Ah, The Hunger Games. Nothing better complements an oppressive government than yearly battles to the death consisting wholly of children. Better yet, most of them don’t even want to participate! What’s a poor poacher to do when her twelve-year-old sister (against impossible odds) wins the Hunger Games raffle and has to sacrifice herself for the glory of Panem’s vindictive totalitarian regime? Easy answer in theory, but tough in practice: Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) has to volunteer, and more importantly, she has to win.
Long ago, the people of Panem rebelled against their government, and were brutally defeated. Their failure wrought more than death; in order to crush the spirit of any future rebels, The Capitol began hosting the Hunger Games. Every year, two people from each of the twelve districts– one young male and one young female – are selected via a raffle known as the Reaping to compete in a twenty-four person epic battle royal. The lone victor will be granted a life of riches and luxury, and will be celebrated by all the districts until the day they die. The PTSD doesn’t factor into any of that, though, nor does the fact that no amount of media will trick the poorer outer districts into being okay with the terrible lives The Capitol has forced them into.
The dystopian future in which Hunger Games is set is colorful, in both a literal and metaphorical sense; the inner districts are so outrageously stylish that you might go blind just by glimpsing their fashion sense. Everyone has brightly colored hair, outfits worthy of an LSD-addled Lady Gaga, and a posh sort of disregard for the bloody reality of the world they live in. The color fades in the outer districts, however. The further you get from the Capital, the less immersed you become in fashion and whimsy; by the time you hit twelve, there’s hard manual labor as far as the eye can see, from coal mines to power plants. The blatant class divide is consequent of the past rebellion more likely than not, and unfortunately is bound to produce more of the same.
The revolution begins within the Hunger Games themselves, oddly enough, with an act of defiance thought up by Katniss Everdeen herself. Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) helps slightly. I’d get into detail about her tribulations during the games, and the means by which she initiates the fall of The Capitol, but that’s the action; that’s where all the thrill and fun is. If you’re seeking visceral, in-depth descriptions of people getting their assorted limbs and/or internal organs punctured by arrows and having their faces eaten by genetically engineered mandogs, I suggest you read a book about that or something. Like the Hunger Games book by Suzanne Collins. Or the movie that I’ve been describing to you. It’s got a well fleshed-out and complex story to it, so go watch/read the thing.
Angela Watercutter of Wired speaks of how the character of Katniss Everdeen breaks the mold of female heroines by not being subject to arbitrarily sexualization her or being helpless without a male lead. If you’re sick to shit of gender roles, then yeah, Hunger Games is definitely an empowering movie to watch. Lots of people die, but the movie’s empowering nevertheless. You get to see Katniss overcome all manner of adversity, from oppressive political bullshit to deadly hallucinogenic wasps, and most things in between. Read the full Wired review here!