In the film, Katniss Everdeen is a 16-year-old girl living in Panem, a post-apocalyptic world. Each year, two children — one male, one female — from 12 districts are randomly selected to compete in The Hunger Games. This annual event has an unhappy ending, as these “tributes” fight to the death while the world watches. While there is only one victor, it’s truly a losing battle.
Although she is an adolescent, Katniss is used to being a leader. She lives in District 12, a coal-mining town. Her father was killed in an explosion, and her mother’s depression left her unfit to be the head of household. Katniss’ father left her with a broad knowledge of hunting, but his biggest lesson is that of survival.
It’s the day of the Reaping, an event when children ages 12 to 18 are gathered in the center of town. The Hunger Games were put into place years ago as punishment for the districts’ revolt against the Capitol, a city of affluence, influence and power. The Games serve as a constant reminder.
The drawing of the names commences. When Katniss’ younger sister, Primrose, is announced as the female tribute, the elder sister courageously and breathlessly volunteers to take her place in the deadly arena against 23 others.
The book was published in 2008, but I first read it a few weeks ago. I couldn’t put it down. Then I read it again.
Even with the brutal nature of the Games, Collins was able to give the characters and story a real heart. If you haven’t read the book, I suggest you do. Although book-to-movie adaptations are never 100 percent identical, it will help having some knowledge of the story beforehand.
Jennifer Lawrence is an Academy Award-nominated actress for her role in “Winter’s Bone.” However, her role in “The Hunger Games” will definitely have a Harry Potter/Twilight effect on her career.
Lawrence shines as Katniss as she portrays the character’s many sides: a girl unsure of herself at some times while overly confident at others. A reluctant leader with an unimaginable burden. A moody teenager and a heroine.
The squalor in which District 12 residents live was illustrated well in the movie. The people are poor, and selection in the Games is like a death sentence. Career tributes come from districts that prep their children to not only compete, but win. Those from districts 1 and 2 are usually the winners. Katniss stepping up is not only brave and meaningful for her sister, but for the entire area.
The Games have an Olympic-type quality in the book, and nothing was lost in the film. The tributes are pampered from head to toe and ride in to the Capitol in horse-drawn chariots. They undergo intense training with each other to learn how to battle. They are interviewed by Caesar Flickerman (perfectly played by Stanley Tucci) to gain sympathy and hopefully support from sponsors.
Then night falls, and the Games begin the next day.
Reading the book, I was on the edge of my seat as the tributes prepped themselves for its beginning. I felt that same nervous energy watching the film. It was exhilarating to watch.
I think if people have to choose between the book and the movie, the book often wins. I felt the same way about the film adaptation. Some of the changes were necessary, such as the ESPN-like commentary about certain elements of the game. Also, the book is solely from Katniss’ point of view, so some parts of the story were modified in order for audience members who haven’t read the book to understand what was going on.
Other parts of the movie were changed so much that I felt some of the essence of the story was lost. I was slightly underwhelmed at times, and felt like certain parts of the story were crammed together. However, fans of the film will still be satisfied by seeing these unforgettable characters and their story come to life.
Supporting cast members include Woody Harrelson as Haymitch, the often-drunk, belligerent mentor for District 12; Elizabeth Banks, nearly unrecognizable as Effie Trinket, the District 12 representative from the Capitol; Lenny Kravitz as Cinna, the stylist for District 12 tributes; Josh Hutcherson as Peeta Mellark, the male tribute from District 12; and Donald Sutherland as President Snow.