Hyped to be the next big franchise following the success of “Harry Potter” and “Twilight”, the “Hunger Games” rolls out the wow factor. The first installment of Suzanne Collins’ best-selling trilogy, transports us to Panem, a dystopian world made up of the Capitol and 12 districts. As punishment for a past rebellion, each district must send a boy and girl tribute to compete in the annual Hunger Games. At the heart of the story, is Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), a gutsy 16-year-old girl who volunteers in place of her younger sister, Primrose (Willow Shields), as a tribute for district 12.
But the competition isn’t the friendly game of checkers or badminton. It’s a battle to the death as the tributes are thrown in an arena and forced to brutally murder each other as it’s broadcast. It’s a reality Katniss soon faces as she leaves her mother, sister, and her best friend Gale (Liam Hemsworth) behind. Besides the other vicious contestants, she’ll have to survive the gamekeepers’ countless manipulations in the game. As more deaths come Not an easy feat for Katniss, especially since she’ll be forced to kill Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), the other district 12 tribute, who happens to be in love with her.
Some might view the amount of violence, or lack thereof, as an incomplete depiction of how truly gruesome the games are in the book. But we have to disagree. The struggles Katniss, Peeta and the other tributes are subjected to are as much psychological as they are physical. So instead of over-saturating the movie with bloody closeups of fallen tributes, we’re given a few handpicked action scenes that reveal the savageness of the arena without becoming another Saw movie. The Hunger Games is very real for these tributes. They know any alliance they make with each other is short at best. The only motto here is to kill or be killed.
Book adaptations are risky to do. And given the wide success of the books, expectations were high for Director Gary Ross. But Ross proved to be up for the challenge. With a careful eye, he has truly captured the bleak reality, and ultimately, the cruelness Katniss and the other tributes must face for the Capitol’s pure enjoyment.
Yet what makes this film so remarkable is the exceptional cast. It’s not surprising that Woody Harrelson is great in the film. As the inebriated mentor and past District 12 winner, Haymitch, Harrelson gives just the right amount of witty bite. Elizabeth Bank’s portrayal of Effie Trinket, the multi-colored escort for district 12, is spot on. But the star of the film is Lawrence. She brings to life in the most engaging, gripping manner, every ounce of bravery, killer instincts and vulnerability Katniss has in the books. She is Katniss, there’s no doubt about it.
The Hunger Games is must see. It’s a tantalizing discovery of human survival amidst an unequal society. And at the heart of it all is a young heroine propelled to beat the odds. And it that isn’t refreshing than we don’t know what is!