The Hunger Games
|The Hunger Games is a 2012 American science fiction action drama film directed by Gary Ross, based on the novel The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. The film was produced by Nina Jacobson and Jon Kilik, with a screenplay by Ross, Collins, and Billy Ray. It stars Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, and Donald Sutherland.
The story takes place in a post-apocalyptic future in the nation of Panem, which consists of a wealthy capitol surrounded by 12 impoverished districts. As punishment for a past rebellion against the government, the Capitol initiated the Hunger Games—a televised annual event in which one boy and one girl from each of the 12 districts are selected in a lottery as “tributes” and are required to fight to the death in an arena until there is one remaining victor. When the protagonist Katniss Everdeen (Lawrence) hears her younger sister’s name called as the female tribute for their district, she volunteers to take her place in order to save her from having to participate. Joined by her district’s male tribute Peeta Mellark (Hutcherson), Katniss travels to the Capitol to train for the Hunger Games under the guidance of former victor Haymitch Abernathy (Harrelson), expressing resentment for both the Capitol and its populace for forcing her and her fellow tributes to fight to the death for their own amusement.
The film was released on March 21, 2012 in France and other countries and internationally on March 23, 2012 in both conventional theaters and digital IMAX theaters. The film currently holds the record for the third best opening weekend box office sales of any movie ($152.5 million) in North America behind The Dark Knight ($158 million) and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 ($169 million) and is the biggest box office debut for a non-sequel.
The Hunger Games was well-received by critics, who praised its themes and messages, as well as Lawrence’s performance as Katniss. Like the novel, the film has attracted criticism for its similarities to other works, such as the Japanese novel Battle Royale and its film adaptation as well as the American short story “The Lottery”. It is noted, however, that Collins’ novel and screenplay possess key differences by drawing on sources of inspiration such as reality television, the Iraq War, and the myth of Theseus.
The nation of Panem, which was 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, one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18 from each district are selected by an annual lottery (known as the “Reaping”) to participate in the Hunger Games, an event in which the participants (or “tributes”) must fight in an arena controlled by the Capitol until only one remains alive. Katniss Everdeen, a 16-year-old girl from the coal-mining region of District 12, volunteers for the 74th annual Hunger Games in place of her younger sister, Primrose. Peeta Mellark, a baker’s son who once gave Katniss bread when her family was starving, is also selected.
Katniss and Peeta are taken to the Capitol where their drunken mentor, former victor Haymitch Abernathy, instructs them to watch and learn the talents of the other tributes. During a pre-Games interview with TV personality Caesar Flickerman, Peeta reveals his long-standing, unrequited love for Katniss. Katniss believes this to be a ploy to gain crucial audience support for themselves, as audience members may “sponsor” tributes with gifts of food, medicine, and tools. The Games begins with half of the tributes killed in the first 8 hours, while Katniss relies on her well-practiced hunting and outdoor skills to survive. Peeta forms an alliance with the “Careers”, including Cato and Glimmer, to track Katniss, whom they pursue into the woods. Katniss develops an alliance with District 11 tribute Rue, who points out a tracker jacker nest which Katniss uses to kill two of the Careers (Glimmer and the girl from District 4). The alliance is short-lived: Rue is killed by District 1 tribute Marvel, whom Katniss kills in return. At Rue’s request, Katniss sings to her as she dies, then spreads flowers over her body. Katniss’ televised act of respect sparks a rebellion in District 11.
With Katniss and Peeta established as “star-crossed lovers” – and the Gamemakers trying to avoid inciting further rebellions – a rule change is announced midway through the Games, stating that two tributes from the same district can win the Games as a pair. Upon hearing this, Katniss searches for Peeta and finds him, wounded by a sword. As she nurses him back to health, she portrays herself as deeply in love with Peeta to gain audience favor and sponsorship. When Katniss tries to retrieve medicine for Peeta, Clove attacks her, but Thresh kills Clove for Katniss in memory of Rue. “Foxface” accidentally kills herself eating highly-poisonous nightlock berries. A pack of hellish “muttations” are released, killing Thresh and forcing Katniss and Peeta into Cato’s hands. After an intense fight, Katniss shoots Cato with an arrow to save Peeta’s life. Cato falls to the muttations, and Katniss shoots him again to end his suffering. The Gamemakers reverse the rule change in an attempt to force Katniss and Peeta into a dramatic duel, where one must kill the other to win. Katniss, betting that the Gamemakers would rather have two victors than none, reveals a cache of nightlock berries and gives Peeta a portion. Upon realizing that Katniss and Peeta intend to commit suicide, the Gamemakers announce that both will be the victors of the 74th Hunger Games. The head Gamemaker is later locked in a room with only nightlock berries, forced to commit suicide for failing to produce only one victor.
Although she is treated to a hero’s welcome in the Capitol, Katniss is warned by Haymitch that she has now become a political target after defying her society’s authoritarian leaders so publicly. As Katniss and Peeta return to District 12, President Snow ponders what to do about the joint victors and the rebellion they have started.