From the Treaty of Treason:
“In penance for their uprising, each district shall offer up a male and female between the ages of 12 and 18 at a public “Reaping.” These Tributes shall be delivered to the custody of The Capitol, and then transferred to a public arena where they will Fight to the Death, until a lone victor remains. Henceforth and forevermore, this pageant shall be known as The Hunger Games.”
In the ruins of what used to be America is the nation of Panem. The Capitol governs and controls every aspect of the lives of the country’s inhabitants. But worse than the back-breaking work, government-run schools, and starvation, is the annual Hunger Games. To punish the 12 Districts of Panem for the rebellion nearly a century before – and to remind the citizens how little power they really have – 2 children from each district are chosen to fight in a gladitorial-like game until only one is left alive.
Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games follows the experience of Katniss Everdeen, a sixteen-year old girl from District 12, the poorest district in the country. Having grown up in the rough life of a coal-mining town, and having lost her father several years before, Katniss has become the provider and protector of her mother and younger sister. So when the Reaping day comes along and her sister’s name is chosen at random, Katniss volunteers to fight in her place. She is taken to the Capitol to prepare for the games.
I first read this book months ago, and watched the movie soon after. Seldom have I encountered a story that has had such a powerful impact on me – both as a warning, and an encouragement.
The first time I watched the movie in theaters, I must confess that I had mixed emotions. On one hand, I’d never seen such a faithful book-to-script adaptation – nearly all the lines were verbatim, and the sequence of events was almost exactly from the book. On the other hand, so much had to be shortened, removed, or changed that I was really disappointed. I had just finished the book the morning before watching the movie, and with such a fresh image in my mind, I felt that the movie fell short of the book.
After getting over the initial shock of having certain characters or scenes removed, though, the real beauty of the movie was able to shine for me. I was able to see the same story that I had loved in book-form, just interpreted and produced in a slightly new way. Some things just can’t be described, or shown, in a movie. While The Hunger Games movie makers did change up some things, they stayed very true to the author’s original messages and intentions.
The most powerful message I received from the book was to beware of big government. I know that other readers got different impressions, but I happened to be studying U.S. History at the time that I read The Hunger Games. Let me tell you, it was scary. The similarity between the cruel, all-powerful government of the Capitol, and the trends America’s government has made within the past century was astounding. The idea of Americans slowly and gradually losing their rights until a situation as horrible as that in The Hunger Games was very real and very awful to me as I read it.
This idea of the absolute control that the Capitol held over Panem didn’t come across nearly as powerfully in the movie. It still was there, and it still was powerful, but not as much as in the book. Also, the literal hunger and thirst, and general fight for survival against the elements wasn’t able to play out as much in the movie. Because the movie wasn’t able to convey everything that the book did, I would definitely suggest reading the book before watching the movie.
In the role of Katniss Everdeen was Jennifer Lawrence. She did a fantastic job!
Josh Hutcherson played Katniss’s fellow tribute, the baker’s son, Peeta Mellark. He did an amazing job becoming Peeta.
Both of these lead characters were excellent. They conveyed so much depth and emotion in each scene. The supporting characters like Gale, Haymitch, Rue, Cinna, Effie, and Caesar were also perfect.
The cinematography was really interesting. Being an adaptation of a first-person present book, the movie-makers captured the feeling of being Katniss. They did this by often using hand-held cameras and occasionally shooting the scene as if you were seeing through Katniss’s eyes. You almost forget that you’re watching a movie! You feel as if you’re out in the woods with the characters. Never before have I felt so personally involved when watching a show as in watching The Hunger Games. My heart pounds when Katniss’s does. I’m filled with fear or sadness when she is, and when she’s relieved, I sigh along with her. This is an incredible feat produced by not only the actor’s performance, but also the unique style of shooting the movie.
But the heart of The Hunger Games lies in warning the audience. It is a warning against passively allowing the government to take over our rights and liberty. It’s a warning against turning into the kind of people that the Capitol are – cruel, comfort-loving, heartless people for whom luxury and entertainment are everything. Most of all, it is a warning against desensitization. The Capitol is a society that considers children killing children to be delightful entertainment. Though many viewers of The Hunger Games are shocked (and rightly so) at this, our own society increasingly considers violence on television as enjoyable or fun. The Hunger Games is a glimpse into what this “entertainment” could turn into if our present course is left unchanged. It’s a sobering reminder that each and every person is precious, priceless, and irreplaceable.
(Obviously with a story centered around a gladitorial-like system, there’s going to be quite a bit of violence. My recommendation is age 15 and up.)
At the end of the day, I found that – more than all the other critiques and warnings – The Hunger Games spoke to me of self-sacrificing love. The love that made Katniss willing to volunteer as tribute in her sister’s stead. The type of love that caused Peeta to continually lay his own life down for Katniss. It’s a beautiful thing to see so many examples of this Christ-like love in The Hunger Games.
Something else struck me when I was watching the movie. Selflessness doesn’t necessarily begin with risking your life for a friend. It may end with that. But it begins with the things that seem simple. In Peeta’s case, his love for Katniss ended with him fighting hand-to-hand with enemies much bigger than himself. It started long before that. It began with taking a scolding and a beating to get her some bread when she was starving. The small decisions to die to yourself often end up being the most important.
The Hunger Games is a captivating story of survival, compassion, and love. I was encouraged, saddened, inspired, and forced to think. The characters became my friends – the type of friends that are worthy of being imitated. Every time I watch the movie, I grow. Watching Katniss and Peeta, seeing them love one another in the very real, beautiful, sometimes dangerous way that Christ wants us to love, makes me want to be more like them. And more like Christ. It won’t happen overnight. It’s a journey, one that I’ll be taking all my life. Selfless love isn’t always easy, but it’s always worth it. And I’m thankful to The Hunger Games for reminding me of that.