In anticipation of the newest addition to The Hunger Games franchise, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, I’ve taken it upon myself to revisit a franchise I loved as a young teen many years ago. 

The Hunger Games began as a book series written by author Suzanne Collins, first published in 2008 and seemingly ending in 2010 until the 2020 release of The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. It arguably jump started an interest in the dystopian genre that I was most definitely a huge fan of when it started. While I enjoyed other series that came out subsequently after the series, The Hunger Games remained near and dear to my heart and I wanted to revisit the franchise in a brief series covering each movie, beginning with the first one released in 2012.

Before the Arena

While I did read the books before the movies came out, one scene that always stuck out to me in both medias was Katniss Everdeen, played by Jennifer Lawrence, volunteering herself in place of her sister, Primrose. The scenes played out before showed the grimness of the reaping, with the sullen faces of many characters and the muted colors of the town itself. It really tells us how the reaping and the hunger games itself is grueling every year because district 12 tributes almost never return, with the exception of Katniss’s mentor, Haymitch Abernathy. It’s not a time to celebrate, it’s a time to mourn their imminent deaths. 

After Katniss is chosen, we meet Peeta Mellark, played by Josh Hutcherson, who is also reaped. They barely know each other and throughout the two week training, they get to know each other a little bit, but any semblance of friendship gets challenged when Peeta confesses his love for her on national t.v. This enrages Katniss but as we see when they’re in the arena, it becomes essential for survival. 

Before we enter the arena itself, I wanted to touch on how I love seeing the development of Katniss and Peeta’s relationship and how they could get along sometimes but mostly how strained it feels, and it only gets more complicated in later movies. Despite this, I love watching them together and I think their chemistry works really well. 

The Arena

The arena part of the movie was a hard watch as always, especially with little Rue’s death and how heartbroken Katniss is over it. It brought me to tears watching it-because how can you not at that moment-and Katniss’s reaction after the fact is equally heartbreaking. It’s a monumental scene though; Katniss does the hand gesture at the camera and district 8 saw her kindness towards Rue, but this simple act comes back to haunt Katniss in later movies.

Later in the games, the gamemakers decided to mess with the tributes by giving them hope that two tributes from the same district could win. It drives Katniss to go find Peeta because she knows he’s still alive, but she finds him half dead due to a leg injury. This part I distinctly remember being different from the book. In the movie, he gets his leg healed right up by a cream Katniss got. In the book however, it’s a more grim outcome and he ends up losing part of his leg and has a prosthetic for the rest of the series. When I saw the movie in theaters as a teen, I was confused by this change but brushed it off since I know movies can never be 100% accurate and faithful to the books they come from. Maybe it’s a controversial change, but I never saw it as a big deal.

As I’ve mentioned, their initially fake romance became an essential part of their survival because when they’re the only two left in the arena, the gamemakers turned it back to one lone victor, in which they threatened their lives with night lock berries. The head gamemaker panics and lets them both live, a price he’d pay with his life. This act was yet another spark towards what is yet to come in the next movie, which is my favorite of the four that’s out so far. 

For now, they’re forced to play up their romance to the cameras and all of Panem to appease President Snow, who is a terrifying force to be reckoned with. 

One final tragic detail I love about the series is how Peeta has loved Katniss through all of it, even when she was unsure of her own feelings between him and her long time friend, Gale Hawthorne, played by Liam Hemsworth, and confusing Peeta in the process. This movie marks the beginning of that journey and through everything else in the series and how harsh their lives are, love can still prevail even in the toughest situations.

This movie was really fun to revisit, and the experience only improves in the next movie. I can’t wait to talk about Catching Fire next!