The Hunger Games Movie Review

Official Promo Poster from Lionsgate

I decided to write a Hunger Games movie review after seeing the film for a second time this weekend. I felt compelled to do so after reading a seriously mis-guided review elsewhere on the web – on a reputable news organization no less. We each have our own opinions I suppose, guided by our own biases and experiences. Given that here is how I interpret The Hunger Games based on where I think it fits in historically. The Hunger Games review I read chose to consider North America (Panem) as analogous to the villian (The Capital) in this case, and after seeing the film twice myself, I so thoroughly disagreed with that conclusion I felt compelled to write a review of my own.

Before I go too much further, I should start by saying I felt the film was excellent – but not being familiar with the books themselves (by Suzanne Collins) I had to see it a second time to truly appreciate it.

Basic Storyline of The Hunger Games

The basic plotline of The Hunger Games is set in a futuristic Earth setting, where there is a vastly disproportionate amount of wealth and technology held by an elite few in one region (The Capital) with 12 outlying districts supporting the Capital with resources (food, coal, etc.).

According to the story 74 years ago the civil war ended and was celebrated annually at the Capital with a pageant and games pitting representatives from the defeated (12) districts against each other in a battle to the death. Each year one boy and one girl aged 12-18 are sent as tributes to the Capital in rememberance of their rebellion and ultimate defeat all those years ago.

Historical Analogies in The Hunger Games Mythos

As one might imagine, the skill sets of those 24 individuals vary greatly, with some simply being sent to slaughter. This reminds one of the stories of the Roman Colosseum where slaves or Christians were effectively fed to lions and other beasts for amusement of the Roman elites. Having said that, I think it fair to say that the movie director chose to go in this direction – mirroring several historical facts and or myths. Whether this is the design of the book author or not, the analogies are plainly evident to me in the film.

A second important analogy is that of the notion of tributes from defeated states basically sent to their deaths. I can’t help but recall the Greek myth of the Minotaur and the death maze. In the Greek myth tributes are sent to be put in a maze with this mythical beast the Minotaur – part man / part bull who essentially slaughters the tributes for amusement of the king. Like that story, eventually one of the tributes defeats the Minotaur and escapes. In The Hunger Games a similar storyline plays out.

Modern Analog for The Hunger Games

When I try to think of a modern analog for The Hunger Games it is here where I find myself with the greatest divergeance from the Rolling Stone review of the film. They selected North America as their “evil capital” analog, but in my own mind a vastly different host for the games comes to mind. When I look at the pageantry of the games, and the great dichotomy of the common people with the elites – I see the Soviet Union of the late 1970s and early 1980s, not North America. So much of the the subtleties of the storyline – the top two districts being mostly military trained (and who typically win each year) remind me of Olympic competitors from East Germany and the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Further, I think the title of the book and film itself, “The Hunger Games” invokes memories of breadlines and food shortages in the Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc countries.

Characters and Performances in The Hunger Games

Katniss Everdeen – Jennifer Lawrence

The leading role in the film (Katniss Everdeen) is played by Jennifer Lawrence. Her character is in the mold of Diane in Greek mythology – The Hunter. Having seen the film twice now I really have to say her performance was terrific. Her roles as protective older sister, unrefined young woman, and combatant were carried off with great effect. I have to believe Suzanne Collins was pleased with her performance.

Peeta Mellark – Josh Hutcherson

Peeta Mellark is akin to your basic all-American farm-boy. Josh Hutcherson carries off this role very well. His character is asked to be naive in forest survival skills and somewhat defeatest in attitude but willing to use his farm-boy charm to prolong his life and increase his odds. Josh’s performance both as a charming farm-boy and panic-stricken tribute come off as convincing in my opinion.

Haymitch Abernathy – Woody Harrelson

Woody Harrelson’s complex character of former winner turned alcoholic Haymitch Abernathy is at times rightly revolting and charming – seemingly always at the right times. His character begins as an apathetic drunk who buys in to the possibility that one of his “students” has a fighting chance of surviving The Hunger Games. I enjoyed his performance.

Other Characters and Anecdotes

On my initial view of the film I had to say I did not like the garish costuming and make up of the citizens of the capital. At first sight of the absurd looking Effie Trinket at the reaping of District 12 I was concerned I was in for some sort of weird and unpleasant cult freak show movie. Thankfully I changed my opinion after the second viewing, having seen how important it was to differentiate the citizens of the capital from the rest of the country. I should also say a second viewing helped me better see the performances of Lenny Kravitz (Cinna), Stanley Tucci (Caesar Flickerman), and Elizabeth Banks (Effie Trinket).

One can’t help but feel sorry for some of the other cast-members (tributes) – who didn’t actually generate enough interest in the film to earn a character name. Such is the fate of most tributes in The Hunger Games. I hope you go see it… and if you haven’t read the books I strongly recommend you go see it twice. On the other hand – something everyone CAN feel good about is all the cool stuff they have made in merchandising the film.

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  1. #1 by SifuIbra at September 3rd, 2012

    Thank you for your review. I don’t agree on all of your conclusions but I enjoyed reading it. Panem is not necessarily the USA or North-America, but the global north, the global elites, or rather the center whereas the sectors represent the periphery. That’s one more analogy, to world-systems theory and global capitalist economy.

  2. #2 by Funbrain at April 1st, 2012

    I really enjoyed watching the film. It was fine at the start, I really got into it once they started the games. I thought the build-up was great.

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