Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Hunger Games (A Review): Are You Ready to Play?

If you had asked me three weeks ago what The Hunger Games were, I would have guessed that it was a competitive eating contest on the Boardwalk at Coney Island. I was definitely not caught up in the wave of anticipation regarding this pop culture phenomenon. As far as I knew, Katniss Everdeen (The Hunger Games heroine) could have been a minion of the Catwoman from the late sixties Batman television series and Peeta Mellark (the male lead) could have been the son or daughter of an over-the-top animal rights activist. However, after seeing the blockbuster film and reading the first few chapters of the best-selling novel by Suzanne Collins, I can definitively say that I now have "the hunger."

In its first two-plus weeks of release, The Hunger Games has grossed over $460 million worldwide and is destined to catapult its franchise into the realm of success shared by other novel adaptation cash cows like Twilight and Harry Potter. Yet The Hunger Games is more than a franchise flavor of the month. This story exudes emotionality and takes the audience to different places, depending upon how deeply they wish, or are capable of, investing intellectually and emotionally. Like the Harry Potter films, particularly the last half of the franchise, The Hunger Games can be enjoyed by those seeking a simple two-plus hours of entertainment and by those who are game enough for a truly emotional film that mixes suspense and action with an undercurrent of subtle social commentary and gritty emotion.

As can be said of the Harry Potter films, it is impossible to separate the source material from the film adaptation in any discussion of The Hunger Games film, particularly because the depth of the story and the message are what separates this film from the pack. Along these lines, the success of the film can be partially attributed to the fact that Lionsgate realizes how crucial it is to have the author of a blockbuster book intimately involved in the creation of the screenplay adaptation. The Hunger Games trilogy author, Suzanne Collins, is the film's principle credited writer. While it can be problematic for the director of a film adaptation and the writer of the source material to both bring their unique vision to the screen harmoniously and both play nice in the same sandbox, more and more evidence is mounting as to why it is worth the effort to do so, for both the studios and the audiences. It also helps that another credited writer on the film is director Gary Ross, who brought the engaging story of Seabiscuit to the screen nine years ago. Interestingly, despite the meteoric success of The Hunger Games, Ross has informed the studio that he will not be back to direct the sequel “Catching Fire.”

The Hunger Games reaches into the future to paint a portrait of the dystopian society that is the nation of Panem, a North American country consisting of twelve districts and its seat of government, simply called, The Capitol. The story begins nearly three quarters of a century after Panem was ravaged by a bloody civil war in which the then thirteen districts rebelled against the Capitol. District 13 was completely obliterated as an example of what happens when you don’t play nice with the Capitol. In the treaty that ended the war and forged “the Peace” it was decreed that each year, the remaining twelve districts must offer up one boy and one girl as “tributes,” to compete in The Hunger Games competition, which is essentially a pubescent gladiatorial competition broadcast as a competitive reality TV show.

The Capitol’s treaty for the peace decrees that there can be only one victor in the Hunger Games “pageant,” relegating the competition to a fight to the death elimination contest, pitting twelve to eighteen year olds, male and female alike, against one another in a very deadly game. The tributes are selected through a lottery system on the annual “Reaping Day” held within each district. Suffice it to say that this is one lottery that no one wants to win. Essentially, the Hunger Games are The Capitol’s attempt to keep the heel of its boot firmly planted upon the throats of all twelve districts. The fact that each district must annually offer up what are, in essence, two human sacrifices, serves as an ever-present reminder of the Capitol’s tyrannical dominance over the nation of Panem.

Please check back at darthmaz314 for another Hunger Games post coming soon………

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