The odds have certainly been in the favor of The Hunger Games. After a huge debut weekend, the film is still going strong in the box office and into the hearts of audiences everywhere. But this should be no surprise considering what the Hunger Games are to the world dystopian world of Panem. The Hunger Games are a massive American Idol type reality competition that pits kids against each other for the entertainment of the entire. Only instead of singing to win everyone’s affections, the kids must battle to the death.
President Snow (Donald Sutherland with a snow white beard) runs the games through Seneca Crane (Wes Bentley who dropped off the face of the earth after American Beauty) who acts as producer and director of the show. He and his tech geeks create an elaborate world (or stage) where the children battle it out. And he’s not afraid to through in random creatures or start forest fires for the sake of TV entertainment. Hosting the show is Panem’s Ryan Seacrest, Caesar Flickerman (played aptly by Stanley Tucci). His blue hair may not be more distracting that Crane’s elaborate beard, but it fits in perfectly with the ostentatious and shallow people of the Capital who act as the studio audience for the games. Their colorful outfits, hair, and makeup allow them to stand out from the lower classes like those of District 12.
In District 12 we meet our heroes for the movie (and the trilogy). Katniss Everdeen (played by the Meryl Streep of our generation, Jennifer Lawrence) is a hunter who protects and provides for her family (while maintaining a mild flirtation with fierce hunter Gale, Liam Hemsworth). When her sister is chosen as the female tribute for the games, Katniss volunteers in her stead. As a thank you, Primrose gives her a mockingjay pin, which is very important for the next two movies. The male tribute is quiet Peeta Mellark (a Josh Hutcherson with hair blonder than that of the Lannisters). He’s been harboring a crush on Katniss since he tossed her some of his stale bread in the rain a year ago.
The two tributes ride a fancy train to the Capitol where they are prepped by their mentors and stylists. Woodly Harrelson’s Haymitch acts as an alcoholic Simon Cowell who doesn’t believe either of them will succeed (but eventually he warms up to them). Elizabeth Banks’ Effie is an affable Paula Abdul who keeps reminding the tributes of how lucky they are to be on the show (and living the posh life for a hot second). Lastly, there’s Lenny Kravitz’s Cinna who gives Randy Jackson style pep talks (albeit he refrains from the use of the word “dawg”) and also provides Katniss with her memorable “girl on fire” look (somewhere Lisbeth Salander is cringing). Katniss’s disregard for rules (and fiery actions during the interviews) make her stand out, and Peeta isn’t afraid to bank on her popularity by announcing his huge crush on her on live national television.
Once the games begin, the children battle for weapons and supplies and those who lose (aka die) get farewell tribute shows in the sky at night. And, like in every good reality show, the contestants are constantly being manipulated by the producers. Crane changes the rules to mix up alliances and to tug at the heartstrings of his global audience. If all this comes across as grossly inhumane and detestable, then you would be surprised at how much the Panem audience and the theater audience eat it up.
Morality is something Katniss clings to like a security blanket, until she learns to play the games and manipulate the manipulators. Peeta, though not a strong guy, catches on even quicker than her and plays to his strengths as well. Most of his character development is pushed to the second half of the film, but Hutcherson does a great job of winning the audience’s heart. Although many smaller details glossed over (as are most of the children’s death), the screenplay holds true to the book. In the end, the winner has set into motion political uprisings and pissed off those in charge, thereby setting up the greater story arcs for the next two films.
And with highest TV ratings the Hunger Games have ever had, how could there not be another season?