Jennifer Lawrence became an international star thanks to her incredible performance as Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games movie. From slow moments of survival to explosive crescendos of action-packed bloodsport, Lawrence shines brilliantly throughout.
A post-apocalyptic North America sees the Capitol exert its authority by selecting two boys and girls to compete against one another until only one remains. From District 12, Katniss Everdeen volunteers as tribute in place of her younger sister for these Games until only one remains.
The Hunger Games
One of the top YA novels ever written has received a movie adaptation that stays as faithful to its source material as possible without losing its identity, producing three movies that dominated box office revenues and left an indelible mark on young people’s minds.
The first Hunger Games movie introduced us to Panem, a futuristic dystopian country where an oppressive leader forces young citizens into annual televised contests of death. The film quickly became a cultural touchstone, and its storylines made them entertaining viewing as much as reading them was enjoyable.
Gary Ross, known for Seabiscuit and Pleasantville films, excels at using action to define rather than obscure characters. To this end, he sought out Suzanne Collins to assist him in crafting an adaption that explores Katniss Everdeen beyond her one-sided perspective.
Lawrence makes an outstanding choice to play Katniss. Not the typical Hollywood ingenue or trained action star, Lawrence brings both charismatic presence and acting chops to this complex role. Her ambivalence toward both of Katniss’ love interests reflects how many teens perceive romantic life today.
In a year that saw the debut of the John Wick franchise and Mission: Impossible 4, The Hunger Games stood out as an ambitious tentpole blockbuster that didn’t rely on tired plots or existing superhero brands for success. Unfortunately, we haven’t seen more movies like it since, but hopefully, this trend of original or at least novel franchises will return sooner rather than later.
The Hunger Games is an unforgettable and thought-provoking series that provides thought-provoking messages. Beyond its battle of survival, The Hunger Games represents more than its central theme – the transition from childhood to adulthood can be arduous and sometimes means making sacrifices in favor of what may be more essential later in life.
Catching Fire, the second of four planned movies adapting Suzanne Collins’ dystopian Hunger Games novels, takes an optimistic step in its adaptation. Director Francis Lawrence avoids Gary Ross’ handheld camerawork to create more of an event and a more straightforward story arc for Katniss to overcome to inspire a rebellion against Capitol. He deepens its horrors while giving her more responsibility beyond survival: inspiring insurgency will become part of Katniss’ journey in Catching Fire.
The film’s primary strength lies in the performances of its stars, who excel as their characters to an incredible degree. Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, and Liam Hemsworth each give strong performances that build upon previous work. Elizabeth Banks, Donald Sutherland, and Woody Harrelson turn in strong supporting performances as supporting characters; newcomers like Sam Claflin (Snow White and the Huntsman) and Jena Malone (Beautiful Creatures) also excel.
Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark from District 12 win the 74th Hunger Games with widespread praise across Panem. But President Snow (Donald Sutherland), who blames their romantic encounter for sparking upheaval in Panem, orders game maker Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman) to devise an all-star edition called Quarter Quell to force Katniss and Peeta back into competition again.
Rules change, but its essence remains the same: a fight to the death. With stakes higher than ever, this round could feature many twists – not least due to both players now having been trained as killers; unfortunately, Haymitch (Woody Harrelson) and Beetee (Jena Malone) fail to capitalize on this development, making sure it has little bearing on how things turn out.
Unrelatedly, another minor drawback of the movie was its inability to fully capitalize on Katniss’ emotional turmoil and her fear of losing Peeta. Haymitch only touched upon this once during their conversation and never again, thus diluting its effect. However, the action made up for these shortcomings, creating an exciting sequel that provided many of the same thrills.
Mockingjay Part 1
After Catching Fire, Mockingjay Part 1 takes Katniss in an exciting, fulfilling, logical, and emotionally satisfying direction. Instead of simply saving Peeta from Capitol brainwashing, she now becomes the face of resistance against Panem’s oppressive regime, rising against it with poise. Her transformation creates an impactful symbol that closes off a fantastic movie franchise financially and socially.
It demonstrates how even an ambitious film franchise that began with an immature concept can transform and grow over time into something much more significant than its source material. Throughout the series, themes of repression and revolution expanded to address issues like gross wealth inequality and spectacle for spectacle’s sake – it’s not often that blockbusters go so deep into female protagonists’ psychology or have such an expansive commentary about trauma recovery.
The third Hunger Games movie takes place several years after its predecessor and finds Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) still reeling from her experience in the arena. Now acting as leader of her rebellion against President Snow (Donald Sutherland), her goal is to bring down President Snow in one final blow with help from Gale (Liam Hemsworth) and District 13 leader Alma Coin (Julianne Moore); with them, she forms a special team that includes an untrustworthy but brainwashed Peeta (also Liam Hemsworth).
Francis Lawrence’s direction of this movie is outstanding, creating the same sense of claustrophobic dread he made in 2007’s post-apocalyptic flick I Am Legend. Even the action sequences, mostly as dystopian war movies (including an incredible fight scene involving a booby-trapped city), radiate tension and danger.
As with the earlier films, too many of these sequences remain disjointed and unclear. This may be partly a function of splitting the movie into two films and keeping track of who’s where at any given time, as well as an attempt by the script to convey Katniss’ PTSD symptoms through dialogue, dreams, and comments to other characters.
Mockingjay Part 2
Mockingjay, the final film in this young adult dystopian series, continues where its predecessor left off, with Katniss Everdeen trying to end President Snow’s war on Panem once and for all. But this will not be easy; Katniss has become part of President Snow’s propaganda machine, suffering physical wounds each time she dives into a battle that also leaves psychological scars.
As Katniss attempts to regain her autonomy, her fight isn’t only personal but also global. Abuse of power has been an underlying theme in all three Hunger Games films; Mockingjay continues this theme. Katniss’ mission to unseat President Snow is further complicated by her alliance with Alma Coin (Julianne Moore), who strongly views how best to fix war and which sacrifices are required – these clash with Katniss’ ideals and ideals.
Jennifer Lawrence shows why she was the ideal choice to play Katniss, supported by Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth, who are equally as compelling. Additionally, an exceptional supporting cast includes Stanley Tucci as Caesar Flickerman; Elizabeth Banks as Effie Trinket; Woody Harrelson as Haymitch Abernathy; Mahershala Ali as Boggs; Jeffrey Wright as Beetee as well as an outstanding performance by Philip Seymour Hoffman who makes his final screen appearance as Plutarch Heavensbee before taking his final bow on screen as Plutarch Heavensbee before retiring for good.
Mockingjay Part 2 suffers from one significant issue that its predecessors did not: it feels rushed. The film attempts to pack too many elements into its two-and-a-half-hour running time, leaving some details in the cold.
Overall, the movie remains worth seeing for its performances and visuals, and, despite its flaws, it manages to convey an important message about the impact of spectacle on our society – mainly when presented as noble efforts to raise awareness for an important social cause. However, its critique may not be as direct as in previous examples.