The Hunger Games (2012)

Games without frontiers

Now that the fame of wizards, vampires and werewolves is starting to fade, it’s time for a new saga – more futuristic and less fairy-tale. Ladies and gentleman – The Hunger Games (2012) hit the big screen!

Originally a ‘young adult novel’, The Hunger Games written by Suzanne Collins first gained popularity in 2008. The trilogy follows the story of 16-year-old Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) living in the futuristic world of Panem.

After the (undefined) war between the citizens of North America, the Capitol – the central governmental force – is attempting to enforce the peace and at the same time punish the 12 districts of Panem for rising up against the system by forcing them to sacrifice two young people each year.

A young girl and boy from every district, aged 12 to 16, randomly chosen in a lottery, have to participate in the world-wide reality television show called Hunger Games, which places the 24 ‘tributes’ together in the wilderness and watch them kill each other. There can be only one winner – so it’s kill or be killed!

Rings a bell? Yes it does! To those of you who have seen Kinji Fukasaku’s Battle Royale (2000), the story may seem somewhat similar – a government that’s forcing kids to kill each other somewhere in a bloody survival camp – the idea is not new, although it was much more shocking and violent in the Japanese version.

Collins’ story is more polished, milder, less violent and more obviously moralizing. The idea of a sacrifice in form of a TV show is a nice touch and quite a clever transmission of the primitive tradition into the modern society, however the constant comparison to Battle Royale taking place in my head left a poor aftertaste (not because of the violence, but because I dislike other people’s ideas being copied).

So the director, Gary Ross, is trying to show us the absurdity and indifference of a post-modern society that’s ruled by a system that promotes suffering as a form of mass entertainment.

While the idea is not bad, the execution lacks intensity, excitement and drama. We hardly ever feel that this is a fight for life – instead the movie offers a surplus of camera gimmicks, as if the director hasn’t yet learned yet that a shaky picture isn’t necessary to build an atmosphere of instability.

With the wide range of stars in its cast (Stanley Tucci, Woody Harelson, Donald Sutherland) and its social–moralizing message, the trilogy has a big chance to become a hit, and will be probably be praised for being ‘so much deeper and more meaningful’ than Twilight or Harry Potter.

It’s for you to decide if that’s indeed the case.

142 mins.

One thought on “The Hunger Games (2012)”

  1. Thanks, Agata – I probably won’t see it now, after all. I suppose it’s not right to expect that your kids should watch Battle Royale but I think that there’s also a way of teaching them morals without forcing it into their faces over – gulp – 2h 20mins of celluloid.

    I liked Fukusaku’s original because it didn’t necessarily have to mean anything, the same way that Japanese students are happy to be tortured and humiliated on national TV even today for ‘the honour of the school’ or just for shits ‘n’ giggles. I do get heartily sick of being told how to feel in such sledgehammer terms. It’s like watching Sting talk about politics for a couple of hours.

    Perhaps if one of my kids fancies it, I’ll give it a try.

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