The Hunger Games – Movie Review

The release now is ironic that at a time when Kony 2012 is creating such passionate emotion concerning the brutal warlord who enslaves children and turns them into soldiers who ultimately kill other child soldiers.  The Hunger Games tells the same story only it’s far more glamorous. 

Both are set in a fascist state that destroys children’s lives for their own selfish purposes, to foster a paralyzed society where resistance is futile.

The Hunger Games also refers to reality television shows that have reached a nadir in human integrity and tolerance, pitting “contestants” against one another in hopes of bloodshed of one sort or another.   It’s all about money in both cases, ratings money earned from showing human beings in distress and at each other’s’ throats.  The Hunger Games just does it with a lot of style and great performances.

The Hunger Games is based on the popular young adult book series by Suzanne Collins, in which all child inhabitants of District 12 in the not so distant future live under a crippling threat – to kill each other off and survive in a state and TV sanctioned series of “games”.   One female and male will be chosen from districts around the country and be taken to a central “studio” outdoors where they will fight it out until only one remains standing.

Cameras are positioned in every nook and cranny in the forests, in tree knots, in the countryside, and rivers and computer operators in the control room can send in various obstacles, like flames, bad weather and vicious animals. 

Katniss Everdean (Jennifer Lawrence in a stirring performance) volunteers to participate in the games instead of her little sister, who has been chosen form their coal-mining district.  She’s accepted and therefore enters the game as a heroine, which gives her a leg up.  She has skills aplenty – archery, bravery and resourcefulness. 

She’s thrown into the fray against 23 others and the games begin.   Gore, pain, suffering, brutality and death are at hand.  The TV crowds love it.

Caesar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci) is pure Hollywood circus, hosting the action from under a ridiculous undulating blue pony tail, leading cheers when another child dies and setting up their stories, crocodile tears on cue, pushing and pushing the audience into a bloody frenzy. 

A word about the population of the Capitol who watch the games – they’re heavily made-up, dressed in Heinz 57  mash-ups of Regency, Louis XIV, disco, punk, twenties Paris and circus themes, but look alike.  Some like barker Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks) have painted expressions that trumpet an empty soul. 

These are puppets, decorative, shallow ghosts of what people used to be who have adapted to live in this dangerous, topsy turvy, inhumane world.   It’s an eye popping spectacle in town and out in the woods where the games are taking place, it’s deceptively beautiful.

The Hunger Games is beautifully conceived and executed, with nary a wasted moment.   It’s nothing short of captivating and tests our limits in intelligent ways.   The element of exploitation is cleverly downplayed as though such games were the most normal things, leaving the decision making to us, as though we had some brains, if you can imagine.

Major kudos to this landmark film.   However, I would warn against young children shouldn’t see it because of brutal bloody violence and the dark subject matter.   Another plus for older folks is a haunting score by … wait for it … T –Bone Burnett!

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35mm sci-fi, action
Written by Gary Ross, Suzanne Collins, et al
Directed by Gary Ross
Opens: March 23
Runtime: 142 minutes
MPAA: Rated PG-13 for intense violent thematic material and disturbing images – all involving teens
Country: US
Language: English