Background: After the world fell apart because of war and famine, North America became the land of Panem. Thirteen districts were ruled by an oppressive government in the Capitol. The districts rebelled, and, when they were put back in their places, District 13 was destroyed. The treaty ending the rebellion mandated that, each year, the twelve remaining districts would send one male and one female tribute between the ages of 12 and 18 to the Capitol. The tributes would fight to the death in the “Hunger Games,” and only one tribute could survive.
Now: Katniss Everdeen (played by Jennifer Lawrence) is 16. After her father died in a mining accident, she took over caring for her younger sister, Prim, and her mother. When Prim’s name is called to be the female tribute from District 12, Katniss volunteers in her stead. Unfortunately, the male tribute, Peeta Mellark (played by Josh Hutcherson), is a boy with whom Katniss shares a history. However, they cannot afford to form a connection to each other when there can be only one victor.
With the help of Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson) and Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks), Katniss and Peeta must try to find a way to survive.
Characters and Actors
Katniss Everdeen (Lawrence) is a loner; her only friend is Gale Hawthorne (played by Liam Hemsworth). When she’s not in school, she is in the woods, hunting to make a living for her family. She breaks the rules in order to support herself, her sister, and her mother. However, she does not come across as the truly rebellious kind.
Jennifer Lawrence does a good job of portraying Katniss. The audience can feel her concern for her family. Unfortunately, Katniss’s emotions are supposed to be somewhat difficult to read, but I felt that, perhaps, Lawrence could have shown more of a struggle to keep those emotions from showing. In addition, when she is supposed to be faking emotions (and finding herself to actually start feeling them), the feelings seem too faked.
Peeta Mellark (Hutcherson) is a bonafide good boy. He is the baker’s son, and he definitely comes from a wealthier family than Katniss. He has never known real hunger (and certainly not near starvation), but he has suffered a hardship or two of his own. He is open and charismatic, as opposed to Katniss’s rough-around-the-edges and almost unfriendly persona.
Joshua Hutcherson was a good, though surprising, choice for Peeta. In the Reaping Day scene, I felt that he was not attractive enough to play the part, but he slowly changed my mind. Like Lawrence, Hutcherson could have put forth more emotion. His (unrequited) love could have been so much more effective, but, overall, Hutcherson made a favorable Peeta.
Woody Harrelson was an interesting choice to play Haymitch Abernathy. When I think of Haymitch, Harrelson is nowhere near what comes to mind. Harrelson just does not look like he has spent every day of the last twenty-four years in a drunken stupor. For Haymitch, drinking takes precedence over everything, and it should show–unkempt, unclean, unhealthy, that is Haymitch Abernathy. However, Harrelson does a good job of portraying the drunken mentor. Unfortunately, the audience does not get to see as much of him as would be desired. Some of the moments that best define his character (and the change his character goes through thanks to his tributes) have been cut out.
Elizabeth Banks makes a great Effie Trinket. Unfortunately, we do not get to see a whole lot of her. She is not what I had imagined physically (though that is mostly based on the makeup and costuming), but she acts exactly the way Effie Trinket should! She is completely focused on public perception. Banks does a wonderful job portraying what a shallow person Effie is supposed to be.
I feel there is little to say about the cinematography. It is straightforward. The relative lack of creativity sets the mood and tone for the movie. It is stark,and it is harsh–just like the world in which the characters live.
I have mixed responses to Gary Ross’s direction. There are moments where everything falls together perfectly, and then there are moments where it just does not. I tend to hold the director partially responsible for actors’ shortcomings. In this case, the moments where I feel Lawrence and Hutcherson should show more raw emotion, I blame partially on Ross. He let those moments exist when a little direction or redoing the scene could have given it the exact touch it lacks. However, overall, the movie comes together nicely, and I can forgive those few moments.
Sadly – and a great discredit to Ross and Suzanne Collins – I feel the writing is the worst part of this movie. If I had not read the book, I would feel the movie is well-written. Perhaps I would even find it to be amazingly written. However, I cannot help but to be severely disappointed. Mostly, I am disappointed in Collins because she wrote the book, and she helped to write the screenplay. She allowed so many changes to be made, changes that affect the meanings of events and symbols, changes that will affect the next movie in ways I cannot even stand to think about. I realize that, when a book is remade into a movie, changes have to be made. Of course a book that takes days to read cannot be made into a movie of reasonable length. However, the changes that were made in this case change things that, in my opinion, are essential to the story being told. I cannot help but be saddened by this.
I highly recommend the movie. It tells a great story, and it does a good job doing so. However, I feel I must warn fans of the book that the movie makes a lot of changes, some of which feel unnecessary and even frivolous.