This is an article by writer Helen Sanders.
Hunger Games formed the foundations for five-star franchise
The heat is rising around the release of Hunger Games: Mockingjay-Part 2. Due out on November 20th, this is, according to media reports, one of the most anticipated films of fall 2015. So with fascinated fans eagerly awaiting Katniss Everdeen’s final act, it seems the perfect time to reflect on the movie which started it all off – The Hunger Games.
Hunger Games history
Originally aimed at older teens and young adults, the Hunger Games literary series, like the movies, in fact drew much wider appeal. First published in September 2008 by author Suzanne Collins, ‘The Hunger Games,’ immediately garnered critical and popular success, with literary legends like Stephen King weighing in behind the book. The first Hunger Games outing on paper quickly rose to the top of the New York Times bestseller list and managed the feat of staying on this list for three consecutive years. With the next instalments enjoying similar success and a solid fan base developing, the books were obvious candidates for the big screen treatment. This transition occurred in March 2012 with the much heralded release of the first film.
Hunger Games back story
Poverty, deprivation and of course hunger may not seem like a sound basis for a movie aimed predominantly at teenage audiences, but this is exactly where the Hunger Games story begins. Heroine Katniss Everdeen (played by Jennifer Lawrence) lives in an impoverished community called District 12. It is part of a futuristic nation called Panem, situated within what remains of North America. District 12 is the poorest of the districts, and Katniss Everdeen’s family seems to be fairly close to the bottom of the economic pile within it. Katniss’s father has tragically died and her mother has sunk into a deep depression. This leaves Katniss responsible for the household which includes her younger sister, Primrose. With no regular income the family is living in dire economic circumstances and struggling to pay its way.
Following an uprising some years previous, these districts are paying their debt to the wealthy Capitol as punishment for their rebellion. As a result, each district must annually offer up one young boy and girl aged between 12 and 18 – who are referred to as ‘tributes’- to participate in a contest called the Hunger Games. The ‘game’ is a survival challenge where each ‘player’ is expected to kill the other contestants and overcome the harsh environment in which the contest is based. Only one winner will prevail – the rest will never come home.
Hunger Game- Katniss steps forward
Participants are chosen through a process called reaping which essentially involves picking names out of a hat. Primrose Everdene (Katniss’s younger sister) is selected but Katniss courageously volunteers to take her place. Katniss may be down in terms of life’s pecking order but she certainly isn’t out. In spite of or perhaps because of her tough upbringing her community believes she has the potential to win the games – something which has never been achieved by a resident of their district. District 12’s male participant is Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) a nervous young man who seems ill equipped for the contest. He is the son of the local baker and is portrayed as less than generous to a starving Katniss in flashbacks throughout the movie.
Hunger Games- the contest
Katniss and Peeta are transported to the Capitol where they meet their rather unreliable mentor- Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson). Haymitch is initially unsupportive but does come good in the end, teaching Katniss a valuable lesson about the importance of getting people to like her. This, he says, is the key to success within the games and is perhaps one of the biggest hurdles to overcome for the abrasive Katniss. Meanwhile, Peeta is struggling with training and seems to be giving up. In order to fight back he infers to the pre-games audience that he is in love with Katniss – a sentiment she does not take kindly to.
Despite being aware of the purpose of the games from the outset of the movie, the reality is still shocking. A large number of contestants are slain almost immediately – a canon fires each time one dies to update the remaining participants. Katniss’s survival skills stand her in good stead but we see her fate constantly manipulated by the game makers, introducing new elements and even changing the rules. Her relationship with Peeta blossoms though for her it is very much a partnership of convenience and they are told that two winners will be allowed, as long as they come from the same district. This rule is overturned at the climax of the games leaving Katniss and Peeta with a difficult dilemma.
Hunger Games- the sensation
There are many underlying messages within the Hunger Games movie. Man’s brutality to man, the dehumanization of other humans, the revelry found within other’s suffering and the far reaching potential of reality television are all themes which the story touches on. Yet there are many films in this vein which have not reached the starry heights of The Hunger Games box office success. What Hunger Games delivers is a heady mix of high quality production values, accomplished direction (Gary Ross) and an attractive and engaging cast. The exquisite cinematography highlights the contrast between dark and dismal District 13 and the upscale steam punk Capitol, reminding the viewer of the gulf which exists between these two communities. It is the perfect storm of movie variables which has attracted a committed band of movie followers. On release weekend in the United States it hauled in an eye-watering $155 million- out performing even the most optimistic forecasts. Its stars have also reaped the rewards with Jennifer Lawrence in particular now a household name in no small part due to her Katniss portrayal. This is a franchise which has gone from strength to strength and with audiences expected to once again surge for the final forthcoming outing it looks like the odds will be ever in its favor.
Are you a fan of The Hunger Games franchise? As always, comments are welcome