The Odds Are Still In Its Favor: Gary Ross’ ‘The Hunger Games’ – Retro Review

It seems like only yesterday that millennials were flocking to the theaters to see Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence: Mother! 2017 – our review) volunteer as tribute for The Hunger Games, a twisted, annual competition that forces teens to fight to the death until a victor is named. However, March 23, 2022, marks an entire decade since Suzanne Collins’ hit book series was adapted for the big screen. In the years that followed the release of The Hunger Games, the franchise grew to include three additional movies. But for longtime fans, the 2012 film holds a special place in their hearts. As The Hunger Games celebrates its 10th anniversary this month, we’re taking a look back at the film that’s amazingly gory for being part of the Young Adult genre.

The Hunger Games centers on the 12 Districts of a country called Panem that are under the control of the Capitol. To maintain order and authority following a past rebellion, the Capitol randomly selects two young representatives from each District to participate in the yearly televised event. Katniss, hailing from District 12, takes the place of her little sister, Prim (Willow Shields: The Unsettling 2019), and joins Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson: Future Man 2017 – our review) as the other District 12 participant. With the help of drunken mentor Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson: Zombieland 2009) and advisor Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks: The Uninvited 2009), the duo survives cutthroat foes, Capitol-created beasts and intense elements to both come out victorious, much to the annoyance of the powers that be, including President Snow (Donald Sutherland: Alone 2020).

If you’re anything like me, you have to read the book before watching the movie. Props much be given to director Gary Ross for making the pages of the beloved novel come to life on the screen. Nearly everything correlates with how it’s described by Collins, from Katniss’ plain appearance and signature braid to the colorful vibrancy of the wealthy Capitol to the scenic, deceivingly beautiful arena that’s chock full of deadliness, such as the genetically-coded tracker jackers. Some movie adaptations don’t quite do its written counterpart justice, but The Hunger Games isn’t one of them.

Despite The Hunger Games being geared toward younger audiences who likely sported Team Peeta or Team Gale merchandise at some point, there are actually some pretty haunting aspects to the film. Take, for example, the very idea of these games. Every year, from the ages of 12 through 18, District teens flock to the “reaping,” where they wait with baited breath as a Capitol representative randomly selects the tributes for that year. If your name is called—unless somebody volunteers in your place as Katniss does—you’re forced to fight until either you die or everyone around you dies. At any age, let alone 12, that sounds horrifying.

The Hunger Games shows how a life or death situation can bring out somebody’s true nature. While some of the tributes, such as District 2’s Cato (Alexander Ludwig: The Seeker: The Dark Is Rising 2007), don’t waste any time in brutally eliminating other contenders, others manage to maintain some semblance of humanity. A prime example is 12-year-old Rue (Amandla Stenberg: Bodies Bodies Bodies 2022), who lovingly cares for Katniss for several days after she’s stung by tracker jackers. Rue could have easily taken out one of the game’s biggest threats. Instead, she saves Katniss’ life.

An entertaining but chilling aspect of The Hunger Games is the Capitol. At a first glimpse, it is bright, shiny, and inviting with its lavish penthouses and high-fashion clothes… all a stark contrast to the drab, gray, depressing vibes of the Districts. Yet at a closer look, these people are extremely disturbed. Just as we watch shows like American Idol and The Amazing Race for entertainment, they excitedly watch teenagers murder each other for the pure fun of it. There’s even an entire talk show dedicated to the highly-anticipated affair, hosted by the blue-haired Caesar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci: The Lovely Bones 2009). It’s very similar to Netflix’s Squid Game, which sees a group of wealthy VIPs come to watch the death of indebted strangers who they feel are less-than human.

As a whole, The Hunger Games stands the test of time 10 years later. There’s action, suspense, and even a bit of romance as Katniss and Peeta desperately try to stay alive—and create riveting television for Capitol residents—all while the other contestants suffer painfully awful deaths. Who could ever forget Cato being mauled by the vicious wolf-like mutations of gamemaker Seneca Crane (Wes Bentley: P2 2007)? I think this anniversary calls for a movie marathon and re-read of the series.

About Samantha Bambino

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