Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Hunger Games

From the Treaty of Treason: In penance for their uprising, each district shall offer up a male and female between the ages of 12 and 18 at a public "reaping".  These tributes shall be delivered to the custody of the Capitol.  And then transferred to a public arena where they will Fight to the Death until a lone victor remains.  Henceforth and forevermore this pageant shall be known as "The Hunger Games".

The first book from the best-selling series was adapted for the big screen by Gary Ross, who previously was known for "Seabiscuit" (2003) and "Pleasantville" (1998), captures the realness of the dystopian future world of "The Hunger Games".  Much like the books, the movie captures the urgent and compelling  and relentless narrative of 24 children that are thrust into circumstances that are so overwhelming that ultimately changes and defines them. 

The totalitarian nation of Panem is divided between 12 districts and the Capitol.  Each year two young representatives from each district are selected by lottery to participate in The Hunger Games.  The 24 participants are forced to eliminate their competitors while the citizens of Panem are required to watch. When 16-year-old Katniss's young sister, Prim (Willow Shields), is selected as District 12's female representative, Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) volunteers to take her place. She and her male counterpart Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), are pitted against bigger, stronger representatives, some of whom have trained for this their whole lives.

Katniss is trained by Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks), the escort that selects the tributes and brings them to the Capitol; Haymitch (Woody Harrelson), a previous champion that provides survival gifts; and her stylist Cinna (Lenny Kravitz).  The face of the Capitol is President Snow (Donald Sutherland) while the head game maker is Seneca Crane (Wes Bentley).  The games are hosted by Caesar (Stanley Tucci) and announced by Claudius (Toby Jones).  As you can see there are a lot of characters that don't even include the 24 tributes competing in the Hunger Games.  It can be a bit confusing exactly who each are, but once the games have started the intensity of the film really picks up. 

The performances by everyone are superb, however the connection between Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson didn't work for me.  I understand that Katniss is more interested in Gale (Liam Hemsworth), but there isn't anything to cheer for with regards to the relationship.  Since seeing Jennifer Lawrence in "Winters Bone" (2010) and "Like Crazy" (2011) there was no doubt that she would excel in the lead role.  For fans of her, you can also find her in "X-Men: First Class" and in theaters now "Silver Linings Playbook".  She is clearly one of the best young actresses in her 20s and I look forward to seeing what else she can do with "Catching Fire" in 2013. 

And the winners of the 74th Annual Hunger Games receive 4 Quacks.  The film captures a Roman gladiator feel while also giving a Shakespearian quality of star-crossed lovers including the idealic ending with Katniss and Peeta willing to sacrifice themselves.  Happy Hunger Games, and may the odds forever be in your favor. 

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