Twilight, this is not. You may recall from the first Twilight movie, if you bothered to watch it, that Edward found himself initially drawn to Bella because of the fact that while he could read the minds and desires of all those around him, he found Bella's mind to be impenetrable. Perhaps he should have considered it as a warning sign that maybe there was nothing on her mind to read.
Gary Ross has delivered a very good and faithful adaptation of Suzanne Collins' novel with an intriguing visual style and enough intensity to amend the PG-13 rating. It was a satisfying time at the movies and I for one will be eagerly awaiting the sequels.
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
James Newton Howard