Well this post seems to have come at a rather opportune time because Dell On Movies is having a blogathon about films with female protagonists.
I already had this post scheduled because of Hunger Games: Mocking Jay Part II coming out this week and I’ve always wanted to take part in a blogathon so this is the literal definition of killing two birds with one stone. In case you don’t know, a blogathon is an event where different bloggers come together and blog about a particular subject – for this particular blogathon it’s films with female leads. To take part in the blogathon click here to read the rules.
So I watched Hunger Games…
I think I was living under a rock when this movie was released. I hadn’t seen a trailer, didn’t know the plot, didn’t know it was based on a book series, hell, I didn’t even know who was starring in it. The only reason I went to watch it was because a few friends had recommended it and I’ve never been one to shy away from a trip to the cinema.
Okay, basic plot: In a dystopian future, an annual battle royale called The Hunger Games is held by the 12 Districts of Pan Am. For this battle royale, each district must offer two children (one male and the other female) as tributes to partake in the games and fight to the death. After her younger sister is selected to be the district’s tribute, Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) volunteers as tribute. Katniss is something of a rebel and refuses to play by the well-established rules of the game. Her defiant attitude becomes a rallying cry that travels across the districts and threatens to destroy the structure of the games and the power of the government that has put the games in place.
I think going into this movie with almost no information was actually of benefit to my enjoyment of the film. Seeing a great story unfold in front of you without your expectations or preconceived notions of the film impeding the process is truly amazing. This movie has a truly powerful story to it that works on so many levels. Superficially, it’s this great action-adventure movie that keeps you on the edge of your seat but when you peel back the layers and look deeper, it’s a great piece of commentary on world politics and the class system. I think this movie, and its subsequent sequels, along with Dawn of the Planet of the Apes have been the most socially relevant movies that have been released in the last five years.
This film is a wonderful (albeit exaggerated) reflection of society. I actually consider it to be a political piece as much as a action movie. The twelve districts, in many ways, could represent various nations. The poorer districts (11, 12) have all the natural resources that the more affluent districts need but they are not given an adequate portion of the wealth to build themselves up. The Capitol and the other rich districts offer nothing but they control policy and distribution of resources and wealth so they, therefore, control everything. Sound familiar? Isn’t that how the world works?
The idea of the games is also ingenious. At first I had trouble understanding why parents would send their children to their deaths but President Snow (who is wonderfully brought to life by Donald Sutherland) explains it perfectly. The purpose of the games isn’t death. If they simply wanted to intimidate people with the fear of death, they could simply round up twenty-four citizens at random and execute them. The games are about hope. Seeing a winner, a victor survive and overcome their challenges gives citizens hope that they can do the same. This hope is, of course, a farce and is just a system of control created by the government. It’s hope that only exists if you submit to their rules. The threat that Katniss poses is that she doesn’t submit to these rules and, this, gives citizens hope that they don’t have to either. She becomes a symbol and the power of this symbol is later elaborated on in this film’s sequels and I think it’s such a true reflection of the nature of rebellion.
We so often want things to change but no one wants to take the first step because the first step is the most dangerous. Standing out there alone, with no support, is incredibly difficult. All human beings have great power and the ability to change the world; but not all have the ability to take that first step. That’s why we need symbols and iconic figures that we can rally behind.
Now this is all very heavy but Hunger Games also offers you something lighter to chew on – it’s a really good action movie. I remember the first time I watched this, I had this intense feeling of anxiety and unrelenting fear. I was afraid for Katniss, afraid that someone was going to pop out behind a bush and kill her.
This film is extremely unsettling and you’re never allowed a moment to secure your bearings. Once the games begin there are no more wide establishing shots to help you get a lay of the land, every shot is narrow and focused on our characters instead of the environment. This adds to the sense of terror by allowing you to experience what it would be like to be a participant in the games – your view is constantly obscured and you can’t tell what’s around you. There’s also great use of shaky cam in this film. When shaky-cam is used as well as it is in this film, you appreciate its use as a storytelling aid; it’s such a pity that so many directors don’t know how to properly utilise it. Director, Gary Ross, does an A-grade job in this movie; not only in the way he chooses to film it but also the way he balances the different aspects of the film.
This was, for me, the movie that announced Jennifer Lawrence’s presence in Hollywood. Her steely and well-measured portrayal of Katniss is superb. Lawrence shows real skill in the way that she weaves fragility and charm into the stone-cold demeanour of Katniss. Josh Hutcherson also does a phenomenal job as Peeta, the ‘damsel-in-distress’ that Katniss needs to save. I loved this role reversal and I also loved that nobody ever points out the reversal – no character ever mocks Peeta for getting saved by a girl. I think this is the way that powerful female characters need to be handled. Don’t belittle them or make unnecessary reference to their gender, just recognise them as powerful characters and let them get on with business.
Overall, I love this movie. It was the best movie I watched the year it was released and each subsequent sequel has featured in my list of top three movies of the year. It’s a profound political piece but also a rough-and-tumble action movie and has qualities that everyone can enjoy. Watch it 9/10