Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Hunger Games

"The Hunger Games" (2012)
     I've been wanting to do this movie review for a long, long time! I just saw Catching Fire on Saturday (which was AMAZING!!), but like with my Thor review, I think should review the first movie before I do the second one. My first introduction to The Hunger Games was actually through the movie, which we watched on TV. I had heard of the books, but really had no interest in them, but after seeing the movie, I went to the library and picked up the first book...and couldn't put it down! You can read my book review here. Afterwards, my sister and then my mom and then my younger sister and then my dad all started reading the books, so needless to say, we're all slightly obsessed with The Hunger Games.

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Katniss Everdeen
Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen in
"The Hunger Games" (2012)
      The term 'bundle of contradictions has never been more relevant than when it comes to describing 16 year old Katniss Everdeen, a young resident of District 12 in totalitarian run Panem (former U.S.A and Canada) who lives in a destitute coal mining town. Although not heartless by any accounts, Katniss is aloof and untrusting of people around her, ever since her beloved father died in a mining accident when she was 12. Katniss is left to care for her sweet younger sister Primrose "Prim" and her mother, who goes through deep depression episodes due to her husband's death. Katniss uses her skills as an archer to provide for her small family as well as to help her friend Gale and his family.

     Her life is far from idyllic, but Katniss has accepted the fact that she will live in District 12 until the day she dies. Although, she has to face the chance of certain death every year at the Reaping, where one boy and one girl, between the ages of 12 and 18, are selected from each of the 12 Districts of Panem, to fight to the death in the blood hungry Hunger Games which is broadcast throughout all of the country. For 74 years, Panem has held the Hunger Games as punishment toward the Districts when they created an uprising against the government. All people fear the idea of having to take part of The Hunger Games, even emotionless Katniss Everdeen, who has more reason to worry now that her sister, the only happiness in her lonely life, is now of age. Confident that first timers never get chosen, Katniss just wants to get the Reaping over with and carry on with her life.

     Except her life comes to a mind blowing change when indeed, Primrose's name is called. In a frenzy of fear and rage, Katniss runs up to the front and screams "I VOLUNTEER! I VOLUNTEER AS TRIBUTE! (now immortalized in the history of YA literature). Everyone around her is in complete shock and disbelief at her rash decision, but all Katniss is thinking about is protecting her younger sister, no matter the cost. After the male tribute is chosen, both children are taken away from their homes to the Capitol, the materialistic and worldly city that holds the Hunger Games.

     For 2 weeks, Katniss and 23 other tributes are completely indulged in Capitol life. Katniss is dressed up and put on parade and show for the Capitol and trains for competition in the arena. While there, Katniss sees that there is some good in the Capitol, mainly in her idealistic stylist Cinna, but in all general sense the Capitol and anything relating to The Hunger Games is shallow and inhumane. The day finally comes where Katniss enters the arena and the battle for victor of The Hunger Games begins.

      Determined not to kill, but also not to be killed, Katniss relies of her talents of archery, hunting, and nature identification to make it to the end. She must face forest fires, tracker jackers, an allience of several tributes, cold, hunger, and the constant fear of being found and killed. Even in the midst of all the dark and terror, Katniss finds hope in precious District 11 resident, Rue who helps her fight the alliance, which only leads to her death and from Peeta Mellark, the male tribute from Distict 12 whose generous and moral nature is what helps him to survive.

     In the end, Katniss and Peeta are the only ones left standing and must decide who lives and who dies. Katniss believes that the only way to do what is right is to defy the government's belief of self preservation and both take their own lives. Just before it happens, it's announced that both are now victors and are finally released from the arena. They are honored and praised for their bravery and are taken back to their home, in hopes of returning back to their normal lives. Except the Capitol is not pleased with Katniss defiance and she is unaware of what her humanity has unleashed.

     In all honesty, Jennifer Lawrence did a wonderful job with her portrayal of Katniss Everdeen (I'm not going to lie though, I am getting sick and tired of hearing how wonderful the girl actually is). Playing an often times emotionless character that is cut off from the world is difficult, but Jennifer pulled it off effortlessly. I'm also glad that they didn't make Katniss stunningly beautiful as well. Don't get me wrong, I think that Jennifer Lawrence is beautiful, but they really made an effort to showcase her natural beauty that was fitting for the character.

