Director: Gary Ross
Stars: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth
Running Time: 142 min
Based on the first part of a trilogy of books with the same name by Suzanne Collins, “The Hunger Games” is set in an unspecified post-apocalyptic and peaceful future. The price of food is rocketing. The citizens of the Capitol, the fortress city of the rich and powerful, annually select, through a lottery, a young boy and girl between the ages of 12 and 18 from each of the twelve districts to fight with each other to death. This is done live on television, leaving only one winner. Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) volunteers instead of her younger sister to lead this fierce battle.
16 year-old Katniss hails from the distinctly poor district 12, and area known for its rich supply of coal. She shows a rebellious streak and is the breadwinner who feeds her mother and younger sister. She has a talent for illegally hunting to sell goods on the black market with her best friend Gale (Liam Hemsworth).
“The Hunger Game’ is introduced in the film as “something that knits us all together” from the creator of this bloody live show. The poorer districts ask for food from the government; their names appear in the lottery. It’s a life defined by day-to-day survival.
The two selected protagonists of district 12, Katniss and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) are moved to the Capitol, where the conglomeration of technology and money are based. Like gladiators, they are treated like stars with big banquets and fancy clothes before they’re sent off to their deaths in an outdoor arena.
They meet their drunken trainer and previous winner Haymitch (Woody Harrelson), who introduces them to the manipulative nature of the game. Basically they have to please the audience in order to get more sponsors who will provide them with gifts of food and crucial items when they’re out there fighting for their lives.
Katniss understands she’s nothing but mere entertainment for the rich living in Capitol. Her bravery in standing up for her sister has already given her more points, but she has to keep it up by employing her talents in order to shift public opinion in her favor while audiences anticipating death.
The film is an analogy of the manipulation of media in our modern times, and how end-users are at the service of darker powers. I was reminded of Noam Chomsky, who has revealed the mass media schemes through the “manufacture of fear” in order to reach control.
Media manipulation is not new to Hollywood, from “Wag the Dog”, “1984” and “The Truman Show”, all hint in different ways, the power of the media industry in shifting people’s opinions towards war. But this is probably the first time this argument has been pitched at a younger generation.
Oscar nominated Jennifer Lawrence (“Winter’s Bone”) has proven once more that she’s a formidable presence. The film, on the other hand, sometimes lacks details that would have moved it closer to perfection. There are some irrelevant futuristic costumes, and an under-developed storyline about the father-like daughter relationship between Lenny Kravitz and Katniss. The film is open for analogy with the current uprisings in the Middle East. As the film says hope is “the only thing stronger than fear”.