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Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Hunger Games - A Review

If Star Wars is your creed, if Star Trek is your enterprise or if Dr Who is your time-lord, and if you are one of those rare Science Fiction Freakazoids who are lucky enough to have a girlfriend, or even a wife, then perhaps you are like me and your female counterpart does not share your love for lazar guns, aliens and time travel?

Like me, have you found yourself standing in the DVD store begging your maiden, saying, “Come on, I know you’ll love the new Star Trek movie, its directed by J.J. Abrams for goodness sake!” or, “It even has Chris Pine in it, and romance… look, we’ll watch it for half an hour and if you’re still not into it we’ll watch the Note Book…”?

If that is you and all hope has gone at warp nine across the cosmos then have it Quantum Leap back home because I think I have found the movie that could be the potential “face hugger” to put the “alien” into the one you love…

Ok, so perhaps The Hunger Games does not have any of the above science fiction related mumbo jumbo but it is set in the future, it does have something in it that could be a space ship and it does have elements of some of the best Sci Fi flicks ever made…

But first I better get down to what the film is actually about.

In The Hunger Games, Gary Ross, Director/Producer of such classics as Pleasantville and Big, brings to the Screen his retelling of Suzanne Collins book of the same name. The story is set in a future dystopian society that consists of a Capitol, where the privileged elite live fearless lives, but at the expense of 12 districts of unpleasant living circumstances, the worst being that every year the youth of each district must present themselves for the “reaping”, where one boy and one girl are selected to compete in the Annual Hunger Games. A TV show in which contestants fight to the death until, well, there can be only one. In this story Katniss Everdeen volunteers to save her kid sister from going to her certain death, taking with her only her skills with a bow and arrow and her lovely personality… well, sort of.

The first half of the movie focuses on the training and also the decadence of the Capitol where, contrasted to Katniss’ humble backward district, the people frolic in frivolity, heinous fashion sense and debauchery. The people in the Capitol seem shallow and either naïve or indifferent to the rest of humanity, upon whose backs they stand.

The Hunger Games themselves are a 75 year old tradition, having its origins in the aftermath in a rebellion. Beginning as a sort of punishment against the uprising Districts it has become something much worse – bloodthirsty and pointless entertainment.

The second half of the movie finds Katniss in a simulated forest environment where the 24 contestants brutally hunt one another down. Katniss is smart though and usually hides in a tree.

There’s also a burgeoning love triangle thing going between Katniss and Peeta Mellark, the baker boy from her district who has had a crush on her forever and uses his skills of extreme cake decorating to make himself look like a tree…. Oh I said love triangle didn’t I… well, while Peeta wriggles his way into Katniss’ affections there is another boy, Liam Hemsworth’s Gale Hawthorne, waiting for Katniss at home who can see the whole thing happening on TV, just like in Big Brother! It’ll be very interesting to see where the triangle ends, or perhaps it’ll turn into a square? Who knows, perhaps I should just read the books already!

But not having read the book was an advantage for me, because I was able to enjoy the film without having to nit-pick over all the bits that were missing from it. However this also had its disadvantages, as there were things in the film that assume prior knowledge, like what is the significance of Katniss’ Mocking Jay broach? Why does it often raise a few eyebrows when seen by certain people? What’s with the three fingered salute often seen in the outer districts as some sort of symbol of solidarity? Are these things connected to the uprising of 75 years ago? By the time I finished asking myself these questions the film had progressed by 20 minutes and I was none the wiser. Maybe it’s just a ploy to make me buy the book?

But going back to a statement I made earlier, being an prolific consumer of classic Science Fiction Film I picked out very quickly the wealth of influences that made this film for me. The obvious influence is the 1987 Arnold Schwarzenegger movie – The Running Man, written by Stephen King by the way, in which, to quote IMDB “A wrongly-convicted man must try to survive a public execution gauntlet staged as a TV game show.” – sound familiar? Except The Hunger Games doesn’t have the grunt of a classic Arnie movie, it is a chick flick after all.
In fact, if you got The Running Man, The Truman Show and Twilight (though please don’t let that last one put you off) and somehow squished them all together you would have The Hunger Games! Throw in a little bit of Logan’s Run and maybe Highlander, for atmosphere rather than plot, while you’re at it.
This movie had no shortage of talent either. Stanley Tucci playing the future’s version of Graham Norton, Jennifer Lawrence (Mystique from X-men First Class) playing Katniss and Josh Hutcherson (all grown up now) playing Peeta, and that’s just to name a few.

