The filmmakers who made it their mission to keep author Suzanne Collins’ vision for The Hunger Games kept their word. This adaptation passionately and colorfully brings Collins' words to life.
The story is told through the eyes of Katniss Everdeen, a 16-year-old girl living in Panem, a post-apocalyptic North America. After the devastation of war and famine, North America is divided into 13 districts run by dictator, President Snow of the Capitol. The uprising of District 13, which resulted in their ultimate annihilation, prompts the Capitol to developing what is known as the Hunger Games. Katniss, a citizen of District 12, becomes a volunteer competitor for the Hunger Games in a process known as The Reaping. Select individuals are forced to participate in a flamboyant, Olympian style competition where adolescents fight to the death. Their only reward is life and never feeling the pain of hunger again.
The games are used as a device of manipulation to keep control over the districts and give the citizens a false sense of hope. The apocalyptic drama leaves little to the imagination. It examines the totalitarian state of Panem with a fluid plot. The human drama that unfolds is well-paced and so vivid that you become completely enthralled in the realistic creative world of the competition and forget the desolate state of the districts. Director Gary Ross proves time and time again why he is the perfect director for this film. From co-writing the screenplay to consulting in casting, set design and wardrobe, Suzanne Collins remained heavily involved as Ross' right hand.
Jennifer Lawrence is phenomenal as Katniss. Most audiences are aware of Lawrence's lack of fear. Especially after her Oscar-nominated performance in Winter's Bone. In The Hunger Games, Lawrence is powerful, venerable and gorgeous without wavering from her commitment to Katniss. Her athleticism complements her advanced archery skills in the film. Each character plays a vital role to the progression of Katniss as they attempt to make sense of this menacing society. Woody Harrelson is Haymitch Abernathy, the mentor and former winner of the Hunger Games. After reading the novel, I envisioned Abernathy to be much older. Harrelson is so true to the character that his portrayal of the rarely sober, realist is instantly accepted. A stark contrast is mentor/stylist, Cinna, played by Lenny Kravitz. Ross hand-picked Kravitz for the role; he brings elegance, competitiveness and poise to this character.
With the precision of a surgeon, Ross brings us into the Hunger Games competition. Elizabeth Banks' naïve approach to Effie, the District 12 representative, works very well. She acts as the guide to the colorful and absurd world of the Capitol. Stanley Tucci's character, Ceasar Flickerman is the cheeky Hunger Games, live broadcast host. Tucci has no shame navigating the audience through the immorality of children killing children. Donald Sutherland's soft-spoken hostility as the Capitol's President Snow is downright creepy. His portrayal of the blood-curdling leader can be compared to any known dictator.
To experience the movie as a fan of the novel was rewarding. Some of the followers of the book may be too young to see the graphic, PG-13 film version. Parents should be equipped to discuss the achromatic plot. After all, there's a machete, spears, killer bees and neck-breaking, all by the hands of children. For the kids, not of age to know the capitals of the 50 United States, it is likely that they will only walk away with the extreme violence of this surveillance terror. The Hunger Games is one of the most highly anticipated films of the year will not disappoint. It will excite and create the desire for the next installment.