By Jennifer Sparkman
My brave souls who have decided to venture into “The Hunger Games”: do not fear, this film won’t urge you to cover your eyes much. Blood is used sparingly, so if you are looking for a Tarantino-style onslaught, be prepared for a toned-down feel.
Gary Ross, director of “The Hunger Games,” provides a conservative version of the book in his film adaptation; leaving fans of the book not entirely satisfied.
The film opens describing what the Hunger Games are and why they have to happen. For 74 years, Districts 1-12 have sent one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18 to participate in the Hunger Games. A battle to the death, the Games end with a victor to prove to the people of Panem that the Capitol knows best. In the film adaptation, which subtly borrows from the second book, the victor proves that there is hope for a better day.
Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) hails from District 12, one of the poorest districts, and gets the action started by volunteering for the games in lieu of her sister Primrose (Willow Shields). Her poignant act of courage sets the film into motion for the games. The boy selected is Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), a baker’s son with little hope of winning or beating Katniss in the games. Friendships become established early on in the film with Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth) and Katniss who travel out of the bounds of District 12 to hunt game for their families.
One of the challenges the director had to face was the personality of Katniss and how her character was adapted from the book to fit the silver screen. The book is primarily a first person narrative told through Katniss, with the reader always knowing her next move. We glean more insight into the Hunger Games as it’s going. This often presents a conflict when transferred to film. Director Gary Ross had to rely more on the action of the story in order to keep the film moving toward its major plot points. Thankfully Lawrence, in the role of Katniss Everdeen, displays how the audience should be feeling toward her in her particular situation.
Lawrence is sure to capture your soul with her gritty beauty and strong heroic qualities. Compared to the “Twilight” damsel in distress, Lawrence makes girls feel empowered to stand up for their beliefs. Having a young, strong female lead in a big-budget film is a welcome change to this genre of cinema.
Woody Harrelson’s role as Haymitch Abernathy, a drunkard with heart, is used as a comedic decoy as more drama unfolds. On occasion in the film he helps keep Katniss alive by getting sponsors to donate money for her. These little parachutes would come floating down, but inside the note would be a sassy something from Abernathy.
Lenny Kravitz as the character Cinna gives a heartfelt performance as Katniss’ stylist. He serves as a refreshing reminder of gratitude and faith, leading the audience to believe that he’s on her side from the beginning.
Costume designer Judianna Makovsky put on a show by creating beautiful outfits for everyone in the picture. From Effie Trinket’s (Elizabeth Banks) pink hair and billowing dresses, to the simple suit Katniss wears at the gathering of the tributes, Makovsky defies the expectations of readers. She creates the perfect picture of what the world of the Hunger Games can be. Radiant colors overflow at the Capitol building with people in their zany outfits and blue lipstick. In the woods, the tributes colors are downplayed and earthy, subduing the overall palette.
Although there is plenty of action, the book is more dramatic in terms of the relationships between Katniss, Gale and Peeta. There could have been much more sexual discord between these three characters. At times it is hard to believe that Katniss even likes either of them. By the end of the film readers of the books may be left wanting more between Peeta and Katniss. Viewers may slightly pick up on a love triangle, but due to time many of the romantic scenes were cut. Unfortunately, Katniss and Peeta have about five minutes of screen time in the “cave.”
There are beautiful moments throughout the film, whether it was the way a death was handled or a location that looked supernatural.
Even in its disparities, “The Hunger Games” are surely appointed as a win to all.
I give this film a B+.
The film runs 142 minutes