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WRITTEN REVIEW: The Hunger Games

Today I would like to discuss the box office smash The Hunger Games, based on the best-selling book of the same name. Now, you may be asking yourself, “Why on earth is Cory reviewing The Hunger Games, it‘s not horror?”. Well to answer your question, I’m a sellout. Yep, a total sellout. I’d sell my kids if I had any, my grandma too. Hell, I’d even fuck a cheeseburger if someone was willing to pay the right price to watch. . . Well, I think I’ve started this review off pretty well. Adding just the right amount of that special kind of crazy that usually ends up in one of these. Now that I’ve got your attention, I shall begin.

I saw the trailer for The Hunger Games a while back and it peaked my interest, but I don‘t normally get too excited about big blockbuster, well, anything. But after I saw countless people around town reading the book in coffee shops, or on the treadmill at the gym, in sort-of-a brainwashed Invasion of the Body Snatchers kind of way, it started to sink in how popular this book was [or series of books rather]. Then, when it was finally released in theaters, The Hunger Games was the top grossing film for four weeks in a row. That’s a big deal! That’s a really big deal! That’s like Spider-Man big, or Avatar big, right?! Holy shit!! It was at this point that I figured I would go out and read the book before I caught the movie. That is actually what made me want to review it. Being able to compare the book and film, and being able to nerd out about futuristic sci-fi oppression.

The whole “Orwellian” concept, which The Hunger Games happens to share, about a society that is controlled entirely by its own elite is something that has always interested me. And I do mean entirely, from politics and the media to a person’s identity and the very thoughts inside their head. It’s an idea that has been instituted in countless films and works of literature. 1984, Animal Farm, Fahrenheit 451, The Happiness Cage, um, damn! I really thought I could name more. Logan’s Run counts right? Anyhow, what makes a story like this resonate is the parallels that are drawn between the narrative and our “real world”.

The Hunger Games takes place in the not so distant future, in what remains of the United States, now referred to as “Panem”. It seems that somewhere along the way, America went through a regime change. All of the modern civil comforts that I have come to know and love, ya know like rights and laws, the things that protect the fine people of the United States, now serve to protect “The Capitol”, the Panem headquarters so to speak, from its own citizens.

The Capitol is where politicians and the affluent citizens reside while the rest of Panem is divided into districts, one thorough twelve. Each district is designed to generate resources for the Capitol that are unique to that district’s geographical location. One is for mining, and another is for agriculture and so on. The people of these districts live brutal lives, and in a sense, are cattle to their government. They work hard, are poorly rewarded and often starve to death. Originally there were thirteen districts, but the thirteenth rebelled against the Capitol for reasons that aren’t clear, but painfully obvious. Long story short, District Thirteen no longer exists. It was blown off the face of the Earth.

From that point forward, the Capitol had decided to hold an annual contest, a.k.a. the Hunger Games. Each district has two children, a guy and gal between the ages of twelve and eighteen, who are selected at random to compete against the other “tributes” in a battle to the death.

The Hunger Games act as entertainment for the Capitol, and an everlasting reminder to the districts why they would never attempt another rebellion.

Don’t worry, I haven’t left out anything fun yet. This is more or less how the movie starts. All the exposition is thrown at the viewer right away so that we’re all on the same page when it is time for the games to begin. This is where things start to get spicy.

Our protagonist from District 12

Today happens to be the first day of the Hunger Games celebration. This is when the tributes are selected from each district and brought into the Capitol for additional training. This is also where we meet our main character Katniss Everdeen [Jennifer Lawrence], resident of District 12 and sole provider for her family [sister and mother]. She has maintained a meager lifestyle for herself and her family with the help of her good friend and hunting partner Gale [Liam Hemsworth].

Before the Capitol, via live telecast, the tributes are gathered in the center of their districts. They have just been shown a film re-capping the history of the games [which covers the back story that I mentioned.]. Against all odds, Primrose, Katniss’s little sister, is chosen as District 12’s female tribute.