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Peeta Mellark
Josh Hutcherson as Peeta Mellark in
"The Hunger Games" (2012)
     District 12 tribute, Peeta Mellark is as opposite from Katniss Everdeen as one can get. Where Katniss is reserved and quiet, Peeta is outgoing and talkative. Katniss only gets along with people if she needs to, but Peeta makes an attempt to befriend people...even if it's for his own benefit. In all reality, Peeta is just as complex and confusing as Katniss herself. Although, intensely moral, Peeta really has no allegiance to anyone. He has an incredible gift of negotiating and using his words to do what needs to be done. His high principles tend to mask his cunning intellect and extreme intelligence as well as his unusual gift of camouflage, which he learned from decorating cakes in his family bakery.

     In spite of his gifts and strengths, Peeta can be self-deprecating, brought on by a distant and demanding mother and older brothers who have nothing to do with him. He firmly believes in Katniss returning to District 12 is it's victor and doesn't mind telling her that, but that doesn't deter Katniss from seeing the same greatness and potential in Peeta as a victor.

     When Peeta and Katniss arrive in the Capitol, Peeta is rather taken by the Capitol, the people and the major differences between the wealthy city and his own poor hometown. He is able to use his ability with words to charm the people of the Capitol, but when he makes it public that he's in love with Katniss, she's horrified and enraged. Although, Katniss firmly believes that she is not in love with Peeta, the idea of two star-crossed lovers from the same District charms all of the Capitol and Peeta may have given them both (or Katniss, at least) a small chance of survival. Later that night he admits to Katniss that his fear isn't dying in the arena, but rather being turned into a pawn for the Capitol's use, losing his humanity for the sole sake of survival and glory.

     After Peeta arrives in the arena he must count on only his negotiating skills, cleverness and moral conscience to get out alive. He joins the alliance of career tributes, but only to secretly ensure that Katniss is safe. Afterwards he is seriously wounded by another tribute and is found by Katniss. While hiding in a cave, Peeta tells Katniss of the first time he fell in love with her, which actually softens her heart toward him.

     When they finally get to the end of the games, Peeta believes that Katniss should live, but she has other plans. After they are announced victors, they continue the illusion of lovers, but have in reality finally become friends. when they arrive home, Peeta believes that they can now put the whole ordeal of The Hunger Games and finally be at peace, but peace is never an option when the Capitol is concerned.

     Josh Hutercherson did a remarkable job as Peeta Mellark! What I enjoyed the most about Peeta was that he wasn't the stereotyped tall, dark, handsome hero who just so happens to be good at everything. He's compassionate and generous and above all, the embodiment of humane moral principal and Josh pulled all of that off effortlessly.

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Gale Hawthorne
Liam Hemsworth as Gale Hawthorne in
"The Hunger Games" (2012)

     Katniss' hunter partner and only friend, Gale seems to be the epitome of perfection in the eyes of most of the girls in District 12. Handsome, intelligent and a fighter, Gale has no problem spouting his beliefs about the Hunger Games or the Capitol. Katniss herself, just sees him as her friend who has unrealistic dreams about a future that is illegal to dream about. Like Katniss, Gale lost his father in the same coal mining accident, but it was what incidentally brought the two of the together. He adores Katniss and she in return admires him (even when he annoys her). Gale is the only person, besides Prim, that Katniss will get close to and even make her smile. 

     Although not really mentioned in the book it's hinted at in the movie that Gale is in love with Katniss and she is too blind to see it. He's taken by her strength and duty to her family as well as her skills as a hunter. When Katniss volunteers as tribute, Gale takes responsibility for Prim and her mother until she returns. Gale believes that Katniss has the will power to survive the Panem arena and come back as victor. What he didn't realize was how hard it was going to be watching the girl he secretly loves pretend to love someone else as it's broadcast all over the country. And after they return, it will only get harder.

     I like Liam Hemsworth...a lot! Seriously though, with what little screen time he had, he made every minute (sometimes second) count. Within the first few minutes of meeting Gale, you're immediately introduced to a friendly and honorable man who only wants what is best for his family and his district. 

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Haymitch Abernathy
Woody Harrelson as Haymitch Abernathy in
"The Hunger Games" (2012)
     Victor of the 50th Hunger Games event, Haymitch made history as the only Tribute from District 12 to survive the games. Now 25 years later, he's a lonely drunk who must spend every summer mentoring and training children from his own District and watch as they're killed. So needless to say, Haymitch isn't exactly the best company to have around, but when he's sober he holds a surprising amount of wisdom from his experience in the games as well as being very knowledgeable about the Capitol and how it's run. 

