Thursday Night Movie Club
The Hunger Games
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Release Date: 23 March 2012

Director: Gary Ross
Jennifer Lawrence
Liam Hemsworth
Josh Hutcherson
Woody Harrelson
Elizabeth Banks
Lenny Kravitz
Stanley Tucci
Wes Bentley
Willow Shields
Paula Malcomson
Kimiko Gelman
Nelson Ascencio
Brooke Bundy
Amandla Stenberg
Dayo Okeniyi
Leven Rambin
Jack Quaid
Latarsha Rose
Donald Sutherland
Katniss Everdeen
Gale Hawthorne
Peeta Mellark
Haymitch Abernathy
Effie Trinket
Caesar Flickerman
Seneca Crane
Primrose Everdeen
Katniss' Mother
President Snow
The Hunger Games movie poster #1 The Hunger Games movie poster #2 The Hunger Games movie poster #3
Jennifer Lawrence in The Hunger GamesThe world has gone mad. There really isn't much of a world left. A global catastrophe has rendered world politics a moot point. A failed revolution in the United States has left the victors garishly parading around the capitol city while the losers have been split into twelve districts. Each district has its own "specialty", such as mining, agriculture, ranching, etc. The losers of the revolution get to "honor" the victors each year by sending two tributes, one male child, one female child, to compete in a "fight-to-the-death, winner-takes-all" competition known as "The Hunger Games".

This is the backstory to the film version of Suzanne Collins' novel of the same name. The film version is an excellent translation of the novel. Fans of the novel may want more elements from the book included here. Audience goers without expectations will discover many new elements not in the book. Bottom line: the movie is a surprise from start to finish. The story is a rare thing these days: original.

Katniss Everdeen (Lawrence) is the bread-winner and wears the pants in her family. After her father's death in a mine accident, Katniss' Mother (Malcomson) has gone comatose leaving Katniss to raise her younger sister Primrose (Shields) and provide food for the family. This involves breaking the rules. Each district is wired and under constant vigilance from the government. Katniss doesn't need to worry that someone in her district will squeal on her as many people in her village buy the squirrels and rabbits she hunts with a bow and arrow. Katniss is deadly accurate with her bow.

Elizabeth Banks and Jennifer Lawrence in The Hunger GamesKatniss, a young woman of about sixteen who doesn't have time for herself. Emotionally, she is an empty shell. Emotions do not put food on the table. Her only friend is Gale Hawthorne (Hemsworth) who spends his spare time hunting with her.

But, today is the Reaping, the date the "contestants" for the Hunger Games are selected by random drawing of names of eligible children between the age of twelve and eighteen. Katniss, and others in the district, have traded for extra food by placing their names on more slips in the drawing. The older she gets, the more the odds are not in her favor. One of the governmental slogans is: "May the odds be in your favor." This translates into "Good Luck".

Ah, the odds are in Katniss' favor. Her name is not drawn from the pool. Instead, Prim's name is drawn. Katniss is in shock. How can this possibly happen? Prim doesn't stand a chance to last more than a few minutes. Katniss does what the head of any household would do in this situation. She volunteers to take her sister's place in The Games. Effie Trinket (Banks), a bubble-brained blonde, is all atwitter at Katniss' brave decision. She is so proud of Katniss' unselfishness. Katniss knows the full depth of her decision. Her days on planet Earth are numbered.

Lenny Kravitz, Woody Harrelson and Josh Hutcherson in The Hunger GamesThe male contestant is Peeta Mellark (Hutcherson), son of the town's hen-pecked baker. Peeta's mother is the dominant person in his household also. Peeta has a few secrets in his closet. On a miserable, raining day, Peeta finds Katniss outside the bakery, shivering and starving. Peeta shows her some kindness by throwing her some bread that his mother has deemed unedible. Katniss isn't about to complain. Staying alive is Rule #1 in the district.

The contestants are immediately taken into police custody with plenty of pomp and circumstance and then whisked away by train to the Capitol. The Hunger Games have begun. So has the cruelty! Katniss and Peeta find themselves aboard a most luxurious train. The luxury goes way beyond their wildest dreams. They wouldn't even think this was possible, based on their own pathetic existence. The staterooms are amazing. There is more food on the table in the dining car than either of them have seen in a year's time. They've never even heard of these dishes before. Behind it all, cows being fattened up for slaughter. These trappings are nothing to celebrate, much to Effie's chagrin.

Lenny Kravitz, Woody Harrelson and Josh Hutcherson in The Hunger GamesEnter Haymitch Abernathy wonderfully portrayed by Woody Harrelson. Haymitch is an alcoholic. He is also a previous Hunger Games champion from District 12. He knows all too well the horrors that Katniss and Peeta are about to face. He drinks to forget. The government, however, is not forgiving. Every year, he is "forced" to mentor the newest contestants knowing they will soon die and there is nothing he can do about it. Katniss' defiance and Peeta's willingness to "play the game" convinces Haymitch that his understudies may have a chance in the games. His alcohol consumption slowly wanes.

Upon arrival in the Capital, the contestants are cleaned and completely shaven to make them presentable and not looking like hagard savages. Cinna, also wonderfully portrayed by Lenny Kravitz, is tasked with costuming Katniss and Peeta. First impressions are tantamount to lining up sponsors. Sponsors can provide necessary food and medicine during the games. Cinna has gone all out for Katniss and Peeta. His costumes are designed to be lit on fire. Katniss and Peeta make a fiery entrance, one that no one will soon forget.

Jennifer Lawrence in The Hunger GamesAs directed by Gary Ross, The Hunger Games does an excellent job translating the novel into a movie. Several sequences are filmed in a stark color palette that visually captures the emotions of what is ocurring. In the opening montage, Katniss sneaks out of District 12 to hunt and forage. She sees the daily misery of her fellow inhabitants: the miners head off to work, shop keepers sell their wares knowing they won't get rich, and the beauty that is the natural environment outside the gated and guarded District 12. The reaping ceremony uses this technique to contrast the bland lives of the people in District 12 with the flambouyancy of the privilidged members of the ruling elite. The inhabitants of District 12 look and behave exactly as they are: Prisoners of War. The first moments of the Hunger Games themselves is a chaotic struggle for survival amidst unbridled slaughter. Half of the contestants do not survive the first five minutes! Ross does not overuse this technique which results in amplifying the shock and horror for the audience.

The music track composed by ames Newton Howard is very good in a subtle way. There are moments in the film that have tender, folk songs accompanying the visuals. Director Ross also has several sequences that have no sound whatsoever. The silence is eerie and suspenseful.

The cast, mostly the child contestants, are relatively unknown. Ross gets the most out of this cast. Liam Hemsworth as Gale does not have a major part, but what he says is very influential to Katniss later in the film. Amandla Stenberg as the 12-year old Rue absolutely shines! She is sweet and immediately liked by Katniss as well as everyone in the audience. Alexander Ludwig is great as Cato. Cato is a bully, a career tribute who has been trained to be ruthless and to win at all costs. A tender moment for Ludwig comes at the end when Cato finally realizes that "the odds are NOT with him." Excellent acting is on display throughout the film.

The Hunger Games is an exellent film adaptation. Enjoy this one over and over!