Director: Gary Ross
Based On the Book By: Suzanne Collins
Genre: Science Fiction/Dystopian
Recommended for: Fans of the book, lovers of YA novels, dystopians, science fiction, and strong lead female protagonists.
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Since not long before the books came out I’ve been a massive fan of the Hunger Games. As a kid, I wasn’t allowed to read Twilight or the Harry Potter series so when all those popular movies released I was left out even though I so wanted to be part of a popular franchise. Then I heard the Hunger Games was to be made into a film. Finally I could be a part of a series bandwagon!
But I was wary about seeing it at the same time. In the recent years before, I was very disappointed with the few less popular books I’d read that were made into movies. Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief was a good movie, but completely disloyal; Eragon was horrible; The Last Airbender we’re not even going to talk about (I know it’s not a book, but same difference); and The Chronicles of Narnia: the Voyage of the Dawn Treader was missing many parts I’d loved in the novel. Going into the theater to see the Hunger Games, one of my favorite books ever to this day, had me very nervous, but I came out blown away.
Katniss Everdeen lives in the dystopian world of Panem where the futuristic United States of America has been divided into twelve districts, each providing resources to the ruling Capitol. Every year a girl and a boy from twelve to seventeen are reaped from each district to participate in the Hunger Games, a televised battle to the death where only one victor can be crowned. This year Katniss’s sister is reaped and Katniss volunteers to take her place. Now she must try to win the games so she can return home to her family, but fierce competition from other district tributes and the Capitol Gamemakers themselves stand in her way. Will the odds be in her favor?
Violence/Scary Images: Though there is less violence than in the book, the amount is adequate to be appropriate for the plot of the film. The gore was purposefully shown by the director because the Hunger Games are not supposed to be happy. It’s a horrible thing that needs to be stopped.
In a recording of a previous year’s games, a kid beats another kid to death with a brick, but this is done in a way so it doesn’t focus on the gore. The games are the most graphic. There is some blood and tributes hacking each other with knives near the start though this was filmed tastefully so it’s disorienting and it doesn’t focus on anything too explicit. Dead bodies of the tributes are shown along with wounds such as a third degree burn, knife wounds, and a spear wound, but nothing made me looking away. A character is also shot with an arrow and another while not shown very clearly is torn up by mutated dogs. Lastly, some tracker jackers aka mutant wasps sting a girl to death and her swollen body is shown. This was the only thing that really made me flinch.
Language/Crude Humor: The book originally didn’t have swearing, but some d*** was said three times and h*** twice.
Sexual Content: There is some kissing between two characters a few times, but nothing too intense.
Drug/Alcohol Reference: Because of Haymitch’s experience in the games, he drinks to drown the memories. He’s shown imbibing in several instances and staggering a bit.
Other Negative Content: There were minor differences from the book. Some I understood, but two scenes I really missed. Also there was some jiggly camera work in several areas that disoriented me a bit in a not good way.
This film is very loyal to the book with few differences. The plot has well-constructed character arcs and is action-packed either in physical fighting or just an underlying tension, but there are thankfully good resting points spread out so your heart isn’t beating out of your chest. You’re sucked in from beginning to end into Katniss’s head and the world of Panem. I love how the director tried to stay in Katniss’s point of view as much as possible and how he added the point of views of both President Snow and Seneca Crane.
Some humor from mostly Effie and Haymitch made me laugh and a couple of scenes made me cry. The romance is well woven into the plot and not cheesy. The games are accurately shown as something horrible and brutal that need to be stopped. You feel for these poor kids forced into these twisted games.
The casting could not be any better. Jennifer Lawrence (X-Men First Class, Winter’s Bone) plays the lead role of Katniss Everdeen perfectly. Her acting is superb and she takes on the look and demeanor of the character spot on. I could feel her fear, love, determination, longing, and anger through the screen. Josh Hutcherson (Bridge to Terebithia) as Peeta Mellark, Liam Hemsworth (The Expendables 2) as Gale Hawthorn, and Elizabeth Banks (What to Expect When You’re Expecting) as Effie Trinket are equally well casted. They’re exactly as I pictured them in the book. Each take on their roles as if they truly were these characters.
