The Hunger Games: Stimulate your mind

Published: March 28, 2012
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Like the narrative, the action sequences in The Hunger Games are compelling to watch because they are subtle, leaving us immersed the film. In the end, there is no doubt that in every field, The Hunger Games takes home gold. PHOTO: PUBLICITY

Like the narrative, the action sequences in The Hunger Games are compelling to watch because they are subtle, leaving us immersed the film. In the end, there is no doubt that in every field, The Hunger Games takes home gold. PHOTO: PUBLICITY PHOTO: PUBLICITY Like the narrative, the action sequences in The Hunger Games are compelling to watch because they are subtle, leaving us immersed the film. In the end, there is no doubt that in every field, The Hunger Games takes home gold. PHOTO: FILE

If the best games stimulate the mind and the body, then The Hunger Games belongs near the top of the pile. Adapted from a novel bearing the same name by Suzanne Collins, this first installment in a trilogy is a superb dramatic action film, which engages the grey matter on various levels, thanks to its rich depth in characterisation, as well as a subtle multi-layered narrative.

Set in a dystopian future in North America, things start with 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), who feeds her little sister Primrose (Willow Shields), and her widowed mother (Paula Malcomson), by using her hunting skills in the outskirts of her city, District 12. We immediately learn that that her impoverished district is one of the remnants of the nation of Panem, which after a failed rebellion against the ruling wealthy nation Capitol 74 years ago, was divided into 13 districts. We also note that in order to control the people of Panem, the ruling Capitol conduct a lottery in each of the districts, where two unfortunate residents between the ages of 12 and 18 are selected to play in the Hunger Games, a televised survival event with 24 participants, where the contestants attempt to kill each other till there is one survivor.

In the 74th annual Hunger Games, Katniss successfully volunteers to take part instead of her sister, after Primrose is selected in the raffle. The other player from district 12 is Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), a baker’s son, who once showed Katniss compassion when she was starving.

At this point, we are introduced to other characters from the film, including former District 12 winner, the drunken Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson), whose comically gluttonous behaviour is dictated by his poor background. We also meet the stylish stylist Cinna (Lenny Kravitz), and the bizarre-looking Capitol business agent Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Bankss).

All of these characters are very naked in their goal to glamorise the participants of the hunger games, so that they achieve popularity with viewers and gain sponsors. We are told that the sponsors are key players as they can drop ‘gifts’ to participants during the games, improving chances of survival. Later, we are also introduced to participants from the other districts, all of whom deal with their fear of death with various personalities.

The multi-layered social commentary in The Hunger Games is both engaging and subtle. The viewers of the deadly tournament, the citizens of Capitol, are caricatures of the rich and elite. Wearing silly colourful expensive clothing, and sporting equally ridiculous hair styles, these citizens of Capitol are completely detached from the proceedings, examining the players in The Hunger Games as mere objects for their entertainment. Down to earth and very human, the residents of the district are a sharp contrast by comparison.

In a sense, this could be taken as social commentary in our own reality on the divide between economic classes, or even the treatment of the third world nations by the first world, but The Hunger Games is careful to leave these things open to interpretation. The commentary on the consumption of faked reality television is more pointed however, and there is even a romance forced between Katniss and Peeta, who have little actual chemistry, which reminds local viewers of Veena Malik on Indian reality show Bigg Boss – a strategy for them to gain popularity. The larger underlying message of the film seems to be how ratings affect the quality of content on TV, which Pakistani viewers, especially those familiar with Maya Khan’s show, can agree to.

The film’s action sequences are very gritty, and visceral, and the movie doesn’t even hesitate in depicting brutal death sequences of children.  They work because they avoid heavy post production or ridiculous computer-generated imagery (CGI) effects, and because we find the stakes high due to how much we care about the characters.  Like the narrative, the action sequences in The Hunger Games are compelling to watch because they are subtle, leaving us immersed the film.

In the end, there is no doubt that in every field, The Hunger Games takes home gold.

Read more by Noman here, or follow him on twitter @Pugnate.

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Noman Ansari

Noman Ansari

The author is the editor-in-chief of IGN Pakistan, and has been reviewing films and writing opinion pieces for The Express Tribune as well as Dawn for five years. He tweets as @Pugnate (twitter.com/Pugnate)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Fiza

    I’m sorry if I sound harsh but this article is in need of a grammar check. “stylish stylist” and “little actual chemistry” – too colloquial.

    The “set in the dystopian future…” paragraph has been repeated twice.

    Also, I disagree with:
    “The larger underlying message of the film seems to be how ratings affect the quality of content on TV, which Pakistani viewers, especially those familiar with Maya Khan’s show, can agree to.”

