With Harry Potter done and Twilight finally coming to an end there seems to be a gap in the teenage drama field. In steps Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games, the first book in a best-selling young-adult trilogy. The comparisons to Twilight are endless, but like its lead characters The Hunger Games stands bravely, although shaky and scared, amongst its rivals.
It’s a peculiar case of survival of the fittest in The Hunger Games. Set in a dystopian future, post apocalyptic America, a totalitarian nation called Panem is divided into twelve districts. The Hunger Games refer to a yearly lottery event (referred to as the reaping), broadcasted on television, which gathers two youngsters (one boy and one girl – referred to as tributes) from each district for a brutal game of fight to the death. The gladiatorial competition, which borders on reality TV, leaves only a single survivor, who wins both glory and food for his/her district.
[quote]I just keep wishing I could think of a way to show them that they don’t own me. If I’m gonna die, I wanna still be me. Does it make any sense? – Peeta Mellark[/quote]
Amongst the contestants from District 12, the poorest district of them all, is a young, tough, tomboy, skilled in archery, named Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), who offers herself as tribute to protect her much younger sister. A much more insecure and meeker Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), the baker’s son, is chosen as her male counterpart. Together they travel away from home to a land where a group of wealthy overlords and governors, who resemble French courtiers, control and manipulate the poverty-stricken population for sport.
Like Twilight before it, The Hunger Games explores themes of young love in an unconventional setting. The love triangle is back in full swing, with the heroine confused about her feelings for the two prominent men in her life. What blossoms is an incredibly clichéd romance told with a sense of importance the story doesn’t warrant.
[quote]War, terrible war. Widows, orphans, a motherless child. This was the uprising that rocked our land. Thirteen districts rebelled against the country that fed them, loved them, protected them. Brother turned on brother until nothing remained. And then came the peace, hard-fought, sorely won. A people rose up from the ashes and a new era was born. But freedom has a cost. When the traitors were defeated, we swore as a nation we would never know this treason again. And so it was decreed, that each year, the various districts of Panem would offer up in tribute, one young man and woman, to fight to the death in a pageant of honor, courage and sacrifice. The lone victor, bathed in riches, would serve as a reminder of our generosity and our forgiveness. This is how we remember our past. This is how we safeguard our future. – President Snow[/quote]
There are also a number of combat and violent scenes which are toned down dramatically to reach its intended audience. Yet, given its high body count and the circumstances of their deaths, one would expect a higher age restriction. On the other hand, the social commentary, although extreme, on reality television and government seems necessary.
Thankfully, there are no little lip-biting acting performances (I’m talking about you Kristen Stewart), and the cast deliver believable characters. Special mention must be made of Stanley Tucci as the television host, Woody Harrelson as Haymitch Abernathy and stylist Lenny Kravitz as Cinna.
Is it better than Twilight? Certainly. Is it a great movie? Certainly not. Is it worth watching? Certainly.
“May the odds be ever in your favor.”