The Hunger Games is a film for teenagers based on a book for teenagers so maybe it’s a little unfair to be picking on it for not being a particularly well though out dystopia. But for a lot of reviewers that seemed to be the only criticism they could make against an otherwise thrilling and enjoyable movie.
This film is a shambles.
Maybe we can give them a pass on the dystopia being badly thought out and underdeveloped, but to spend over an hour badly thinking it and underdeveloping it? Oh but it’s the first in the trilogy, they’re just laying the groundwork for what’s to come! Well sadly what’s to come is a tedious failure.
You can’t really talk about this film without mentioning Battle Royale (there, I did it just then) but this glorified death match scenario is far older than that 2000 film. Series 7: The Contenders dealt (rather badly) with the set-up as a critique of reality TV, long before that The Running Man was televising murderous combat, and Zodiac’s favourite 1932’s The Most Dangerous Game had people being chased round the woods with a bow and arrow for larks.
The Hunger Games adds nothing new to any of this what it repeats it does badly. Our hero Katniss Everdeen despite being an apparently well-trained hunter manages to win the games despite shying away from actively killing anyone (even at the end the act is more like a mercy killing). The contestants in the games – the tributes – divide themselves up nicely into Good Guys and Bad Guys so viewers don’t need to feel too morally compromised and any complex issues about the ruling elite forcing youngsters to kill each other are sidestepped.
Only with the death of one of the ‘good’ characters does the movie pause to address the fall-out from its premise. It’s ham-fistedly done and the event sparks off a rebellion the outcome of which will presumably be dealt with in the sequels. Are we really meant to believe that no one fully appreciated that youngsters were being forced to kill each other until this moment? After 73 years of Hunger Games?
This incident aside the Games themselves are a toothless affair as Katniss sits out for the most of it, spending time running away from conflict or else hiding out with her friend/love interest Peeta who can camoflage himself as a rock using skills he learnt as a cake decorator (what, seriously?).
It’s just so fucking dull and none of it makes sense! Why do the Capitol exert so much effort trying to bring tributes closer together early on and then to wrap things up at the end? In fact, why, at the outset of the games, do they engineer a bloodbath free-for-all? If there’s one thing I’ve learnt from the scheduling of Britain’s Got Talent or the X Factor it’s that these things should be dragged on for as long as humanly possible.
This is your big reminder to the underlings not to rebel (itself a dubious concept), either that or it’s the prime circus of your bread and circuses ruling style (you didn’t think the nation was called Panem for nothing did you?) why are they so keen to rush it?
And what do the ruling classes do? Rule presumably but then what? Just live it up all day long and wait for their annual Bring Your Son & Daughter To The Televised Slaughter? I noticed that they ate cakes and that their beds were made. Given that all the working classes are housed miles away in 12 scattered districts maybe they spend their time folding sheets and icing buns, though I somehow doubt it.
Or maybe they’re all just so incredibly evil that filling time doesn’t matter to them, they’re happy just to eat suckling pig, drink fine wine and gloat over their own good fortune. But how did they get so lucky? Is it birthright? Did they work they way to the top? If so, doing what?
The film doesn’t care to answer these questions. There are just well-off people who are evil, poor people who are virtuous, and some mid-level caste of law enforcers who are presumably also evil. That is all you need to know.
Like the concept of the games themselves this a borrowed dystopia. The clothing and architecture, the language and the political system all are selected by some magpie creator and thrown together. Things are the way they are just because it would make a cool story and there’ll then be a reason to have a super exciting death match followed by a rebellion.
Trouble is somebody forgot to make sure it was super exciting and that people got carried away by the action. That I had time to wonder so purposefully about the intricacies of life in Panem is testament to the fact that this film is an awful lot of hunger and no games.
Also, everyone looks like Mugatu: