The Hunger Games II

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On the predecessor :: The first movie in the franchise was released last year, and I have to say that I was impressed by the same. I shouldn’t feel that there are many people who doesn’t know the story, but I do know a few people who haven’t heard about it. So, it is a story set in the future, a dystopian, post-apocalyptic world where the world is divided into a rich Capitol which controls things and twelve poor districts. The boys and girls between the ages of twelve and eighteen (One boy and one girl from each district) are forced to take part in the Hunger Games conducted by the Capitol, an annual reality event telecast all around world. The selected youth known as “the tributes” are required to fight till death until there will be only one person remaining alive. Our protagonist is a young lady joined by the male tribute from her same district to be declared winners as they both threaten to commit suicide thus making the games invalid with everyone else dead – the first time when more than one winner is selected. The Capitol as well as the President remains unhappy about it, but covers the action as an act of true love and not a rebellion so that there won’t be the chance of a revolution against the Capitol from the suffering districts.

What is it about? :: Time has passed since Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) took the place of her little sister who was chosen by lottery to participate in the games and won it with Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) creating a new record and bringing about a certain difference which was not entertained by the authorities. But they have returned home as the unexpected winners. President Coriolanus Snow visits the lady and tells her to prove that her action was based on love rather than defiance, as there are lots of rebellions taking place in districts, thanks to them defying the order to kill each other. But it doesn’t really work well as the winners’ visit to District 11 lets the emotions run high and sparks riots. Snow decides to get this problem finished as he declares the third Quarter Quell, a special version of the Hunger Games held in every twenty five years in which the participants are to be selected from recent winners. Even as Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson) is selected by lottery with Katniss to participate, Peeta takes his place and both are once again in the game, this time against better opponents.

The defence of The Hunger Games :: The best thing about the movie is that it tells us how ridiculous these reality shows are, and we should rather be ashamed of them for making it “reality” when those who conduct the shows decide who should win. I was shocked at the number of reality shows in India, especially in Malayalam television channels, and they were getting more and more pathetic, except for may be the comedy shows. The word “reality” is the one thing that doesn’t suit them as many unnecessary outside forces work through it. The movie’s take on the other things such as inequality, oppression and the evil of a dystopia is highly effective and moving – its rather direct, I would say with people always told what to do and obey in a world filled with false hope. All of its themes have been portrayed beautifully, bringing our feelings alive for the characters – the oppressed ones. The twist in the end is also pretty nice, and there is found to be nothing missing about it. This movie has also improved in its graphics and there are some better special effects and action in store compared to its predecessor.

Claws of flaw :: The Hunger Games II is too long, and nobody can really defend against that. The movie was also very slow in getting into the action, as the tournament starts only some time after the second half starts. There are occasions when one might thing why this chooses to drag when not needed. The emotional side remains something of lesser power compared to the first despite the characters going through more, and we might not remember this one as we remember the first. The climax is surely inferior to what was there in the predecessor with an end which is too quick, and there is too much of a projection of the leading character which gets repetitive and one is forced to wonder what is there for that. A better game was also expected by the viewers, that is for sure judging from how the people were responding in the theatre. The movie is too much like the first movie, and there is also the absence of that much fun as well as seriousness. But this one remains a force to reckon with, and it can lose only to that force which will come as another sequel, The Hobbit II, and if I am asked more about it, I expect that one to keep this one restricted to one of those corners as shows are concerned.

Performers of the soul :: I had watched Silver Linings Playbook recently, and I was sure about who was going to steal the show once again, yes that is our leading lady, the girl on fire, Jennifer Lawrence. With the intensity of her character and the severe shortage of any good feeling, the life of Katniss is powerfully portrayed, and there are not many characters in a science fiction movie that affects the audience like this, and there are not many actresses who might have done the role so well, so charming in her disturbed state of mind and so strong even in the weakest state, Katniss is a lot more than the ordinary sci-fi hero or heroine, and it is evident that Jennifer Lawrence has indeed awakened Katniss again. Josh Hutcherson isn’t lost in that either, as Peeta deserves a lot, and he makes sure that the characters get what is deserved. Liam Hemsworth, Elizabeth Banks, Woody Harrelson, Sam Claflin, Philip Hoffman and Donald Sutherland are there with valuable support in a combination of fine performances. Another character I liked was Johanna Mason played by Jena Malone, there was something about that one.

Soul exploration :: The Hunger Games continues as the indirect satire on reality television, and how its winners are determined by those who are at the top. I liked the same in The Running Man starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and María Conchita Alonso, but on the entertainment side. The evil of dictatorship is also there, and the thing about inequality is even stronger in this second movie of the franchise. The revolution side is also stronger in this one as it starts powerfully right from the beginning of the movie. In a world which is moving more and more towards modernity and its horrible side effects, what we see in the movie gets more and more relevant. There is always pain, suffering, helplessness and oppression – everyone fights more than one battle for survival, and everyone with a mind is a revolutionary, hopefully of the peaceful nature. The power of media and government control becomes more shocking than ever in this movie. As Katniss sacrifices her life to save her sister in the first movie, the sacrifice is done by Peeta this time.

How it finishes :: The newer fiction doesn’t really work well for me when made into movies, the most significant ones being Twilight, The Host and Mortal Instruments – the novels won’t work for me either, but that would spawn another story another day. I am glad that this is another movie which worked, and it is going to make more in the box-office here as the movie of the weekend. The month starts well and hope the year ends well! There are not many more movies to come. It is not really necessary to watch the first movie before Catching Fire, but it might be nice if you do. There are lots of things that is carried over to this movie, but this sequel can still work out alone as the story is concerned – but one will only be happy about having watched the first movie. Lets hope that it will only get better with the next movie in the franchise, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 as well as its sequel. Let the hunger stay alive, for freedom and equality.

Release date: 6th December 2013 (India); 22nd November 2013 (US)
Running time: 146 minutes
Directed by: Francis Lawrence
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Elizabeth Banks, Woody Harrelson, Lenny Kravitz, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jeffrey Wright, Stanley Tucci, Donald Sutherland

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠The Vampire Bat.

The Hunger Games

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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

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.