"...may the odds ever be in your favor..."
There's something so sinster and wrong about that catchphrase whenever someone says it throughout the hottest movie of 2012 - The Hunger Games. You sometimes get the distinct feeling the odds may never be in the main character's favor ...especially if that character is Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), cinema's newest teen heroine.
For those not in the "know" about what The Hunger Games is about, here's a brief synopsis of the first book (without giving too much information away). In a distant (or perhaps near) future, after many wars and devastating natural disasters, the US is no more and is now called Panem splitting it into thirteen districts and a capitol simply known as The Capitol. Yet there was another uprising between the inhabitants of District 13 and The Capitol in which the outcome birthed the annual bloodbath - The Hunger Games according to the peace treaty formed with the other 12 Districts. This televised sport (think American Idol, Olympics and Survivor sans the tribal council meshed into one) to the death pits one boy and one girl from each district to fight each other until one is left standing. Actually, The Games themselves is merely a government tool to remind the lowly 99% who controls them and their lives - cleverly used in the propoganda video shown during The Reaping (when the names of the "lucky" tributes are pulled out of a fishbowl) at District 12 during the movie version - the poorest out of all districts within Panem where Katniss lives with her semi-catonic mother (still mourning over the death of her husband) and sister Primrose (Willow Shields). Yet there's no excitement or support for the Games in this district no matter how hard Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks), one of the many fashionably colorful characters who work and reside inside The Capitol (where most of Panem's 1% call home) tries to instill the fake hope that someone from their district will win.
This reviewer liked how the screenwriters Suzanne Collins (who wrote the popular triology series) and Garry Ross (who also directed this movie) along with Bill Ray wonderfully capture the tense moments (especially during the scenes before The Reaping when Katniss and Prim are getting ready for it and at the start of the game) without any (or with a few words) of dialogue. Reading the blankless, silent facial expression from Katniss's mother as she helps her oldest daughter prepare was gutwrenching. As a mother of two daughters, SouthSide completely understood the pain and heartache this character was feeling about having to send one of her daughters to fight despite hoping they wouldn't be chosen ...knowing there would be a slim chance of returning alive. This reviewer also liked how they captured the differing reactions from District 12 to The Capitol as well as the twenty-four tributes on the playing field during the countdown. One could easily sense the range of emotions from Katniss' nervousness (especially after being sealed inside the tube to reach the arena) as she stares at Cinna (Lenny Kravitz), her stylist to the celebratory party mood within The Capitol for the 74th running of The Hunger Games that leaves a bitter taste with Haymitch (Woody Harrelson) - District 12's only past winner and mentor to Katniss and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson). The scene when he's observing the little boy excitedly chasing his sister with a sword clearly displays his distaste for the murderous spectacle even though he himself has to assist Katniss behind the scenes to survive.
Ah yes - survival - the keyword thoroughly interjected Katniss' mind from the time she volunteers as tribute to take her sister's place to through the entirity of the games where her skills as a hunter (when hunting with best friend Gale Hawthorne - Liam Hemsworth) truly become handy especially against District 2's killing machines Cato (Alexander Ludwig) and Clove - career tributes specially trained for The Hungers Games. And even though Effie emphatically states tributes from Districts 1 and 2 don't get any special favors and/or treatment during the competition, you can tell she's lying. Districts like 10 - 12, the odds are certainly set against them to win ...and that's how President Snow (Donald Sutherland) in a subtle way informs Head Gamemaker Seneca Crane (Wes Bentley) after telling Snow "...everyone loves an underdog..." Cheating does take on a whole new form during this movie as dangerous obstacles as tossed at Katniss' every direction ...whether it's Cato and his lethal band of bloodthirsty cohorts (in which includes Peeta) or The Capitol's genetically enhanced things (ie wild berries or tracker jackers) - all designed to wipe out her and the weaker gamers. True the scenes are somewhat violent throughout the actual Hunger Games itself yet in the movie, it's rather tame compared to what Suzanne wrote in her book. Still you get an idea of how grusome these Games are from the intense scenes when tributes race to the cornucopia to quickly grab weapons and/or packs as fast as they can before someone kills them in the process. Without giving away the ending, yes it does hint towards a sequel.
SouthSide, at first, was quite wary upon hearing there would be a movie adaption of Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games since Hollywood has the tenacity for chopping books to add and/or delete material as it sees fit for the audience (see review for the americanized version of The Girl With The Dragon Tatoo for more clarity). After seeing this movie, this reviewer thoroughly enjoyed how the screenplay was wonderfully crafted so that if you didn't get a chance to read the book (and SouthSide highly recommends that you do read the entire Suzanne Collins' series - way better than Twilight), you won't get lost during the nearly 2hr and 30 minute run time. Yes, some minor characters and/or details were either omitted, meshed together or added for this movie however the main important details still remained to easily follow as if you're reading the book itself on the big screen. Special kudos to the set, art and cinematography direction of The Hunger Games for translating the opulent look and splendor of what this reviewer imagined The Capitol would look ...more kudos to costume designer Judianna Makovsky for raiding Lady Gaga's closet and cosplay wigs to flamboyantly dress the 1% of Panem in the most outrageous clothing designs from Effie's powdered face and expensive dress suits to making Cinna's fire costumes (in which Katniss and Peeta wear during the opening ceremonies) come to life.
SouthSide also noted the cast was carefully selected for their roles for this movie especially Lenny Kravitz with his gold dust eyeshadow as Cinna the stylist (do not scoff at the title - being a stylist can equate to being costumer/publicist/confidant/cheerleader/advisor/friend and more wrapped into one person) and Stanley Tucci looking handsomely wild with blue hair as Cesar Flickerman, The Hunger Games version of Ryan Seacrest. There's one thing more why SouthSide recommends seeing The Hunger Games. Besides the strong female character portrayed by Jennifer Lawrence, the story's love triangle (between Peeta-Katniss-Gale) doesn't weigh down the movie (and book) so heavily compared to the other popularized teen series - Twilight. Here, there's NO brooding over "whom do I love the most" or creating conflict between Gale and Peeta to have them fighting over her ...and definitely NO "team" to choose because there's only one team to root for in this movie - Katniss (or District 12) - to win. To be honest, love is the farthest thing on our heroine's mind. She's only determined to survive and (hopefully) win The Hunger Games ...not for herself or the honor of representing her home district but for her sister. Love subtly comes into play between Katniss and Peeta yet the emotional feelings like he has for her really aren't there ...or are they since she was unwillingly forced into the "star crossed lovers" scenario.
Overall, The Hunger Games - a very good adaptation of Suzanne Collins' book ...worth the price to see it on the big screen before it hits the DVD / Blu-Ray. SouthSide cannot wait to see the sequel - Catching Fire.
Until next time, support your local scene,