I have been quite adamant in my loathing of The Hunger Games as a rip-off of Battle Royale, which in its own right borrowed quite heavily from Lord of the Flies, and while I was not upset that the film and book got hype, I was dismissive of how many people praised it for its originality, something, narratively speaking, it did not possess. As such I avoided viewing this film for quite some time because I felt as though I would be selling out to one of my favorite novels and films in Battle Royale, as well as feeding into media hype about a film that I would more than likely hate. However, I by some accident saw the trailer on television and was instantly drawn into the cinescape created by Gary Ross and knew that it would linger in my mind until viewing the film. Unable to convince my friends to join in the viewing of a film that they too had dismissed, I grabbed a bluray copy from a drugstore nearby and popped the popular movie in for viewing. I enjoyed The Hunger Games very much, it is certainly a rip-off thematically of works like Battle Royale and Lord of the Flies, but not it is clearly not with the means to exploit it for profits, and while I can only speak for the film, I felt as thought it was a realized distopian film with excellent cinematography, decent enough acting and enough fresh approaches to the kill-or-be-killed narrative to make the two plus hour film worth my time and, more importantly, worth convincing others to watch. The Hunger Games will likely be forgotten in the throes of big budget Hollywood in the next five or so years, but that does not mean we should ignore its current successes, as it stands right now, The Hunger Games is a great offering from the blockbuster system and as far as those are concerned it is one of the better films of the year.
The Hunger Games, for the two and a half people who do not know, follows a society in the grips of poverty and famine that choose to sacrifice two youth from each of their districts to fight to the death, the last one standing is promised wealth beyond comprehension. Of course, the districts with larger populations and a decent means can train their youth to compete, while others are chosen by random drawing, often to their dismay. In the case of the specific Hunger Games shown in the film one Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) volunteers as tribute for the Hunger Games in order to assure that her younger sister will not be subject to the cruel engagement. Along with another village boy Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) they represent their district in the games. The two are whisked off to training at the Capital, which is grueling and affords them an opportunity to see how truly corrupt the society they live within has become, particularly in the disparity between people of various districts and their wealth. Realizing this rather quickly, Katniss makes it a point to contradict the influence of wealth and stick to her own ways, making the initial hours of the actual games incredibly grueling. As Katniss competes against others trying to kill her and various natural obstacles, she learns self-reliance and to trust people who do right by her, ultimately surviving the bout till it is only her and Peeta left. Agreeing to commit suicide, as opposed to killing one another, a committee declares them joint winners of the games, in order, to not cause more despair amongst those viewing the games. Katniss and Peeta return as victors, much the the anger of the committee and the film closes with the President of the districts contemplating the situation, after all this is a trilogy.
So I should probably confront the race issue in the film. Having done a bit of research for this specific blog I have come to realize that in the novel the characters were clearly of darker skin than those in the film, proving problematic when you consider that white characters cover much of the main cast. It also helps to elucidate the scenes of bonding between Katniss and Cinna (Lenny Kravitz) who claims to have a connection to her, which when we know that Katniss is supposed to be darker, makes much more sense. This is not my criticism per se, but just something to keep in mind when watching the film. I myself, am drawn to the ways in which the adaptation completely dismisses the quality of any political structure in this particular distopian vision. Neither right nor left wing politics have proved useful in this vision of the future, and libertarian notions are shot out the window when we consider that the actual games reaffirm that if humans are left to their devices that they will prove Darwin right every time. I cannot say for sure what the political rhetoric that emerges would be from such a film, put I know that in its wake gender roles would be subverted, racial tensions would be broken and the idea of self-sacrifice for others would be glorified, at least this appears to be what Katniss' actions suggest and the President's discomfort reflect in the films closing. The various social commentaries emergent within this film are many and each could be drawn on for hours. Ideally, this should be a film introduced to burgeoning film studies students, as it offers a wide range of critiques that combine cinematic and theoretical language perfectly.
Key Scene: The poison/drug trip is well...trippy
I know I said that I rented this film, but I plan to get a bluray copy soon, it was much to my surprise quite good and well worth owning.