THE HUNGER GAMES (2012)
Lionsgate // PG-13
Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Stanley Tucci, Elizabeth Banks, Donald Sutherland, Lenny Kravitz, Woody Harrelson, and dozens of young actors who get killed midway through the movie
The Hunger Games is a dystopian film in which young Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) volunteers to take part in the dystopian Hunger Games, wherein twenty-four dystopian youngsters compete to the death for the right, I suppose, to say that he or she won the Hunger Games. It isn’t made clear what the great prize is at the end of the homicidal rainbow, or why the oppressed, dystopian people of the dystopian districts of dystopian nation of Panem (of which there are twelve – Katniss hails from the twelfth) should submit to this squalid, dystopian gladiatorial contest for the amusement of the dystopian, decadent Capitol.
All of this is occurring in what is apparently a dystopian future America, in which the outlying districts send resources to Capitol, which is something of a dystopian D.C. crossed with Thunderdome. The dystopian “citizens” of Capitol, if they can be graced with the dignity of such a term, are a wretched bunch (and look as if they have are refugees from pre-revolutionary France dressed in an unholy combination of Hot Topic and 1980’s Benetton clothing) cheering and squealing in delight at the dystopian murder games played out for their dystopian entertainment.
That a lot of dystopianism to ingest. Wow, this film is bleak. What am I to make of it? Is it an anti-capitalist critique of modern capitalism for the 99%? A parable for the age of reality television? A love story? It is a mixture of all of those things.
Katniss and her fellow male district “tribute,” Peeta Mellark, are sent from their drab, 1930’s Depression-style community in District 12 to the bright and shining Capitol to train (in a mere four days) to fight the twenty-two other selectees, as well as, ultimately, each other, in a high-tech outdoor stadium, watched all along by the millions of denizens of this bizarre nation. A nice touch is that real color invades the screen only when Katniss departs her gray district town for Capitol, a nod to Dorothy’s wondrous entrance to the Land of Oz, but in this case, something far more sinister.
The youngsters are trained by Haymitch (Woody Harrelson) and their look spruced up by Cinna (Lenny Kravitz), who despite being relatively sympathetic characters, nevertheless do not challenge the basic premise of the Hunger Games, which is that they are revoltingly immoral contests. Perhaps they feel that they can’t, that they are powerless to alter the Hunger Games, a blood sport whose only purpose, it seems, is to remind the people of future America not to get uppity and rebel.
I have not read the books. Now, after watching this movie, I don’t want to. I can’t say that the books are bad, but The Hunger Games did not resonate with me. I found the premise of two dozen kids killing each other for the amusement of the crowd to be disturbing, and I am not squeamish. I could stomach Gladiator very well, but that was a far different film. Also, it is not that The Hunger Games was especially bloody. That element was rather limited. No, the premise of the film is not something that I care for – at all.
There were several times during the course of The Hunger Games that I just wished it would end. It is a very good film, just not one that I enjoyed. That may seem contradictory, but it isn’t. I can recognize the quality of the moviemaking. Director Gary Ross has done a fine job and Jennifer Lawrence is a splendid actress. Dystopianism is not for me. I think that in order to really like a science fiction movie or novel, I have to want to “visit” the imaginary world in which it is set. I would like to visit Middle-earth, Narnia, the Federation from Star Trek, or even the Galactic Empire from Star Wars (only for a short spell) but I don’t have any desire to visit the depressing, frightful Panem with its sordid Hunger Games.