Movie Review: The Hunger Games

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[Culture] [ULK Issue 29]
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Movie Review: The Hunger Games

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The Hunger Games
2012

Hunger Games is set in Panem, a society that, it is implied, rose from the postwar ashes of north America, and now consists of The Capitol and the 12 fenced off satellite Districts. Many of these Districts produce wealth for the Capitol while their people live in poverty. There is apparently no national oppression (most people are white), but class contradictions are sharp. The Hunger Games are annual fights to the death by two kids representing each of the Districts. In the wealthier districts, kids train for this and consider being picked a privilege. In the poorer districts families are forced to sell their kids into the hunger games in exchange for food required for bare survival.

Katniss Everdeen is from the mining District 12 where her father, and many other miners, lose their lives producing wealth they will never see. She volunteers to take her younger sister's place for the annual hunger games match.

The Hunger Games are broadcast live as reality programming. The Games are meant to remind the people of the power of the government. This brutal form of reality entertainment serves to keep the people of the districts distracted and obedient. Out of 24 participants, only one child lives.

This movie is part one of a trilogy. The books get much deeper into the politics of oppression, even in the first volume. But as a broad representation of the first book, the movie gets at the general system and has a correct message of resistance. Katniss refuses to play the game the way the Capitol organizers intend, inadvertently earning the support and respect of other Districts and inspiring resistance against the Capitol.

In one scene she pauses to pay tribute to a fallen child from another district who was working with her. In the end [spoiler alert] Katniss commits the ultimate snub against the Games, refusing to play to the death. She manages to outsmart the organizers but all she wins is the right to go home a celebrity of dubious distinction for staying alive.

There are some good lessons from this Hunger Games movie. The importance of unity across oppressed people in the common cause against the oppressors is reinforced both in the individual alliances and the cross-district support of Katniss. The movie also demonstrates the brutality and distraction techniques of the ruling class and their willingness to stop at nothing to retain their power. There is an interesting subplot about the two main characters from District 12 pretending a love interest as a survival technique to get the support of "sponsors": wealthy people who can pay to provide advantages to their favorite players. Using whatever means available for resistance is important for the oppressed, though the actual romance in the movie dilutes this message.

The movie is adapted from the first of a trilogy of books but some of the politics of the books are already quite muted in the movie and it will remain to be seen how well the sequels represent the struggles of the oppressed.

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