Before seeing The Hunger Games last March, I wasn’t really too aware of it. I was pretty much expecting something in the vein of the Twilight franchise. Boy was I wrong. This is a very serious film that features one of the strongest female characters ever. That is a very serious thing to say, but I certainly stand by the statement. The film would be made or broken by the casting of the lead character, Katniss Everdeen. Well, they could have not chosen a better actress than Jennifer Lawrence to play said character. Lawrence nails every aspect of the character and she is a huge part of why this film is an instant classic.
Right from the outset of the film we find out that the tone of the film is very serious. The film deals with children from ages 12-18 having to battle each other to the death as a punishment for a failed rebellion against the Capital that led to the destruction of a 13th district. The back-story may be a bit confusing if you have not read the source material, which I haven’t, but I also believe that you pick things up pretty easily. There are now 12 districts and as a punishment there is an annual ‘competition’ where each district has to serve up one boy and one girl to these ‘Hunger Games.’ The names are chosen at random, and depending on how much help you choose to receive from the Capital, the more your name will be thrown into the bowl of names. If you take nothing from them then you have a pretty great chance of not being chosen.
Things are very grim and desperate as food is very scarce in Katniss’ district 12. We see Katniss interact with her family; a mother who Katniss herself seems to take care of and there is also Katniss’ little sister Primrose which will be eligible for the hunger games for the first time. The reaping or selecting of the names takes place and Primrose is chosen first. The thought of this competition is horrifying enough, but you see how young and helpless some of these children are, it makes it that much more dark and grim. Katniss will of course, not allow Primrose to enter the competition and instead volunteers for the competition.
Watching Katniss go up on that stage, it just hits me on how none of the things that will follow would have happened if some small details had not occurred. For example, what if Primrose was not chosen? The way her name is chosen is so random that you can’t help but wonder what if. Primrose is chosen however, and Katniss does end up taking her place and the wheels are now in motion for something way bigger. We are of course talking about a revolution, as from the onset we see that the people are tired of the way things are and just need a spark. Katniss is that spark, and we see small glimpses throughout the film of things that will lead to that revolution.
I neglect to mention the other characters since so much of this film is all about Katniss and her positioning herself, unwillingly and unknowingly, as the leader of said revolution. Katniss has a best friend named Gale who for the most part in this film does nothing and is thrown to the background once Katniss heads off to the Capital. We believe that Gale might be the male chosen from district 12 but instead it is another young boy named Peeta. There is nothing really remarkable about Peeta and he definitely isn’t the strongest competitor but he does retain a certain likeability throughout the film.
Once the hunger games start, Katniss and Peeta develop a strong relationship and begin to fall in love. I found Katniss to be such a strong character that I found her more vulnerable and romantic moments with Peeta a bit out of character. The ending for example seems to contradict her attitude in the beginning of the film of doing anything to survive and go back to her little sister. You could certainly call it growth and most of the attitude change was caused by her falling in love, but it still felt a little off to me.
I loved how the film took its time to actually get to the competition. The introductions, the training and everything in between was done so perfectly that once the hunger games actually begin, you are so invested in what will happen and how things will be handled. There is no way of getting around the brutality since the competition is all about young kids killing each other until there is only one person left standing. The film pulls no punches as the weaker and younger kids are killed immediately. It is a bit tough to watch, but with the way it is filmed, luckily we don’t have to actually see too much of it and instead we are relegated to seeing the blood being splattered and quick cutaways.
One of the biggest things for me during the competition wasn’t about the love story, but rather the bigger picture which is the revolution that will take place in the next couple films. The thing that hit me the most was when one of the younger competitors was killed, and then we flashed to her district as its people started to rebel. You know that the people are sick and tired of the Capital and the whole, ‘they have everything and we have nothing,’ scenario and that event pretty much was the moment that set them off. They have been waiting for so long for someone to take charge and lead that revolution and throughout the film, we see that Katniss Everdeen is that person that they have been waiting for.
I love the cutaways to the Chancellor and seeing how much he fears Katniss and everything she represents. It’s something akin to the film Gladiator where they should have killed Russell Crowe at the very start instead of letting him build up a huge following to the point where killing him would only make him a martyr. They allow Katniss to continue to build momentum until they are no longer able to just kill her since that would only lead to a huge revolt. The love story does serve a purpose since it is used to protect Katniss as of course the general public loves a great love story and always wants to see a happy ending. I love how that was thrown into the actual story.
Katniss has become the biggest threat that the Capital has ever seen and while the film serves great as a stand-alone film, you certainly see the seeds being planted for the sequels. Seeing those young children die and also with just the simple fact that something so horrible as the hunger games would actually exist, I could not help but hate the Capital and the Chancellor and root for their demise.
The Hunger Games is certainly something very different than I was expecting and Katniss Everdeen is certainly no Bella Swan. I don’t mean to knock that other franchise but just felt like returning to that since that is what I initially thought this series was aiming for. Of course, after seeing this film, that could not be further from the truth and the two franchises have very little in common. This series has a chance to do something very special with one of the best female characters in cinematic history. The revolution will be televised and who better than Katniss Everdeen and Jennifer Lawrence to lead it?