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The Hunger Games

A film directed by Gary Ross based on the book by Suzanne Collins

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All They Want is a Good Show

  • Mar 24, 2012
Star Rating:

That The Hunger Games is so timely and intelligent is precisely the reason why it’s also so frightening. It depicts a time and place in which the failures of mass society are exploited for the entertainment of the privileged few. In this case, it’s in the form of an annual competition to the death, one that’s captured via hidden cameras and aired for the rest of the world to see. Whatever they call it in this alternate reality, it would be called reality TV in ours. Thank God, we have not devolved to the point of watching people kill each other. We have, however, sunk to some pretty low depths. We celebrate people like Simon Cowell and Gordon Ramsay, who achieve notoriety by being bullies. We watch as groups of men or women vie for a marriage proposal from a woman or man they know nothing about. We witness Kim Kardashian earn millions for doing nothing, apart from looking beautiful.
Adapted from the novel by Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games is set in an unspecified future time, at which point a new nation has developed from the wreckage of North America. This nation is presided over by the Capitol, where the rich and powerful flaunt themselves with highly advanced technologies and outlandish fashion choices. The rest of the nation is divided into twelve districts, where the people live in squalor and are essentially slave labor for their respective natural resources. An unsuccessful uprising seventy years ago resulted in the destruction of a thirteenth district. As punishment, one boy and girl from each district, both between the ages of twelve and eighteen, is chosen by raffle each year to participate in the Hunger Games, a competition in which the contestants fight each other in a forested arena. The winner is the one still alive at the end.

In District 12, we meet sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), a skilled archer and hunter who has cared for her little sister, Primrose (Willow Shields), and her mother (Paula Malcomson) since the death of their father some years earlier. When representatives of the Capitol come to town, Primrose is selected as the female contestant – or tribute, as they’re known in this alternate reality. Katniss, desperate to save her sister, volunteers to take her place. The male tribute is Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), who harbors a crush on Katniss and once showed her an act of kindness. They’re both escorted to the Capitol by the preening, clown-faced Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks), where, before the games begin, they’re shown luxury the likes of which they’ve never seen.
Along with a good deal of physical training, Katniss and Peeta are given a personal stylist named Cinna (Lenny Kravitz) and an advisor named Haymitch (Woody Harrelson), a disheartened drunk. They make it clear that survival depends in large part on personality; the more hearts they win over, the more likely they are to receive food and aid from sponsors. They also stress that all the people want is a good show. Indeed, all tributes are paraded in the town square to cheering throngs of thousands. They’re even greeted by the President (Donald Sutherland), who secretly knows that the real reason the Hunger Games exist at all is the give District viewers the illusion of hope. All tributes are dolled up and flaunted on a flashy reality show hosted by the flamboyant Caesar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci), whose white teeth gleam along with his sequined jacket.

Once the tributes are physically lifted into the arena, the story abandons hype and celebrity in favor of a brutal, desperate battle for survival, one that’s highly disturbing but no less compelling. Although director Gary Ross doesn’t shy away from depicting the deaths of young people, he refrains from being gratuitous, and for that, he deserves a great deal of credit. This is not about tasteless gore effects and the exploitation of faceless teens; we’re actually made to care about these characters so that, when they die, it elicits a genuine emotional reaction. It’s not easy to watch, but then again, it isn’t supposed to be. Imagine what it must be like for the District populations. They’re forced to watch as someone’s son, daughter, brother, or sister is murdered as a form of mass entertainment.
Katniss and Peeta are enamoring characters, mostly because they learn to survive without sacrificing their humanity. With Katniss, we see this through her bond another tribute, a twelve-year-old girl named Rue (Amandla Stenberg). With Peeta, we see this through his growing affection for Katniss. It’s precisely because of them that the people behind the scenes devise a number of rating-boosting strategies, including a last-minute rule change I will not give away. I suppose one could consider The Hunger Games an enjoyable movie, although I believe it’s intended to be something more than that. It tells a story that’s so deeply troubling and yet so remarkably insightful. It makes some valid points, not just on the state of what passes for entertainment nowadays, but also on society, politics, and the capacity for hope in dark times.


