The Hunger Games
"May the Odd Be Ever In Your Favor"
Some time ago, at least 80 years, there was some sort of failed uprising. As punishment for their uprising, The Treaty of Treason was written, and from it, the following:
“In penance for the 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”
And that’s the gist of The Hunger Games. The story follows Katniss Everdeen. Her younger sister, age 12, is chosen as the female Tribute for the 74th Annual Hunger Games so, to spare her sister from near-certain death, Katniss volunteers as Tribute, taking her sister’s place.
The movie was simple enough and I gave it a 9. Here’s why.
Originality: “In a dystopian world, someone must compete in order to feed their family/escape the circumstances.” is pretty much the formula for such dystopian tales. It’s hard to take a point away from something that could be a “subgenre”, but to me, it just seems more Mad-Lib than anything else. There are a few genres and subgenres like that. Either way, Minus one for this one. I will note that, as I’m going to be reviewing the entire series, I will be looking at how the story expands and moves forward so future installments may escape this judgment. As to be fair to the writer of the source material, Suzanne Collins, who also works on these films, if I was going to write a book to appeal to an audience, I’d probably follow a trope too.
Originality: 1 point
Character: The movie is in three parts - District 12, where Katniss lives, The training facility/Capitol, and the arena. The characters in each are different and with “all things considered”, should be examined separately.
District 12: This is the dystopian environment where the people have been impoverished for at least 74 years. Many of the people I saw weren’t very old so it’s unlikely that anyone there knew what life was like before the Games. They’ve gotten used to being poor and it’s just “life” to them. I don’t expect them to be “Oh, woe is me” any more than I’d expect dancing in the streets, especially since this day is a somber one. They must send children to fight to the death with a 1-24 chance of survival. Even if the eventual winner came from their district, they’re sending two and only getting back one. That’s tough no matter what. Everyone is in that somber frame and it makes sense to me.
The Capitol/Training Facility: Once Katniss and Peeta (pronounced like Peter), the male of District 12, are chosen, they are taken by train to the Capitol where the wealthy people live in nice homes, have clean streets, wear bright colorful clothes, and eat to their heart’s content.
Because no one from the Capitol is up for the Games, the Games are literally just entertainment for them and it shows. They’re emotionally unattached. Checks out.
The Arena: Okay, I have a slight issue here. There are a few districts that train their tributes for competition in the Hunger Games and some of the kids team up with their sights on Katniss. Why team up like this without personal stakes in their survival? These kids are going to have to kill each other because there’s only one survivor. Don’t know what their endgame plan was, but it’s fine.
Characters: 2 points
Story: As mentioned, Katniss and Peeta are the Tributes from District 12 and are taken to the Capitol to join the other 22 Tributes (two from all 12 Districts, a grand total of 24) for the 74th Hunger Games. While this is a moment of sadness and tragedy for those in the Districts, The Hunger Games are treated more akin to the way the Olympics are in real life. The Tributes are interviewed on television, given lavish accommodations, and touted like celebrities on a PR run for the sake of Sponsors.
Sponsors are people who like you enough to help finance you once you’re in the Hunger Games which is live-streamed. A lot of the middle of the movie is Katniss not giving a damn about Sponsors and Peeta doing everything he can to woo the audience with a heart-jerking story of “complicated love” because of his “feelings” for Katniss, who he’d seen around District 12 for a while.
This becomes an awkward point of contention at first, but Katniss is convinced that this is the best thing for her and Peeta to win over the Sponsors, because that will help them later on. Keep in mind, this, especially to those producing everything, is a TV show. They want viewers and ratings, so they enjoy the drama.
Once the Games begin, Katniss takes the advice of Haymitch, a former Hunger Games winner, and present-day drunk, who was assigned to Katniss and Peeta to help them prepare. The advice was to NOT run to the center where the weapons are. It’s a bloodbath. She doesn’t and it was indeed a bloodbath that she escaped.
Because of her high ranking due to her incredible archery skills, Katniss is a target of more of the competitors, especially that collective I mentioned earlier.
There are some ups and downs for Katniss. She’s attacked and seemingly betrayed by Peeta as he’s being used to find Katniss for the collective. She gets stung by a weird wasp thing. She helps a young girl named Rue who is then killed. And she starts to actually fall for Peeta.
This emotional connection is amplified when, in order to boost the drama, the Game Controller decides to change a Hunger Games rule allowing there to be two winners if they’re from the same District. This gives Katniss and Peeta new hope that maybe they can make it out together.
The typical fair really. I left out some of the details, but the gist of this is good progressive story-telling. A leads to B then to C. No gaps. Progression makes sense. Full points.
Story: 2 points
Ending: There’s a detail that I left out of the Story portion that adds more to the ending so I’ll discuss it here. Katniss is pretty rebellious and ultimately doesn’t want to “give the people what they want.”
Instead of actively trying to hurt the other Tributes, she spends her time away from them, kinda waiting things out…
…at least she tries.
The Arena is kinda like Star Trek’s Holodeck with the safety off (my apologies for non-Trek fans who have no idea what that means…but trust me on this one). There’s a 3D interactive model in the Control Room where engineers can modify the sky (daylight to nighttime) and create creatures to add flair to the Games.
Katniss does what she can to thwart the Games, but no more than here at the end. Just before they engage in the finale, Peeta had gathered berries that were poisonous. When it’s just them at the end, after feeling the relief that, because of the sudden rule change, they could both go home, the rule is changed back, meaning that the “Star-Crossed Lovers” will now tragically have to fight to the death.
Katniss comes up with the idea of her and Peeta taking the poison berries together leaving them with no Champion. Understanding her willingness to spit in the face of President Snow and the Hunger Games, they relent, allowing Katniss and Peeta to be co-Champions of the 74th Hunger Games…
…and President Snow isn’t happy about it.
Ending: 2 points
Enjoyment: 2 points
There are four movies in this franchise and I will be covering all four. Until then, thanks for reading.