Alright, I’m going to hit the Fast Forward on this part of the review, I’m talking too much. Katniss heroically steps forward and volunteers to take her sister's place. Both Katniss and Peeta [the male tribute from D12] are shipped off to the Capitol. Along the way they meet their “mentor” Haymitch Abernathy [Woody Harrelson] who is a former games winner, now drunk, who is to help guide these two tributes through the games. They are made over, trained in various survival and battle skills and paraded around for all of Panem to see.

"Drink responsibly!" - Haymitch

Just before the twenty four tributes are let loose in the arena, they are each interviewed by Caesar Flickerman [Stanley Tucci], professional showman and host to the games. This interview, among other public displays, is important to the tributes. The key is to impress wealthy residents of the Capitol during the interview in hope that they will become sponsors. Sponsor’s money is pooled together by mentors and spent on gifts that are delivered to tributes during the games. These gifts can be the difference between life and death.

During his interview, Peeta reveals that he does and always had feelings for Katniss [enter mushy teen romance here]. Haymitch instructs Katniss, against her better judgment, to play along as a “young lover” in order swoon sponsors.

The time has come, LET THE GAMES BEGIN!! Left and right tributes are off-ed by one another while Katniss’s goal is simply to survive. A few days in she encounters a young girl, Rue, from D11, and the two agree that they will work together, using their skills to outsmart the better trained tributes. This partnership doesn’t last long, and both Katniss and Peeta are among the remaining few.

I’m sure you’re smart enough to guess who survives, knowing that there are two more books in the series, and these books have already been green-lit as films. However, in consideration for those of you who aren’t mental magicians, I’ll stop here. I wouldn’t want to ruin anything for the class dum-dums.

I enjoyed watching The Hunger Games, but I enjoyed reading it even more. The acting is good, the film is well balanced and sticks to the book very closely and only eliminated small bits in order to stream line the story for film. It is also well paced. I didn’t know until after I watched the movie that it has a running time of two hours and twenty minutes, but it never seemed to drag.

The books were published by Scholastic, who often cater to the teen/young adult age range, which explains why the Capitol wasn’t more totalitarian and grim. I would have liked a little more “O’Brian” in this story but I can settle for a PG-13. Also knowing that this series of books/ film are being geared toward the teen/young adult demographic, I appreciated that Katniss was written to be a positive role model. She is smart, resourceful and self-reliant. Her character contrasts well with the people of the Capitol, who are so busy living their fashionable, privileged lives that they can’t relate to the plight of the people who toil in the Districts. This is best shown in a scene where Haymitch reacts with disgust as he observes a young boy from the Capital unwrap a toy sword, and pretends to kill his sister with it [mimicking the tributes in the Hunger Games]. They just don’t get it.

Speaking of not getting it, what about all the movie tie-ins? There are a ton! Action figures, t-shirts, pencils, socks, trading cards, wrist bands, book marks, umbrellas, stationary, lunch boxes, board games, and the list continues. This is just some stuff that I found on Amazon.com. Now I ask you, who are these products being sold to? That’s right, kids! The same kids who, if The Hunger Games were real, would be forced to murder each other annually. LOL God bless capitalism.

When it comes to social commentary, The Hunger Games succeeds where Avatar fails. Here in the states, people are up in arms on the left and on the right. We hate our politicians, the economy, the banks, the rich, the poor and each other. We disagree and protest and feel that our rights are being taken away at every turn. I’m sure this can be said about many nations and many generations. So, a story about a young girl’s strength and cunning that inspires a nation to rebel against its oppressive government is a story that people can relate to. But its strength is in its vague timelessness. Anyone, in some way, can relate to this story because it doesn’t paint itself in a corner by being topical. This will result in the lasting power of this series.

Since The Hunger Games hit the big screen, there have been countless reviewers/bloggers/film fans comparing it to Battle Royale, a Japanese film from 2000. While the two films share a common idea, students forced to kill each other in an annual battle to the death, I can’t say that this is a worthwhile comparison. Some have even implied that author Suzanne Collins “stole” the main plot from the Japanese film. While The Hunger Games may not be the most original story ever told, Collins has added complex story elements and character development to the mix, leaving Battle Royale in its shadow. I re-watched Battle Royale so I could better compare the two, and one thing that I remember most from Battle Royale was the constant whining of teenagers who suddenly realized that they were “in like" with one another. . . Fuckin’ teenagers. By the way, the fact that these “games” are televised reminds me an awful lot of Arnold Schwarzenegger in the movie The Running Man. I haven’t seen anyone make that comparison yet. . . Just sayin’.

