En español | If you haven’t read The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins’s first installment of her best-selling trilogy, you’ll still enjoy this movie. And while the target audience for the books and film is the teenage Twilight crowd, there’s plenty of material here for grownups, including observations — intentional or not — from Collins and director Gary Ross (Seabiscuit) on violence, warfare, modern-day entertainment and society’s increasing class divides.
The Hunger Games is set in a futuristic North America that has survived wars and near-apocalypse. We’re left with a nation, called Panem, governed by a dictatorial Capitol, nestled in the area of the Colorado Rockies, where wealth — no, gluttony — abounds. The rest of the land is divided into 12 districts that serve the needs of the Capitol; the people of the districts remain suppressed and intimidated by the Capitol largely because of the Hunger Games, a punishment for the people’s rebellion 74 years earlier. Each year, on Reaping Day, a teenage boy and girl are selected, either by lottery or volunteer, from each district and entered into a nationally televised fight with one another until only one survivor (literally) remains. A twisted reality show, yes, and the residents of the Capitol love it!
Our heroine is Katniss Everdeen, a 16-year-old girl from District 12 (a coal mining area) who volunteers to enter the games in place of her beloved younger sister, who is selected by lottery. The extremely talented Jennifer Lawrence (of Winter’s Bone) was perfectly cast for this role, and she carries the film. Her fellow fighter (and love interest) from District 12 is Peeta Mellark, played by Josh Hutcherson (of The Kids Are All Right). The chemistry between Lawrence and Hutcherson is weak, probably to be ignited in the expected next of two more episodes, and Hutcherson has that adolescent appeal teens may love, but we won’t. Still, Woody Harrelson as Haymitch Abernathy, the heavy-drinking one-time Hunger Games victor and mentor to Katniss, offers a fascinating portrayal, as does Stanley Tucci as Caesar Flickerman, the Geraldo Rivera-style TV interviewer for the games telecast, and Donald Sutherland as President Coriolanus Snow, the cold-hearted despot of Panem.