I was particularly impressed with Jennifer Lawrence because, well, she’s so normal looking. I’m not saying she’s ugly or anything, but she is completely void of that Hollywood fakeness that passes for a body in most modern films. Here is a girl who looks like someone I could easily sit next to on a bus one day. And believe me when I say that is a compliment. Hollywood has turned natural beauty into an abnormality in modern film. It was nice to see it make a comeback in this movie.

Overall there was enough Science Fiction and violence in this movie to entertain the geek and the man in me and enough soppy wet eye moments to entertain the woman in my life. That’s what made this a great movie for me.
It’s also one of those rare flicks where I could sit through the credits because Taylor Swift’s song, safe and warm just transported me back to 1998 when I would blast Jewels “Foolish Games” to my bleeding hearts content. But that’s just me.

On a more serious note, this movie copped a lot of flak for promoting violence among youths. Even some of my Facebook friends rubbished it for being too hardcore on the hostility. Well, I think people can be stupid. I’ll tell you why.

Sometimes the story itself is more important than what happens in the story. What happens in the story is just a vehicle for what the story is actually about. Make sense?

To explain further, if I took 24 teenagers, gave them all manner of weapons and said, “fight to the death” and we’ll film it. That would be a terrible movie and not worth paying to see, obviously! Because it’s senseless and downright immoral!

But if I was to put the violence in the context of a story about a totalitarian society that thrives on this sort of thing and made the central figure in the story the catalyst for bringing this disgusting practice to an end… that would be a noble story and worth sitting through to see how the heroine achieves the desired resolution of endorsing respect for life.

Again, that’s just me. But as someone who knows a little bit about Human history, and that what has been has been before and what will be will be again – this tale fascinated me by its honest consideration that this could be a possible future. After all, the Romans fed my Christian forebears to the Lions for their entertainment in the Coliseum. They also had gladiators fight to the death, the only reason we don’t do the same today is because Rome became Christian and the practice was condemned. But what happens in the Future when we are no longer Christian? Do we go back to doing it like the Romans or are we really better than that? We’re truly naïve creatures if we believe we could never become like the people in this movie.

It’s one thing I hate about a lot of Science Fiction actually. In Star Trek the future portrays Humans as being wonderful enlightened peace bringers to the galaxy, in other movies the aliens are invading us or bursting through our chests… but in truth, given the proof of history and the consistency of our Human Nature, in the real future, we Humans are likely to be no better than the Citizens of the Capitol in The Hunger Games.

I can’t wait to see Catching Fire!

I’ll give this one 7 out of 10 for allowing me to pretend that I was watching a Nerd Movie with my un-nerdy wife.

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  1. Hey K
    Dan Here

    Good review. Yes you are right about the brooch and the salute, explained in the book and not in the movie.

    The story goes that the MockinJay brooch is basically a reminder to the Capitol of there failures. As the capitol genetically engineered the MockingJay between a Mocking bird and a Blue Jay and the result was not what they wanted. Their aim was to use them to listen to secrets of the rebels and have them relay them back to the Capitol(u know like a mockingbird does) but basically it backfired on them and the rebels used them another way (can't quite remember how)

    In regards to the salute I am trying to rack my brain but I think it was more about her uniting with another district and showing compassion to her competitors...which of course the Capitol did not like as they wanted enmity between the districts to avoid another uprising - I hope I am remebering correctly and down get flamed by some Hunger Games Fanboy!!

  2. Thanks Dan, really glad you had a read :p Seeing as you've read the book I guess I can read it now and not worry about the "twilight" stigma it carries with it...

    By the way, you should write blogs, you'd be good at it!


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