The nation of Panem, formed from a post-apocalyptic North America, consists of a wealthy Capitol and twelve poorer surrounding districts. As a punishment for a previous rebellion against the Capitol by the districts, one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18 from each district are selected by an annual lottery to participate in the televised Hunger Games. The participants of the Hunger Games must fight to the death until only one remains alive. Katniss Everdeen, a 16-year-old girl from District 12, volunteers to take the place of her younger sister, Primrose, who was selected by the lottery.
There is much to like about The Hungers Games. The movie creates an environment that is rich in detail. There are so many aspects to this world that remain unsaid, but the movie conveys ideas with great imagery. The fist half of the film is the buildup to The Hunger Games, which is intensely suspenseful, but is mostly used to give us a feel for the really crazy world that these characters live in.
The movie has some outstanding performances, including Donald Sutherland playing an old ruthless dictator with quiet reserve.
My only complaint about the film is that it is tamer than I expected it to be. With 24 teenagers fighting to the death, the film never conveys any sense of terror. The characters seem way braver than I would be. Although the movie is violent, often the violence is brief and some of it is off screen. Also, the main character only kills in self defense. Since I wanted to see her survive, then I wanted her to be more aggressive about killing her opponents. She also allies herself with a 12 year old girl and helps her to survive. This is all because the movie is based on a very popular young adult novel. With an appeal to teenagers, the movie is rated PG-13 and is only willing to take the horror of the situation so far.
All this had me wondering about the psychological effect that a battle to death would have on the winner? Would the winner have nightmares or go crazy with remorse? The movie addresses this question slightly with the character of Haymitch Abernathy, played brilliantly by Woody Harrelson. He is a former winner and a drunken mess.
Were this just a movie about people fighting to the death then it would be rather ordinary. Instead, I walked away feeling that the movie had a lot to say about the depths of depravity that humans can go to. As terrible as the premise might sound, worse atrocities happen on this planet all the time.