…unless you piss off Donald Sutherland, in which case your demise is imminent.
Sutherland’s stony gaze aside, I was genuinely impressed with The Hunger Games, which opened in theaters this weekend. I am always on the search for movies to satisfy my epic film cravings--Harry Potter is over, The Avengers isn’t out until the summer, and so I went to see Jennifer Lawrence in this dystopian future fantasy.
Hunger Games packs a powerful punch of artful cinematography, captivating character dynamics, and nail-biting action. Because the premise of the story is so simple, it’s the characters that shine in this film. The entire movie is peppered with great actors--many well known, and others that are newer--that bring life to each relationship that develops.
It’s also a lesson in contrasts. Part of what makes The Hunger Games so fascinating to watch is the constant juxtaposition of wildly different elements in its universe. There is the obvious difference between the abject poverty of the enslaved Twelve Districts and the opulence of the Capitol--but even beyond that, disparities abound. The humanity of one character against the deadly brutality of another. Nineteenth-century prairie dresses and Japanese masquerade costumes. (Why are there powdered wigs in the future?)
But what is most disturbing is the surreal disconnect between the stark reality for the competitors on the ground and the glossy reality TV projection of their suffering and death. It’s a projection of our own obsession of “reality” entertainment and the wealth disparities that exist not just in the US of A, but on a more striking scale worldwide. Like Fahrenheit 451 and 1984 before it, this story forces us to examine the baser elements of our culture and ourselves, and where those roads may lead.
While “May the odds be ever in your favor” is the “I have a bad feeling about this” of The Hunger Games, luck doesn’t have much to do with it. It’s the courage and strength of one character to inspire many in the face of absolute terror. And I hope that is more of what we’ll have to look forward to in this trilogy.