“The Hunger Games” delights fans, cleans up at box office

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Even though I did not read the books before seeing “The Hunger Games,” I had a general outline of what goes on
in the universe; I knew there would be some romance and teenagers fighting
to the death. When I came out of the theater, I was pleasantly surprised: The film based on a book I had ignored due to thoughts about it being another young teen novel riding the coattails of “Twilight” turned out to be much more.

“The Hunger Games” takes place
in a futuristic United States now called Panem. Panem contains 12 districts, and every year two tributes, a boy and girl between the ages of 12 and 18, are chosen at random from each district. All 24 of the tributes are taken to a large, enclosed wilderness where they must fight to the death, the victor being the sole survivor.

The Hunger Games are held as a way for the Capitol to punish the citizens for the rebellion that created Panem. They use the games as a
way to exercise power
over the poorer, weaker districts and to quell any thoughts of rebellion among the citizens. Every year, the games are held so that the citizens never forget the control that the Capitol has over them.

The series focuses on 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen, a girl from District 12, a coalmining district which also happens to be
the most poor of all the districts. Her character has good survival skills and is very handy with a bow. I liked that she wasn’t very complicated. She cares for her family and fights to win. She’s also willing to kill someone if she must, which is a quality you usually don’t see in the protagonist.

Katniss is shown to be strong when we learn she has taken on the paternal role in her house after the death of her father. She resents her mother for checking out mentally after his death, but ardently loves her younger sister, Prim.

Other roles are done very well too. Woody Harrelson’s drunken mentor character came off feeling legitimate. His change from an apathetic alcoholic who doesn’t really give a crap, to a supportive mentor rooting for Katniss and helping her get assistance from the Capitol in the form of supplies is endearing. Lenny Kravitz, starring in his second real acting job since being in “Precious,” also does an awesome job.

Kravitz plays a designer named Cinna who helps Katniss garner interest from the citizens of the Capitol. He comes off as flamboyant, but genuinely caring towards Katniss and Peeta, the two tributes from District 12, while many other citizens just look at them as though they are children. I think other than his character itself, my favorite thing about Cinna is his character’s wardrobe. In contrast to many
of the high-class people, he
dresses very conservatively.
A little bit of gold eyeliner is all that flashes; he has none of the
surgery or wacky
hairstyles that the
others have.

I also consider
the violence to be
a positive aspect, even though many
people will be turned
off by it. It shows that
this movie and the source material are different
from similar things
out there. This isn’t
just a watered down self-important romance movie for young teens;
it’s about the characters and their violent, gritty fight for survival in the interest of a government that doesn’t care for them.

The violence is important, and the way the film makers kept
it without losing the PG-13 rating worked well. Even though you didn’t see it explicitly, you were still watching kids cutting each other down with axes and swords. It will still make some people cringe and feel a little wrong watching it, which I feel is the point.

To keep the teenage-friendly rating, they couldn’t show the killing in all its gruesome detail, so to cover this issue the director used lots of fast, shaky cuts. The problem with these cuts is they were there for almost the last half of the movie. Anytime somebody was moving, the camera followed, shaking unnecessarily, making it hard to focus.

My other problem with the “Hunger Games” was the length of the movie. It finishes at about two and a half hours, which is a lot of sitting for one film. Although I understand why it’s so long, what with all the characterization and events that occur in the film, it still felt very slow for the first half. When the games started, though, all the fast- paced action held my attention.

Even though it was slow, I don’t feel any scenes could have been cut down. It was more of a pacing issue. The characters did a lot of longingly staring into space.

If you’re a fan of the book, or just want a good action movie with a plot that outshines many other dull films, then I suggest “The Hunger Games” as a film to see (although I wouldn’t recommend bringing the kids).