“May the Odds Be Ever in Your Favor,” the iconic phrase represents a lingering theme throughout the movie. Although the odds are never in anyone’s favor in this clever adaptation of the best-selling novel by Suzanne Collins, the film leaves audiences laughing, crying and occasionally jumping in terror from the many twists and turns thrown at them. Directed by Gary Ross. and staring the talents of Jennifer Lawrence as the sullen but determined sixteen year old Katniss Everdeen (Mystique in “X-Men First Class”) and Josh Hutcherson the quiet but likeable baker’s son Peeta Mellark (Jess Aarons in “Bridge to Terabithia”), critics and audiences alike agree “Hunger Games” is “entertaining.” According to Peter Rainer of The Christian Science Monitor, the pacing is “remarkably swift, given that the games themselves don’t start until halfway through the 144-minute running time.”
“Hunger Games” takes place in North America in the distant future where a country called Panem rose to power. Originally there were thirteen districts and a sector known only as the Capitol. Many years ago, the districts rose up against the Capitol in a rebellion. After being hopelessly defeated by the Capitol, including the horrible destruction of District 13, the remaining twelve districts signed a treaty of treason. As punishment for the rebellion, the Capitol invented the Hunger Games. Once a year one young man and woman, called “Tributes”, between the ages of twelve and eighteen are selected and sent to the Capitol to fight to the death in a specially designed arena with only one allowed to come out alive. The main character, Katniss Everdeen, is sent to the games after volunteering to be tribute when her twelve year old sister Prim was selected in the random lottery. Peeta Mellark is selected as the male tribute and together they travel with their mentor Haymitch, who won the 50th Hunger Games, to the Capitol for four days of training. In the arena Katniss faces not only her other competitors, who have been training their whole lives for the games, she also faces starvation, dehydration, fires and mutant creatures that resemble wolves thrown in so the Capitol’s audience does not get bored. At the finale of the games, Katniss and Peeta attempt suicide and are both declared winners.
Some reviews criticize the film for not following the book or leaving crucial elements out. This is certainly not the case. While watching, those who have read the book will notice a couple details here and there that are out of place or left out entirely, but it certainly does not detract from the overall experience of the film. The best part of “Hunger Games” is Lawrence’s performance of Katniss. While Katniss is portrayed in a slightly more likeable and somewhat maternal, whereas in the books she is more calculated and sometimes downright selfish. Lawrence does an incredible job portraying Katniss’ loyalty to her family and her unmatched will to survive. Despite all her courage, Lawrence’s character is selfish and struggles with distinguishing between the “right” decision and the “best” decision. She is refreshingly human as compared to other young adult fiction characters, such as Bella from “Twilight”.
The only aspect of the film, and consequently the book, that grates is the love triangle between District Twelve’s male tribute Peeta, Katniss and Gale (Katniss’ friend who hunts with her in District Twelve). At best the relationships between Peeta and Katniss, and Gale and Katniss seems strained. It is as though Collins threw Gale and Katniss together to make the book fit better into the young adult genre.
However, with that exception “Hunger Games” is thrilling, heart wrenching and thought provoking. Even for a book meant for young adults, the book and film can be appreciated by those of all ages.
“Happy Hunger Games and may the odds be ever in your favor”