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I don’t go into a movie expecting to be changed. After all, films aren’t real— that’s what my dad always used to say. The blood is just ketchup, sweetheart, and the monsters are puppets.
But “The Hunger Games” was different; it was an exception.
Sure, I’d read the books. I’d followed the fandom, I’d reveled in the hype and absorbed the analytical reviews of my friends. But seeing it was something entirely new.
“The Hunger Games” tells the story of sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives in a post-nuclear-war country known as Panem. Panem is segmented into 12 unique districts, each of which must sacrifice one boy and one girl as tributes for the 74th annual Hunger Games. These Games are a fight-to-the-death, where only one can be the winner, and every aspect is controlled by the Capitol, a semi-utopian society where citizens lounge about in flamboyant colors and cheer as children murder each other. Basically, it’s a futuristic repeat of the Ancient Roman gladiator battles. Except with kids.
Now, while I’m sure that all sounds lovely, the brilliance behind this film is not entirely within the plot. There’s a certain artistry with this movie that one doesn’t see often. At 3:00 today, I sat in a packed theatre with an absurdly large Diet Coke, but I felt as if branches were cracking beneath my feet, as if I was running alongside Katniss in the Games.
First of all, the acting was stellar. I’ll admit I was skeptical at first, seeing Jennifer Lawrence (“Winter’s Bone,” “X-Men: First Class”) as Katniss and Josh Hutcherson (“Bridge to Terabithia,” “The Kids Are All Right”) as Peeta Mellark, Katniss’ fellow tribute and love interest. They didn’t look like the characters I’d imagined – they looked like plastic Hollywood versions of fleshed-out fiction characters.
But then I saw the movie, and they came alive. Lawrence played a stunning Katniss: rugged and beautiful, cold and calm, while still retaining some sense of humanity—love of her sister, desperation to win, hope for resolution. Hutcherson far exceeded my expectations, giving Peeta the shy wisdom and winning smile that was so interesting in the books. Even Liam Hemsworth (“The Last Song“) played a decent Gale — Katniss’ friend from her district — although he only had several, small scenes.
And the costuming. Don’t even get me started on the costuming. The artwork displayed in this film was superb, almost reaching the imagination shown in movies such as “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.“ The Capitol characters were ridiculous, fashioned from head to toe in color, dripping with neon make-up and five-inch eyelashes. Katniss and others walked about in ‘50s style clothing during the beginning of the movie, which I couldn’t help but find symbolic. After all, weren’t the 1950’s right after World War II? Katniss’ world blooms after a World War III. It seems Director Gary Ross wanted to show history repeating itself.
Cinematography was also excellent. Unique angles and shaky positioning gave an extra edge, leaving me feeling disoriented without being disconnected. I found myself slowly becoming “a piece in the Games.”
But perhaps what I liked best was the questions the movie incited, the uncomfortable, terrifying thoughts it provoked. I left the movie theatre affected—changed, as I mentioned earlier. My head was spinning.
Gary Ross directed his film in such a way that parallels between Panem and America could be made with little to no effort. They were obvious; they were everywhere. And maybe this causes a certain moral ambiguity that many of us aren’t comfortable with. Certainly, it was clear that Katniss and Peeta were the “good guys” and the Capitol was wildly misled in their ideals. Yet, you still start to see some shades of grey mix with our “good guys,” as they are forced to murder their comrades and endure horrible pain. The question is, could we really become this evil? I like to think ‘no.’ But “The Hunger Games” makes you wonder.
The movie emerges triumphant in just about every way. It stayed incessantly true to Suzanne Collins’ book, but I’m not here to hand out spoilers. The film is worth every cent of your hard-earned cash, so get out there and see it for yourself. Then post a comment below, and tell me exactly how you survived the 74th annual Hunger Games.
By Lauren Puckett