Hunger Games Review
My wife and I decided to visit the midnight showing of The Hunger Games, both knowing basically nothing of the books or story. Those who have read the books and bought the lunchboxes, give this pedestrian grace as I will analyze this piece of film.
For those who are in the dark as much as we were, Hunger Games is a story of post-apocolyptic world where a nation celebrates an important war victory generations ago with a unique holiday. Each year, a male and female ages 12-18 are randomly selected from 12 districts to compete in a nationally televised reality show. Set in a secluded forest and televised in a Truman Show-esque wooded arena, the children compete in a multi-day challenge where the winner is the last person alive. Use of weaponry such as swords, arrows, and mines are encouraged. The story follows a girl named Katniss as she trains to represent her lowly impoverished district and family, then competes along with her partner-turned-combatant, Peeta.
The book’s author, Suzanne Collins, found inspiration from watching a reality show and footage from the invasion of Iraq by US-led forces. What emerges is a cautionary tale designed to leave the viewer feeling uneasy from ten minutes into the movie until the end. Every step and turn features adults reveling in arenas and pageants of bright lights, wine glasses, and enthusiasm, while the viewer wants to stand up and scream that something is wrong. The contest is overseen by an Orwellian organization with advanced technological systems to summon animals and elements to skyrocket television ratings. Seventy-four years into the Hunger Games, this holiday tradition seems to be Collins mash-up many elements that leave humanity with bruises and sinking optimism.
One needs not look further than the infamous Roman gladiator games to tee off. We tend to look down on these, though somehow, Russell Crowe’s epic years ago didn’t pull these same heartstrings. Our culture sees children as the last bastion of innocence, making this an invasion on sacred turf. Having dancing adults in costume celebrating this diabolical holiday seems offensive.
Perhaps more subtle is that H.G. Wells’ Time Machine book should be cited as a source material during the opening credits. Wells’ features a protagonist travels through time until arriving in the extremely distant future where he finds humanity now in two races, the Eloi and the ape-like Morlocks. Wells’ envisions the Eloi as the sympathetic tribe that is being subdued by the Morlocks who have become cannibalistic. Having seen two films dedicated to this book, skip the 2002 version and watch the 1960 edition by George Pal.
Finally, this is the sort of journey that is at least winking at doomsday author George Orwell. In 1984, Orwell paints a future where the bourgeoisie oppressed the proletariat using ultra-evasive technology and other methods. Collins’ world features a hopeless mass of humanity surrendered to an organization of few.
As Collins’ blockbuster completes, the audience is given a would-be satisfying ending. The problem is, the inherent moral code in people is intentionally never left acknowledged to the point that my wife was angry as she left the cinema. The audience’s 142 minute rumble with emotion feels ignored. Collins’ knows very well that inherent in adults is an optimism in her world and ours reserved for children. Seeing a twelve-year-old girl (not graphically) sacrificed at the altar of brainwashed adults for little more than a holiday celebration is horrendously unsettling. For Lionsgate and its $78 million budget, the hope is that the audience will be so unsettled, they will gladly shell out money at the theater to give an inevitable sequel a chance to see the government dismantled out of revenge. As a work of cinema, the movie is well-composed. The plot, however, may easily anger or turn-off its audience if they aren’t given a clue that this isn’t the end.