Film: “The Hunger Games”

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March 30th, 2012

Omaha, NE – In case you didn’t know, there’s a fairly popular movie out right now. From the Movieha podcast, Ryan Syrek and Matt Lockwood review The Hunger Games.

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"The Hunger Games" is directed by Gary Ross.

Ryan: There’s a point at which an element of pop culture transcends typical borders and becomes a full-fledged phenomenon. Around the time when I saw a middle aged dude in the grocery store wearing a shirt that said “May the Odds Be Ever in Your Favor,” I knew we hit the tipping point.

Matt: Although it features a female protagonist and is marketed under the umbrella of Young Adult Fiction, The Hunger Games ain’t exactly Twilight. Beyond the fact that it’s, you know, good, it also sports an interesting if unspecific collection of political and social reflections.

Ryan: If you need proof at just how deeply this book has exceeded its original demographics, look no further than your erstwhile Movieha crew, as both of us loved the novel and were gosh durn excited to see how the movie turned out.

Matt: They didn’t blow it. Let’s just establish that right out of the gate. Director Gary Ross captured the tone of Susan Collins’ book along with all the details that mattered for the most part. Jennifer Lawrence plays Katniss, a young girl forced to raise her sister in a dystopian future after the death of her father left her mother a walking vegetable.

Ryan: What was once north america is now run by a government that keeps each of its 12 districts in check. While the capital is full of opulence and conspicuous consumption, the lower classes are forced to toil in the outer districts, providing the city with its resources and goods.

Matt: As if that wasn’t enough, as punishment for a rebellion decades earlier, each year a boy and a girl between the ages of 13-18 are randomly chosen from each district to fight to the death. This is supposed to be some kind of stern warning but is really just a chance for the jerks in the capital to watch the most depraved reality show that doesn’t feature a Kardashian.

Ryan: When her sister loses the lottery, Katniss volunteers to take her place. She’s whisked away with the boy from her district, Peeta who is played by the wooden Josh Hutcherson. After some training by a drunken Woody Harrelson, and some primping by a fashionista played by Lenny Kravtiz, it’s time for the kid killing to begin!

Matt: Ross and Collins worked together on the screenplay and it shows, as the key plot points were carried over, and most themes lost little of their punch. From the gritty, 1984-inspired look of the ghetto-like districts, to the colorful Seussian-meets-the-Roman Empire capital, the film looks dead-on. And the violence, a major part of the novel, is stunningly never played for cheap applause or drama.

Ryan: But that’s not the best part, as Lawrence delivers perhaps the single greatest performance by an actress as a heroine. She’s right up there with Sigorney Weaver’s Ripley or Linda Hamilton’s Sarah Connor, only her character isn’t just about fighting and strength. She remains a sweet, young girl throughout. Lawrence is absolutely staggering in a role that should be considered for awards other than those given by Nickelodeon or MTV, but she won’t be because her film made money.

Matt: The Hunger Games is the rarest of all blockbusters, as it’s largely intelligent, vastly entertaining, and wildly thoughtful, even though the themes and plot are definitely familiar. It operates almost as a blank canvas for political thought and discussion.

Ryan: Definitely! Some audiences are getting a one percent versus 99 percent, occupy Wall Street vibe, whereas others are seeing an anti-big-government message. Other than the handful of vile racists who have taken to twitter to decry the casting of the character Rue as a black actress….

Matt: A fact that is SPELLED OUT in the book.

Ryan: There’s a reason crowds are going crazy for this one. It’s every bit as good as the hype.

Editorial Note:
The Movieha podcast is produced in partnership with The Reader and is available at thereader.com.

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