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September 16, 2012
I was not impressed. Easily one of the most overrated films of 2012 in my opinion. Maybe it's the fact that I've been watching way too many futuristic sci-fi films recently that actually have big ideas that go beyond shallow cross-media satire and internet fanbase indulgence. Bleh.
September 16, 2012
Well, as you said, it's your opinion. I think part of the problem is that you're classifying this movie as science fiction, which it isn't. It's a cautionary tale of today's reality TV-obsessed culture.
September 17, 2012
Um...yes, it is that...but if you had to classify it, I'd say it's definitely science fiction.
March 24, 2012
I liked this one in the first two acts, the third act lost a lot of its gas, and I rather rolled my eyes with several things; it was also so eeriely similar to "Battle Royale". The ending was effective, but it also opened a huge hole in the plot. It was a good flick, but I rather enjoyed the Japanese rendion of this premise 12 years ago, that I found this one lacking. Great review though! I only gave this a weak 3.5/5 rounded down.
March 25, 2012
You must know that most American audiences will not be familiar with Battle Royale. I myself never heard of it until a week ago. And even if The Hunger Games is a rip off, so too are most genre films. There's no such thing as an original story, no matter what anyone says.
More The Hunger Games reviews
review by . March 23, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
Decent...But I Liked This Premise Better When It was Called
“The Hunger Games” had been getting a lot of press and ‘hype’ when word had gotten out that Suzanne Collins’ novel (published in 2008) was going to be adapted into the big screen. Director Gary Ross adapts this dystopian world along with screenwriters Suzanne Collins and Billy Ray into an action-drama. I have to admit the book had garnered quite a following, and this film has been heavily anticipated. I have seen several threads about the controversy due to its similarities …
review by . September 16, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
** out of ****    "The Hunger Games" is based on the first book in the best-selling young adult self-titled trilogy of books written by Suzanne Collins. I have never read any of the three - "The Hunger Games", "Catching Fire", and "Mockingjay" - and the film really does me no favors. Based on fan feedback, I will not for one second believe that this adaptation reflects the quality and depth of the novel; because the film falls short in both departments. But as always, I'm here …
review by . March 23, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
The Hunger Games is the first of three books written by Suzanne Collins, the other two being Catching Fire and Mockingjay. With a huge opening weekend predicted there is little doubt that the studios will green light the other two movies to have them made as soon as possible. For those who have not read the book I suggest you do as not only is it a quick read but frankly this movie is made more for fans of the book than it is for someone going in knowing nothing about the series. …
review by . March 23, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
There were few novels as striking and unique as The Hunger Games when it debuted.  When I first read the book a couple of years ago I'd have never thought it would become a phenomenon... much less become a movie.  Not only did I ever think it would become a movie (my first thought was, "How would they do it?") but I certainly didn't think it would become one of the finest films I've seen in some time.  It is a movie that tackles big themes.  Asks big questions.  …
review by . March 21, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
'The Hunger Games' 'Two Jews On Film' Go To Battle Over This Futuristic Dark Fantasy (Video)
               By Joan Alperin Schwartz      I'm sure by now almost everyone is familiar with the story of 'The Hunger Games'.  The book was the first in a trilogy written by Suzanne Collins and all three novels have been on the bestseller list for several years.      But for those people unfamiliar with the story of Katniss Everdeen, the 16 year old girl who competes in The Hunger Games...   …
review by . March 21, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
THE HUNGER GAMES Written by Suzanne Collins and Gary Ross Directed by Gary Ross Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth   President Snow: Hope is the only thing stronger than fear.   Having just finished reading the incredibly addictive Suzanne Collins novel, and having fallen completely in love with the heroine, Katniss Everdeen, in the process, I could barely breathe before seeing Gary Ross’s film adaptation of THE HUNGER GAMES. I was downright giddy …
review by . April 21, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
      There's something about this movie that makes me like it more than I should. I don't know what... but I know it's there. I've never read the books so when I saw it I had no idea what to expect. Fortunately for me I was pleased with the product and it's like it became one of my guilty pleasure movies.      The Hunger Games strives away from the usual and synthesizes elements that are rarely common in movies like these. The story serves …
About the reviewer
Chris Pandolfi ()
Ranked #2
Growing up a shy kid in a quiet suburb of Los Angeles, Chris Pandolfi knows all about the imagination. Pretend games were always the most fun for him, especially on the school playground; he and his … more
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  • The Hunger Games
  • Opened March 23, 2012 | Runtime:2 hr. 22 min.
  • PG-13
    Intense violent thematic material and disturbing images - all involving teens
  • Information for parents: Common Sense Media says Iffy for 13+. Read More
  • Every year in the ruins of what was once North America, the Capitol of the nation of Panem forces each of its twelve districts to send a teenage boy and girl to compete in the Hunger Games. A twisted punishment for a past uprising and an ongoing government intimidation tactic, The Hunger Games are a nationally televised event in which "Tributes" must fight with one another until one survivor remains. Sixteen year old Katniss Everdeen volunteers in her younger sister's place to enter the games, and is forced to rely upon her sharp instincts as well as the mentorship of drunken former victor Haymitch Abernathy when she's pitted against highly-trained Tributes who have prepared for these Games their entire lives. If she's ever to return home to District 12, Katniss must make impossible choices in the arena that weigh survival against humanity and life against love.
  • Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Lenny Kravitz, Stanley Tucci, Donald Sutherland
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    Genre: Action, Adventure, Drama

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