The Hunger Games full movie: ‘May the odds be ever in your favor’

The Hunger Games full movie: ‘May the odds be ever in your favor’

The quote ‘May the odds be ever in your favor’ is spoken by the mighty elite in The Hunger Games to strategically give a glimmer of hope, but not too much, to the oppressed and poor citizens who are subject each year to deadly televised game in this futuristic parable.

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The Hunger Games was how to present the book’s critique of violent spectacle

The phrase is uttered before the reaping where one girl and one boy from the twelve districts are selected by lottery to take part in the game, and it’s also uttered during the preparation and then right before the contest, where the 24 children are expected to fight to the death. It’s a taunting and cruel catchphrase because it implies the fate of the children is to do with luck, when in fact the games are really a ruthlessly orchestrated public event designed by the ruling class to keep the non-ruling classes distracted and fearful. When Katniss Everdeen (the one and only Jennifer Lawrence) volunteers to become a ‘tribute’ for her district in place of her younger sister Primrose, she along with male tribute Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) join the 22 other tributes in the Capitol where they are taught to kill, survive and to put on a good show.

Perhaps one of the challenges with making a movie adaptation of Suzanne Collins’s famous 2008 Young Adult novel The Hunger Games was how to present the book’s critique of violent spectacle without the movie itself providing moments of violent spectacle.

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The Hunger Games film also provides moments of gory spectacle

Other similarly themed movies where a futuristic incarnation of the ancient Roman gladiator fights was fused with reality television faced a similar issue. The Running Man (Paul Michael Glaser, 1987), Battle Royale (Koushun Takami, 2000) and Series 7: The Contenders (Daniel Minahan, 2001) were all taken place in either the future or an alternate reality where disenfranchised people have to take part in a deadly competition where they must fight to survive. The Running Man is the simplest of the mentioned films as there is a strongly defined good guys versus bad guys narrative, and the film is unapologetically providing violent spectacle for the cinema audiences.

Like The Hunger Games, Battle Royale offers a scenario where the delineations between good and bad characters are not so evident, as they are all teenagers from a randomly chosen school class and forced to fight to the death in a vast outdoor area until there is only one survivor. The Hunger Games film also provides moments of gory spectacle, but in a far more uncomfortable manner than The Running Man since the showcase of violence in Battle Royale juxtaposed with the movies’ social critique does compel the audiences to ask themselves what it is they are enjoying.

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The Hunger Games spends close to an hour establishing the world of the film

Nonetheless, the movie the most similar to The Hunger Games is the lesser-known Series 7: The Contenders since both pictures undermine the voyeuristic appeal of the violence. The Hunger Games spends close to an hour establishing the world of the film, its characters and the film’s themes before the first scene of conflict. It’s what is now almost an old fashioned approach to narrative development where the film spends its time building up to the main action rather than cutting to the chase as soon as possible.

The Hunger Games effectively sets itself as a drama

A film that was more overtly focused on providing the audience with a thrilling action-packed ride would have included an action scene much earlier to establish the tone. Instead, The Hunger Games holts and when it delivers it does so with disorientating swift edits and muted sound to bring about the sensation of the violence being sickening and confusing. For the rest of the movie the acts of violence, which are essential to the movie’s narrative, are sudden and blunt, often off-screened and never glorified. So The Hunger Games effectively sets itself as a drama about the spectacle of violence instead of being a spectacle of violence itself.

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The production design blends together modern and classic motifs and references in order to make various statements about class, exploitation and social inequity. The scenario of a populace having to sacrifice its young citizens to please a higher authority happened in many ancient legends, including the Ancient Greek myth of the Minotaur who was sent youths to devour.  The modern day version of this myth as shown in The Hunger Games is the lottery based reaping, which could also be regarded as a parable for young folks being conscripted or manipulated into battling a foreign war started by the ancient ones.

Yet, The Hunger Games also digs into the scarified youth theme by looking at the way in which the young ones are groomed to conform to an idealized image so that their youth and beauty can be commodified and exploited. Not only are the tributes taught how to kill and survive, but they are trained to be media savvy in order to display the kind of image that will earn them sponsorship.

The Hunger Games also digs into the scarified youth theme

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They are constantly being looked at and scrutinized and the very tight cinematography often creates a claustrophobic effect by only shooting in close up and medium close up. Takes from a greater distance are often shot from the corner of a room so that it unconsciously gives the impression of closed-circuit television surveillance.

The ceremonial aspects of the games are a mixture of Ancient Roman and Nazi German iconography with modern day red carpet events. The huge open spaces, eagle insignias and neoclassic design captures the appearance of a totalitarian state trying to amaze its people with displays of power, while the focus on the clothing choices worn by the tributes evokes the vacuous commentary that occurs during events such as award ceremonies.

The combined effect is like that of the gladiators of Ancient Rome and modern day reality show contestants. The tributes are briefly major celebrities, destined to win the favor of the public in the short term until they are killed. It’s a highly subversive critique of mass entertainment that expresses Noam Chomsky’s argument about how the hype surrounding spectator sport is used to distract people from engaging in issues of real importance and therefore keeping them subservient through ignorance.

The representation of class divisions is overt with the wealthy members of society living in the opulent Capitol city while the poorer members of society, who are selected for the games, come from the surrounding districts. The bleak and improvised rural setting contrasts with the advanced technology and garish world of the Capitol where the dominant way is a grotesque fusion of Max Headroom type designer punk and the Rococo style fashion favored by the French aristocracy prior to the French Revolution.

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The final ingredient in what makes The Hunger Games so compelling is Katniss. Different from the heroes of many other Young Adult book and movie franchises, she has not got any natural gifts or special abilities that have been bestowed upon her magically, nor is she simply driven by a romantic crush, and the movie even self-reflexively includes a romantic subplot to comment on viewers’ expectations.

Katniss is entirely self-made, the skills she owns are the result of experience and she undermines the machinations of the games by utilizing ingenuity, cunning and humanity to survive and care for others. The overall combination of smart social commentary, compelling narrative, clever yet unobtrusive film style and the integrity to not be what it is critiquing, results in a very impressive film- The Hunger Games full movie.

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The Hunger Games full movie: ‘May the odds be ever in your favor’
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