Also joining the ensemble are some big name actors such as Donald Sutherland (The Italian Job) as President Snow, Stanley Tucci (The Devil Wears Prada) as Caesar Flickerman, and Woody Harrelson (Cheers) as Haymitch Abernathy and do equally as amazing in their roles. I can’t picture anyone else in these parts. Donald Sutherland plays an excellent villain with both wicked cunning and human feelings and intents. The tributes many of whom are first movie actors perform excellently as well especially the Careers, Alexander Ludwig (Race to Witch Mountain) as Cato, Leven Rambin (Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters) as Glimmer, Jack Quaid as Marvel and Isabelle Fuhrman (Hounddog) as Clove, who played the sadistic characters well while still keeping their humanity. Lenny Kravitz (Precious) as Cinna though not exactly how I pictured in the book won my heart.
The world of Panem was masterfully designed. It’s like they plucked it out of my head. The color contrast from the browns and greens of District 12 to the rainbow of colors in the Capitol to the greens, blacks, and yellows of the Arena is such a neat aesthetic as it carries the tone of the scenes with the settings. Plus this was shot in good ol’ North Carolina where I was born.
The costumes, make up, and hair are just fantastic. From the vintage district clothing to the outrageous capitol clothes to Katniss’s dresses to the tribute outfits in the Arena. They are just masterfully designed and fit the characters so very well. Effie’s outfits are so perfect with the heels and wigs and eyelashes. Katniss’s dress during Caesar Flickerman’s interview is just how I pictured it in the book.
The CGI is well done. The holograms and muttations look so real. The camera work is intriguing too with interesting views that make you really feel like you are with Katniss. Another thing that I didn’t really notice until I watched the special features is the sound. The director paid attention to it so he’d keep it to noises that Katniss would hear herself. I thought that was such a cool detail.
The score is by James Newton Howard so of course it’s good. I love how the music also changes in mood from location to location. The District and Arena both have a rustic Appalachian feel (District 12 is intended to be located in North Carolina) while the Capitol is more synthetic. One piece during a certain major spoiler scene just breaks my heart every time I listen to it. I love it so much I even learned how to play it on the piano!
Now we’ve come to the themes and gosh, there are so many it’s going to be hard to keep this brief. Sacrifice, sibling love, and bravery are the most evident. Other more complex themes are government corruption, child soldiers, and purity. Author of the Hunger Games Suzanne Collins received inspiration from Panem et Circuses, a method used by the ancient Romans to make people become blind to what the real problems are by pacifying the people with food and games. The Capitol is completely corrupt and is oppressing the districts, but keeps most of its citizens in the dark. This is very relative to many of the governments today.
The most controversial matter about this movie is that children are pitted against each other in fights to the death. I’ve known several mothers that refuse to let their teens watch this movie solely because of that. Children slaughtering each other is horrible. It’s shown to be horrible in the film. But this happens every day in countries such as Somalia and Uganda. Child soldiers are pitted against each other in real life. This movie raises awareness about abominable things such as that. It brings matters like this home.
The last theme I’ll highlight is the matter of purity. Katniss and Peeta are thrust into a corrupt and worldly environment starkly different than their mostly sheltered district home. They are faced with moral ambiguity and many temptations. Peeta voices this best in this line:
“I don’t want them to change me. I want to find a way to show them they don’t own me. If I’m gonna die, I want to still be me.”
As Christians we are surrounded by all manners of temptation in this life. Staying pure is difficult, but as Christians we must.
1 Peter 2:11 (ESV)
Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.
This is one of the most faithful movie adaptions I have seen. Director Gary Ross did such a good job keeping the movie in the spirit of the book. There are so many Christian themes in the story as well with inspiring parts that will make you three finger salute and whistle the Mockingjay tune. This is a gorgeous film and one you won’t forget.