CAST: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Lenny Kravitz, Stanley Tucci, Donald Sutherland; DIRECTOR: Gary Ross; SCREENPLAY BY: Gary Ross, Suzanne Collins, Billy Ray; PRODUCED BY: Nina Jacobson, Jon Kilik; Executive Producers: Robin Bissell, Suzanne Collins, Louise Rosner-Meyer; EDITING BY: Stephen Mirrione, Juliette Welfling; CINEMATOGRAPHY: Tom Stern; DISTRIBUTED BY: Lionsgate; GENRE: Action/Drama/Sci-Fi/Thriller; LOCATION: USA; RUNNING TIME: 142 minutes
Technical Assessment: 4
Moral Assessment: 2
Cinema rating: For viewers 14 years old and above
District 12 is in the Republic of Panem which is ruled by the elite in the distant Capitol. The citizens of Panem’s 12 districts exist to serve the Capitol’s needs. An earlier uprising of the Districts results in the extinction of District 13, and the creation of “The Hunger Games”, a televised survival reality show that has contestants called “tributes”—a boy and a girl from age 12-18 from each District—participating until all but one remains alive. Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) lives with her mother and younger sister Primrose in District 12. When Primrose’s name is drawn to be District 12’s girl tribute, Katniss volunteers to take her place. She together with Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) are swept away to the Capitol to be trained at jungle survival with 22 other youngsters, knowing fully well that they would be compelled to kill in order to win, and, in fact, could even be each other’s killer.
Unfairly compared with Twilight, Hunger Games is of a totally different genre. The former is romance/adventure; the latter is adventure-scifi. The only thing they have in common is their box office aim: teenage girls as the primary target audience. Lawrence’s intensity as the heroine Katniss carries the movie, but, of course, with the able support of secondary actors that include Donald Sutherland, Wes Bently, Stanley Tucci, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, and others. It is a film version of the trilogy by Suzanne Collins who is also its hands-on scriptwriter. The Hunger Games incorporates touches from Greek mythology and Roman history as well as themes from productions in the not-so-distant past, like broadcasting of violent contests to pacify the masses (Vengeance on Varos), best friends fighting to the death (Amok Time, a Star Trek episode), the bloodthirsty crowd (Survivor). The plot is fast paced, making its 140 minutes running time strangely entertaining and thought provoking at the same time.
“The Hunger Games” as entertainment for the elite in the Capitol is the reality tv show to end all reality tv shows. Unlike the ordinary “survivor shows”, it is not just a question of being voted off the island—it means having to kill human beings for no reason at all but to satisfy the murderous instincts of the audience, and we ought to know the dire consequences of such an episode on the life of the winner-killer. The “hunger” in the movie could be two-faced—the audience’s hunger for bloodshed and man-against-man violence, and the actual hunger of the contestants who must for instance navigate a mine field in order to get to the food pile. The Hunger Games may actually mirror a reality in human society where the decadent and powerful one percent “in the Capitol” live in abundance with no other concern but to adorn and indulge themselves while the impoverished and powerless 99 percent work like beasts of burden just to survive and do the elite’s bidding. The movie attempts to insert a ray of hope towards the end with the decision of the two youngsters, but still, it fails to assure that the hope is potent enough to effect a turn towards justice. Watch with caution—we shouldn’t let such slick reality shows dictate our realities.