    I’m not sure if this is the message the book or the film really focus on. The issues of class, survival and effects of war are more stark. Sure the game show plays a part but its not to show how they try to garner ratings rather its to show how people appreciate such violent oppression so openly.

    I have to ask, have you read the books? This is far too premature a review for either the book or the film. Recommend

  • http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/author/430/faraz-talat/ Faraz Talat

    An outstanding movie. Considering that the games themselves don’t begin until halfway through the film, it never feels dull or unduly padded.

    While the movie primarily aims for the female demographic (centred around a strong female character, skilfully avoiding excess gore and violence that a plot like this naturally beckons), the story is truly captivating with plenty of action to keep the guys from yawning and checking their wrist watches.Recommend

  • Shahid

    The same paragraph is repeated. Where are you editors ET?Recommend

  • Hala

    but i dont want to watch a movie that makes me think
    how boring
    thinking about things and examining the world is stupid
    i just want mindless entertainment with explosions and action and stuff
    no i don’t see how that is a parallel to the people of the capital who just want to watch kids killing each other
    i don’t see any parallels or relevance in any of the movie’s themes
    what do class differences and poor people being controlled by those in power have to do with anything
    this never happens
    why don’t peeta and katniss act like they are in love
    when people are in love they moon over each other all the time and thats all the do
    and if two people are the leads of the movie they must be in love
    why wasn’t there more violence
    the books had more violence
    violence doesnt hurt anybody
    you kill the bad guy then you win
    of course its easy to see who the bad guy is
    bad guys and good guys are always easy to diffrentiate
    there are only two kinds of guys
    what is moral ambiguity
    and why is the girl doing all the fighting
    girls cant be heroes
    boys are heroes
    girls should just wait for two boys to fight over them
    and then pick the sparkly vampire
    i still don’t see how i’m like audience from the capitalRecommend

  • Critical

    Hunger Games brought a sense of sanity after the years of the Twilight crap….
    Frankly,after being emotionally blackmailed into watching them (sometimes its good to be single),I’ve developed a phobia towards it..

    Atleast Hunger Games shows a girl who is forced into a tight situation and tries to save herself and the boy from her own district and then stir a revolution while keeping her morals intact….

    In Twilight,we see a girl fall head over heels over a 110 yr old man(sick),just because he sparkles..and then put herself in dangerous situation just to meet her love…Have a backup plan( that dog called Jacob) in case she doesnt get her man…and then ditch the poor dog who supported her in her adverse times….

    I still dont know how girls liked it..Its so anti-feminist,that getting a boyfriend is the best thing a girl can have…

    Wish to see more of themRecommend

  • er..

    What does this poll have to do the with blog post?Recommend

  • http://appreciatelifevenmore.wordpress.com/ Italia

    Engaging. Brutal, but engaging!
    Wow. I was barely able to put this book down for a second after the first few pages got me completely hooked. Suzanne Collins narrative here has an immediacy to it that, when combined with the very dramatic life-or-death plot, is incredibly compelling. It’s entertaining, and incredibly disturbing all at once.Recommend

  • http://appreciatelifevenmore.wordpress.com/ Italia

    Compelling premise, but not for the thoughtful reader
    I’ll be honest and say that I wanted to love this book. I was breathless with excitement when I downloaded it, and couldn’t wait to start reading. With the rave reviews coming from almost everywhere I turned, right down to celebrities gushing their love for this series, I went into it with high hopes.Recommend

  • http://glenns-busy-corner.blogspot.com/ Glenn Ryall

    For God sake it’s just a movie :sRecommend

  • are u serious?

    @Italia:
    are u serious>? the book was a snooze fest!!
    For what was advertised to me as an “awesome, fast-paced adventure”, I was bored out of my mind from start to finish. With every turn of the page, I thought it’d get better, thinking surely something interesting had to happen or else people wouldn’t be so obsessed with it. Twilight should have taught me that people can go nuts over poorly executed literature, but I gave it the benefit of the doubt.
    The book is poorly written, in the POV of the main character, Katniss. When I say “poorly written”, I mean both in the construct and execution of plot and characters, AND the writing style (e.g., Lots of cliche ideas, like “it feels like I was just dreaming”, and one line I remember reading was “the saltiness of the soup reminds me of my tears”. Recommend

  • http://uptonogood.tumblr.com/ Red

    Something people forget while reading books like Twilight and the Hunger Games (and while watching the movies) is that they were written for the young adult category which is 14-21. They are not geared towards adults, they are not written to be literary masterpieces. For the category they are written for, they are good enough. Recommend