The Hunger Games
Release Date: March 22 2012
The Hunger Games has all but tripled the money invested in it in just over a week, demonstrating convincingly that a compelling storyline can still overcome a film’s big-screen drawbacks.
The Hunger Games is the story of Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), a sixteen-year-old girl living in the down-and-out coal district of a futuristic world. The United States as we understand them have given way to a world where thirteen districts are ruled over by the iron hand of Capitol City. Rebellion was attempted about a century ago, but the districts were soundly defeated and forced to pay a barbaric annual tribute ever since: a boy and a girl from each region every year to fight to the death for the televised entertainment of the pampered Capitol City populace. These are ‘The Hunger Games’. When Katniss’ younger sister is chosen to participate, the teenager finds herself volunteering for the bloodthirsty event in order to set her free. Now Katniss has to consider, how much of herself is she prepared to sacrifice in order to save her own life?
A $78 million dollar investment has already reaped over $210 million internationally at the box offie. The Hunger Games was always going to be a big hit with the teen market, thanks to the proliferation of the books on which the film is based. Suzanne Collins’ trilogy spent more than a hundred weeks on the New York Times Best Seller list and The Hunger Games has since found its way on to numerous school curriculums. That built in market is currently reflecting itself in the surge of first week ticket sales and is likely to grow as the holidays deliver more spare time to Australian kids. However how readers react to the big screen version will still be interesting to watch.
As part of this review I sent four people with varying degrees of experience with Collin’s series. The two who had never read the books were amazed. One said it was, “Great just to see something totally original.” The two who had read some or all of the books were a little guarded. “It was a great book to film translation,” – with the emphasis suggesting the book was still tops. My personal opinion is that The Hunger Games suffers a little from the success surrounding the novels and the involvement of Collins in the scripting process. Like the first Harry Potter film, the producers have been so keen not to kill the golden goose that the result becomes a little ‘colour by numbers’. Fans will easily end up checking off all the key scenes, without much room left for surprise. That said, it also means that the key themes of the film are also intact.
When Collins set out to write The Hunger Games she was reflecting on how the way television has turned even the most serious subjects into fodder for entertainment. Nightly news hosts look more like game show hosts with every passing week, and the creation of reality television competitions can produce programs that teach us to enjoy the prospect of other peoples’ suffering. With the Nine Network set to reintroduce Big Brother this year, it’s worth considering whether the best way we can distinguish ourselves as Christian viewers is to not view at all.
Which leads me to one of the best ideals to emerge from The Hunger Games. It becomes obvious fairly early on that though the residents may be excited by the various Hunger Games contestants, they’re hardly concerned about their lives. True concern involves cost, like deciding to turn away from that which everyone else is enjoying. Or, in the case of Peeta Mellark, Katniss’ love interest, it includes doing more than just throwing a starving girl a loaf of burnt bread:
Peeta : I think about that all the time. How I tossed you that bread.
Katniss : Peeta…
Peeta Mellark: I should have gone to you. I should have just gone out into the rain…
Our objections to evil can be passive – we can not do something to someone that we wouldn’t want them to do to us. But Jesus took a much more active approach. He told his disciples, “Do to others the things you would want them to do to you.” Yes, he wouldn’t have just stopped watching; he would have been out in the rain.