The Hunger Games:
Three negatives at the start:
first, this movie does not stand alone.
They assume way too much about what the viewers
would already know from watching the first two installments (do we really
remember everything from last year and the year before?).
Plus, they leave us hanging with the story line,
because there’s a Part Two out next year.
So they are not even trying to attract a walk-in
audience here; just those who are already fans (or else you will have to have
a lot explained to you before you go).
this movie is very dark, both literally and
of the scenes are shot underground, where desperate rebels are hiding, all
wearing black jumpsuits for solidarity, but even when we go above ground, all
is rubble and smoking ruin, because we’re in the middle of a civil war here.
And nobody is playing nice.
you don’t shoot down a jet fighter with a bow
and arrow. Actually,
they have our heroine hit one fighter, which then crashes into the other, so
she gets two down with one shot.
Talk about stretching credulity.
All that said, for Jennifer
Lawrence fans, this is the trilogy’s biggest test of her acting range.
She plays Katniss Everdeen, the reluctant hero
from Suzanne Collins’ smashingly successful young adult novels, who grows up
in a repressive dystopian future, where the dictator’s cruel regime holds an
annual sporting event of fight-to-the-finish for its youthful gladiators from
each district. (Yes, the
enjoyed the same bloodsport in its prime, but the leader of
the Christian cross-cultural movement was a nonviolent martyr, remember?)
Katniss has gained renown as the victor of one of
“The Hunger Games,” but something happened to her along the way of her
victory tour, drinking in the adulation of the teeming masses:
she continued to feel their pain.
She actually doesn’t see herself as the leader
of the rebellion, and she isn’t.
They have both a President, Alma Coin (Julianne
Moore) and a Prime Minister, Plutarch Heavensbee (the late Philip Seymour
for her part, really just wants to save her little sister, Primrose (Willow
Shields), and to be with her love interest, Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), another
Hunger Games contestant.
But Peeta’s been captured by the evil Dictator,
who calls himself President Snow (Donald Sutherland), and Peeta has apparently
been brainwashed, as well, as he appears on broadcasts urging the rebels in
general, and Katniss in particular, to put down their weapons and surrender.
Of course, in a civil war,
there’s violence on all sides, and usually, each side accusing the other of
real battle is for the hearts of the people.
And the charismatic Katniss possesses a
Joan-of-Arc kind of leadership capability, except that she has to be coaxed
and cajoled into deciding this on her own.
Eventually, she realizes that burying her head in
the sand is not a viable option (or in her case, leaving her alone to hunt
with her bow and arrow in the woods).
The die is cast, the rebellion is in full swing,
and it’s too late to back down now---there are too many lives already lost
and too many more still at risk.
So, reluctantly, she agrees to be the face of the
rebel cause: the
Mockingjay who inspires the others to keep striving for their freedom.
But of course nothing significant is as simple as
In a previous generation of young
adult heroes, Luke Skywalker found out the same thing when he reluctantly
agreed to join forces with the Rebellion.
The difference there was that he encountered more
humor and heart along the way, plus he was a more typical teenager, capable of
both braggadocio and immaturity, both impatience and irreverence.
This heroine is all grit and determination,
passion without playfulness, petulance without charm.
Poignant, sure, but not very uplifting.
And, for the uninitiated non-fans, not really
very inspiring, either.
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen is the Parish
Associate, Woodhaven Presbyterian Church,