The male leads of “The Hunger Games” really don’t spend any time together onscreen, but the dynamic that each of them shares with Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) helps shape not only this first film but the entire trilogy ahead.
What’s impressive is that this is not about an easy love triangle. If you were to remove the romantic entanglements from “Twilight,” for example, there’s nothing left. And while there are definitely strong feelings between Katniss and Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth) and Katniss and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), that’s not what drives this film. That’s not what drives the overall story. That’s not the point. I like that Katniss is defined by way more than just the men in her life.
Having said that, Gale and Peeta certainly matter. In this first film, Gale represents the life Katniss thought she was going to live forever, scratching by in District 12, caring for her sister Primrose (Willow Shields) and her mother (Paula Malcomson), sneaking off to hunt illegally with Gale by her side. Peeta is part of this new life she stumbles into when she volunteers to take Prim’s place in the The Hunger Games, with Peeta picked as the other tribute from District 12.
I’ve interviewed Hutcherson a number of times now, and he’s always an enthusiastic interview, happy to talk about the work and about the vision he had for the movie when he signed on. Whether it’s been “Detention” or “Journey 2” or “The Vampire’s Assistant,” he’s maintained this consistent level of being engaged by the work and determined to make the most of each new opportunity.
Hemsworth is new to me, and honestly, he’s got a somewhat truncated role in this first film. It’s hard to talk to him about what he might be doing in future movies, but that’s when Gale will start to get interesting.
This first film has to be a hit, though, and there’s no way of knowing if that’s going to be the case. Not yet. Anticipation is certainly high, and that means opinions will certainly be strong when the film is released.
“The Hunger Games” opens in theaters everywhere March 23.