     When Haymitch meets Katniss and Peeta, he's less than thrilled about having to go back to mentoring, but gets quite a surprise when Katniss challenges him at the breakfast table and when Peeta seems to make an attempt to want to survive. He realizes that these are not ordinary children. When they arrive at the Capitol, Haymitch teaches them basic survival, not necessarily in the arena, but in training where the tributes are all judged on their strongest skills. He begins to have a growing fondness for Katniss and probably sees a lot of himself in her when he was that age. 

     While watching his two tributes in the games, Haymitch's heart is softened at their tenacity and survival and does whatever it takes to keep them, especially Katniss, alive. After Katniss defies the government Haymitch issues a warning that she may have put herself and Peeta into more danger and that the Capitol is not as forgiving as he is.

     Haymitch is one of those characters where you hate him one moment and love him the next. As a mentor for survival, he's great. As someone you want to pour out your heart to, then forget about it. Sentimentality is as foreign to Haymitch as permanent sobriety. Yet, his wisdom for arena and Capitol survival is all that he can give to Katniss and Peeta and when they survive they give him something he never thought he could achieve, hope.

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President Coriolanus Snow
Donald Sutherland as President Coriolanus Snow in
"The Hunger Games" (2012)
     The cruel autocratic dictator of Panem who gives the illusion of a benevolent leader. President Snow is a sadistic and frightning presence no matter where he is. He can inspire terror without raising his voice and can evoke horror without even looking up. Yet, underneath that facade of calm President Snow is afraid. He fears another uprising from the Districts, one that was worse than before, which is why he is adamant to continue the games. In his twisted mind the games can have a duel effect. Although they were created as punishment, they can be used as a sense of balanced behavior when a District victor is crowned, of which he explained to gamemaker Seneca Crane.
"...why do we have a winner? I mean, if we just wanted to intimidate the districts, why not round up twenty-four at random and execute them all at one? It would be a lot faster. Hope. It is the only thing stronger than fear. A little hope is effective. A lot of hope is dangerous. Spark is fine, as long as it's contained."
     President Snow may seem safe in his psychotic philosophy, but he becomes somewhat concerned when a young girl from District 12 volunteers as tribute in her sister's place and proceeds to take all of Panem by storm. He watches as she chooses humanity and dignity over survival and glory. For the first time there is someone who has found the courage to challenge the powerful and that does not bode well for President Snow and his government. What started out as a flicker of hope may become an inferno of rebellion, something President Snow never planned on happening.

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Effie Trinket
Elizabeth Banks as Effie Trinket in
"The Hunger Games" (2012)
      Shallow and materialistic are the best descriptions for born and bred Capitol resident Effie Trinket, representative and escort of District 12. Completely clueless to life outside of the Capitol and always ambitious to out due anyone around her, Effie has no moral conscience when it comes to the games. She sees it as en event where she can be seen and praised for her 'hardwork.' Incredibly demanding and self-preserving, at first Effie spends a good deal of time looking down on her two young tributes than she does taking care of them. Effie is a prime example of the worldliness of the Capitol and its remission of the outside world.

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Lenny Kravitz as Cinna in
"The Hunger Games" (2012)
     Unlike his friend and Capitol resident Effie Trinket, up and coming stylist Cinna is neither shallow or materialistic. He sees barbaric nature of the games, the greed of the Capitol, as well as the suffering of the outside Districts and longs for change as much as they do. Only problem is, seeing as he works for the Capitol and therefore President Snow, Cinna must keep his own beliefs secret or risk being arrested or even killed.

     Then he meets the brave girl from District 12 who volunteered in her sister's place and suddenly all that he has believed in and hoped for begins to come together. If he can help this girl become a beacon of hope for these Districts by using his own Capitol talents, wouldn't that be a better use of his time? He starts it with telling Katniss to have pride in her District and inevitably makes her a success with his extremely talented designs. Before she leaves for the arena he gives her the Mockingjay pin she brought with her from home and with no words at all tells her "You are more than you seem. You are hope. You are light. You are our freedom. You are my freedom."

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     A story over love found in a hopeless place, good overcoming evil (but not entirely vanquishing it), a controversial game that is played by more than just children and the ideal of doing what is right no matter what the cost may be. I found the movie just as engaging as the book and I'm glad in many ways that I saw the movie first so I didn't have too high expectations as I probably would have if I had read the books first.

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