As we wait with that patience which would be intolerant in the absence of the movies like Pacific Rim for the arrival of that possible sequel of magnificent wonder and unparalleled inspiration, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, and HBO Asia finding it a part of their interest to show its prequel on a number of occasions, it is only a matter of a few micro-seconds when that expected decision is taken to write on this movie which began the adventures of Katniss Everdeen, the girl on fire – the beautiful protagonist of Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games trilogy on screen. The question would remain though, about how much of an impact these movies can create, on those undesirable factors which prevail throughout the current world, even as the movie is set in the future. On my records, this is among the best movies of 2012, sharing the honour for third place with The Cabin in the Woods, but in a perfectly assigned scoring system which I would implement when I came back from the grave, this might come fourth. But isn’t it catchy enough already with its name itself – the games of hunger, or the games for getting rid of hunger, in a future dystopia where inequality thrives with its roots going deep into the soil of human nature? Well, the games would continue in November 2013 and until now, there is this completed game.
A post-apocalyptic situation has lead to the nation of Panem consisting of a wealthy city of Capitol and twelve poor, struggling districts. As a punishment for a past rebellion and riots, each district is forced to provide a boy and a girl as tributes to compete in a virtually created environment in the form of a real world where they would have to struggle for survival, and the last man or woman standing would be rewarded. The tributes are supposed to be between the ages of 12 and 18 and are selected by the lottery method which they called the Reaping. These tournaments of magnificence are called the Hunger Games. Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and her family come from District 12, a coal-mining district which is incredibly poor and less populated, having not a good record or good chance at the annual games. They struggle to survive in situations of hardship. When her sister Primrose Everdeen (Willow Shields) is chosen to fight till death in her first Reaping, Katniss volunteers to take her place in the games. Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), a baker’s son, is chosen as the other district tribute. Katniss and Peeta are taken to the Capitol in a luxury train and is provided with high level accommodation and the facilities which would have been unknown to them in their district.
They are accompanied by their mentor and past Games victor, an alcoholic Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson). They are informed that they should make them likable enough for the sponsors to send them anything helpful during the match. The find the tributes from Districts 1 and 2 who are trained to win the tournament from the early age itself, and have a big chance of murdering the rest of the participants early. Katniss and Peeta succeeds in making early good impressions with their first public appearance as well as the interviews, and the former does exceedingly well with her archery skills. Peeta’s love for Katniss is also revealed during the period of preparation. About half the tributes are killed in the beginning of the game itself, and Katniss, while on the run forms an alliance with a little girl Rue (Amandla Stenberg) from District 11 as the others come up with their own unholy alliances. After her death, Katniss joins with Peeta and tries to survive with only a few contestants left. This process is affected by a number of interventions by the tournament controllers and their plans to keep the tournament at a level which would be the most favourable.
With no surprises, this is Jennifer Lawrence’s movie, as the whole world is centred around Katniss Everdeen. This is third movie of hers that I had the opportunity to watch, after X-Men: First Class and House at the End of the Street, and doubt me not when I say that I shall also watch Silver Linings Playbook. She has set new standards for the leading character of a movie which is a deathmatch with the rules of the last man standing, something which takes a gamer back to that game mode in Unreal Tournament, and whatever followed as the other first-person shooter computer games. Even with doing nothing spectacular, she keeps her character strong, powerful and attractive. Katniss’ extraordinary display of courage is not only portrayed through her one huge life-changing decision to replace her sister and save her life, but also in her words,from the moment she is chosen as the tribute and her existence was possibly going to be a very short one: “No. You can’t. Not like when dad died. You’re all she has. No matter what you feel, you be there for her, you understand. Don’t cry. Don’t cry”. She traverses around that forest with her bow and a quiver of arrows like Artemis, the Greek Goddess of hunting. Josh Hutcherson progresses in the role of Peeta in the exact same way as the viewer would expect.
Meanwhile, Donald Sutherland as President Coriolanus Snow delivers those powerful quotes to be remembered: “I mean, why do we have a winner? I mean, if we just wanted to intimidate the districts, why not round up twenty-four at random and execute them all at one? It would be a lot faster. Hope. It is the only thing stronger than fear. A little hope is effective. A lot of hope is dangerous. Spark is fine, as long as it’s contained. So, contain it”. This dialogue defines the movie in a scene – what The Hunger Games is all about. As the primary antagonist of the series, and the autocratic ruler of the Capitol and all of Panem, it also defines the character and lest us know what to expect from him in the upcoming movies. There is a lot more to come from him, and one can be sure that some of those moments won’t leave one that easily. Foxface is the female tribute from District 5 played by Jacqueline Emerson is the next interesting character, even as the tribute makes very less impact on the storyline. Alexander Ludwig’s Cato and Isabelle Fuhrman’s Clove makes the skilled and heaviy trained District 2 tributes who work as the major antagonists inside the tournament.
The movie lacks in the intense action sequences and use of good special effects and CGI which could have made this one even better, and the slowness gets a little uninspiring at some moments. But what it losses in its lack of pace, action and effects is gained by some great acting and its own powerful theme. Katniss herself is a symbol of a rebellion for the twelve poor districts against the rich Capitol’s oppression, and even as this movie only begins a procedure, and Katniss has only become the shadow of what she can do later, this is one message against inequality and oppression which the movie has conveyed wonderfully. “War, terrible war. Widows, orphans, a motherless child. This was the uprising that rocked our land. Thirteen districts rebelled against the country that fed them, loved them, protected them. Brother turned on brother until nothing remained. And then came the peace, hard fought, sorely won. A people rose up from the ashes and a new era was born. But freedom has a cost. When the traitors were defeated, we swore as a nation we would never know this treason again. And so it was decreed, that each year, the various districts of Panem would offer up in tribute, one young man and woman, to fight to the death in a pageant of honor, courage and sacrifice. The lone victor, bathed in riches, would serve as a reminder of our generosity and our forgiveness. This is how we remember our past. This is how we safeguard our future.”
What is said in these lines are the lies that the common man is forced to believe; and as the dictator himself says, it gives them hope which rises over their fear. But this is that fake hope which helps them to rule over the common man and continue to be rich at their cost. The need for rebellion is asserted, as it is the Capitol that rules them all, and it is that one city that has everything, and when the rebellion for their own basic needs is termed as treachery and the people branded traitors. The theme of self-sacrifice is there, as Katniss’ substitutes herself and becomes willing to die for her younger sister, like Jesus did for the atonement of the sins of humanity; Peeta also rises from under the stone, and the symbolism of bread prevails throughout the movie. The human battle for survival, the influence of the media and the need for freedom are also seen throughout the movie. There is the rise of the underdog, a common popular thing, and his defiance which changes the world upto an extent, and will define it further. The movie strikes, and it inspires, and Jennifer Lawrence does the rest. This is one movie which makes you think on many lines, and the most significant thought is defiance. Remember the story of the demi-god Theseus and the Minotaur, in which the Minotaur is fed with a certain number of boys and girls from the city, for there are some cycles which need to stop.
Release date: 23rd March 2012
Running time: 142 minutes
Directed by: Gary Ross
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Lenny Kravitz, Stanley Tucci, Donald Sutherland, Willow Shields, Dayo Okeniyi, Isabelle Fuhrman, Alexander Ludwig, Paula Malcomson, Jacqueline Emerson, Leven Rambin, Dayo Okeniyi, Jack Quaid, Amandla Stenberg, Wes Bentley, Toby Jones
@ Cemetery Watch
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