Some things that I liked about the adaptation. Woody Harrelson makes his character, Haymitch, more interesting. I was happily surprised to see him in this role. Other notable celebrities are Lenny Kravitz [Cinna], Stanley Tucci [Caesar] and Tucci’s hilarious creepy grin.

One grin to rule them all!

The scene toward the end involving attack dogs, if you saw/read it you know what I’m talking about, was an improvement upon the book. This part in the book felt like an afterthought that didn‘t belong, and fit better in the film and gave a good example of the control the Game Masters have over the arena [Game Masters are like video game programmers who work in real time and change the environment around the tributes.].

Guess what! I liked the love story too! Lol yeah, I did. The reason for this was because the love story actually had something to do with the plot, it wasn’t just because two teenagers are dumb and that’s what dumb teenagers do. Katniss played up the “lovers in heat” angle in order to get more sponsors. It added a level of complexity, and gave me a reason not to flip out and throw things at the screen in the theater like a drunk monkey throwing his shit [like I did while watching Suicide Girls Must Die]. This is, however, a double edged sword because in writing this I came across “Team Peeta VS Team Gale” shit on the interweb. Sigh, . . Allow me to reiterate, Fuckin’ teenagers.

Some things that I didn’t like about the adaptation. The first being a bit of a nit pick. Everything in Katniss’s district was too clean, the streets, their clothes. The book describes things worn and in shambles. Again, I would have liked things a tad more grim.

Another thing that kinda bothered me was a scene where Katniss crosses paths with Peeta in the arena. He is camouflaged so well that Katniss almost walks on him. In the book Peeta is described as being covered in mud so no one would find him. Emphasis on "Mud". Being the son of a baker allowed him to pick up a few decorating tricks that apparently translate so well to woodland survival that he should b e teaching Navy Seals a thing of two.

You're going it wrong. . .

. . . let Rambo show you how it's done.

My next complaint is the portrayal of Katniss’s relationship with Rue. First of all, Rue is from District 11, an agriculture district. The job of the people in District 11 is to work in the fields and gather food. In the film she, and the rest of her district, is depicted as “black”, not that there is anything wrong with that, don’t get me wrong, but as soon as I saw her I couldn’t help but think;

“Oh no! She picks cotton. . . This racism is killing me. . .”

Now I know that the book needed to be cut down if all the important parts were to fit in the film, but I couldn’t help feeling that the Katniss and Rue part was rushed. They cross paths in the woods and are immediately friends? There is little that shows the two warming up to one another.

And finally, an example of what made me doubt the film all together. Katniss suffers from Tracker Jacker [genetically engineered wasps] stings, and has just spent a night in a ditch, waiting out the LSD like effects. When she comes to she has leaves stuck to her and Rue says that she “changed your leaves twice”. The leaves are a natural treatment for the stings, but, if I didn’t read the book would this have made sense to me? At this point I began, in the theater, to question the entire film. Would I understand this so well if I hadn’t read the book? Are other non-read people getting all this? I’ll have to give it some time and re-watch the movie to determine that, but in the mean time I have to say that The Hunger Games delivers. Check it out!

Alright, I think that’s all I can say about The Hunger Games. I promise that the next thing I review won't be so serious, so wordy or so unfunny. . . Uh oh, I just pooped myself. May the odds ever be in your favor!

Oh, before I forget! To further solidify the “sellout” characteristics of my personality, I’m going to be selling homemade Hunger Games t-shirts from my trunk every day for the next month, or while supplies last. So just come on down to the Tim Horton’s parking lot between the hours of 12 and 4pm. Buy three and get a complimentary order of Tim-Bits.


★ ★ ★ ★




Anonymous said...

I'm not usually one to read reviews, but I was intruiged and glad I did. The commentary was well tought out and enoyable. Kudos.