Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games; action adventure, USA, 2012; D: Gary Ross, S: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Lenny Kravitz, Stanley Tucci, Donald Sutherland

In the future, the US had a civil war. After the secessionist movement was suppressed, the nation is divided into 12 districts and the rich Capitol. In order to celebrate that event, the Hunger Games are held annually: 12 boys and 12 girls from each district are chosen to fight in a televised broadcast until only one survives. When her 12-year old sister is selected, Katniss volunteers to go instead of her. The boy from her district is Peeta, who is secretly in love with her. The 24 candidates train in the Capitol for the games, and Peeta and Katniss are assigned with "mentor" Haymitch, an earlier winner. Once released in the forest, the teenagers start massacring each other. Katniss and Peeta are the only ones left and decide to commit suicide rather than kill each other. However, they are interrupted by the council who declares them both winners.

Even though it had a good critical acclaim and a smashing box office result, the film adaptation of Suzanne Collins dystopian novel "The Hunger Games" is a standard action flick that turned out too much like "Running Man" and too little like "Rollerball" or "The Truman Show". Instead of developing a satirical and political dimension, it just dwells on the raw 'gladiator game' in the forest where the 24 teenagers are set on killing each other for the TV show, which in the end becomes the film's only perspective: that's maybe enough for action fans, but not for viewers eager for something more sophisticated and inventive. For one, the storyline is not articulate: it is not clear why the elite from the Capitol would set up such a drastic survivalist TV show where 23 out of 24 teenagers are killed. There is only one scene in the film that explains that, but it is insufficient. Such a practice would only make the system unstable, because parents from the 12 districts would become prone to rebellion in the long run in order to protect their kids from such a monstrosity. Overall, it simply makes no sense in the film. The sense of perspective also falls short: the fact that the 12 districts live in extreme poverty and only the Capitol has wealth is just a footnote in the film, because you never know if the place where Katniss lives in is just an exception or the rule in this world. On micro level, the scenes also tend to turn silly (Katniss spinning around her axis to "ignite" fire on her dress) or unconvincing (the typical cliche of a girl having the chance to kill off Katniss, but instead spending two-three minutes taunting her. And just when she is about to kill Katniss, she is, of course, "saved-in-the-nick-of-time"), whereas only a couple stand out as thrilling (the wasp nest sequence). "The Hunger Games" are a more humane version of "Battle Royale", but both are far from a good film.


No comments: