First, the hiatus from blog posts can be explained by a week long ’bout with bronchitis and a week long vacation in Florida. Thus, while I was sick, I wasn’t drinking any beer to review or really doing anything fun, and while I was in Florida I was too busy to really type anything. BUT, I did end up seeing “The Hunger Games” at a midnight showing (not voluntarily) and came away with some thoughts in general about well, how the movie really BLEW IT and basically ruined any hope for the kind of decent movie that the source material (and I mean that in the loosest sense of the word) really deserves.
A few things first. I have not read “The Hunger Games” or any of the sequels, nor do I plan to. Also, I felt really FREAKIN old in the theater because everyone around me was a teenage girl complaining about detention. Yup, detention. But given that demographic, it makes total sense that “The Hunger Games” scored an assload of money and is well on its way to being a crazy successful franchise. But the problem with “The Hunger Games” is that it was made to score an assload of money from high school girls.
What am I talking about? Well, the plot of “The Hunger Games” is really nothing we haven’t seen/read before. “Battle Royale” did it with a novel and movie adaptation, Stephen King did it twice with “The Running Man” and “The Long Walk” and there are countless action pics involving Ice-T and Jean Claude Van Damme that involve humans hunting humans for sport. So it’s not offering anything new. Example, here’s the IMDB logline for “The Hunger Games”:
Set in a future where the Capitol selects a boy and girl from the twelve districts to fight to the death on live television, Katniss Everdeen volunteers to take her younger sister’s place for the latest match.
Wow. On its surface, that sounds like it could be really intense with the potential to be really deep. Kids, killing each other on live television, at the behest of the government. A ton of possible social commentary and avenues to explore. The problem is that “The Hunger Games” takes a “Twilight” approach to it, which not only means that everything is watered down into PG-13 teenybopper format, but no one could really make a similar movie that provides an epic take on the “fight to the death” plot, without being compared to “The Hunger Games.” The future of the genre has been ruined. Here’s how “The Hunger Games” really screwed up.
1) It takes place during the 74th or 76th (who really cares) Hunger Games, meaning it’s been going on for years. I understand that the plot of the series is to watch the fall of the Capitol (probably, seeing as I haven’t read them) but a really intriguing movie would involve the first ever Hunger Games, and chronicle the uprising that LEAD to the games. I mean, someone had to come up with this as a way to either give money to the districts or keep them in check (it’s never really clear what the fuck the purpose of the games are) or entertain the rich ass populace. I want to see the first games, how the public reacts, how the contestants react, if it really achieves what the government wants it to. I mean imagine if someone were to institute that, what would the reactions be? Protests? More rebellion? Which leads me to:
2) The government/capitol doesn’t really seem that oppressive. Sure, they make allusions to them giving food for participating in the games, which I guess makes them dicks and sure, some of the districts basically look like they’re the setting from “Winter’s Bone,” but they are a pretty lame government for this type of movie. The guards or police force are dressed in white outfits that make them look as unintimidating as possible, they don’t carry guns, and they never really do anything oppressive on camera. They are SHITTY VILLAINS.
3) It’s not violent enough. I understand that in this day and age, we are wary of kids killing kids (see, every school shooting ever). However, if you’re going to make a movie about that exact subject, I think the best way is to really embrace it and say, if this were to happen, this is what it would look like. If we DON’T want to eventually get to that point, then we should probably address it in a different way than “The Hunger Games.” Like 8 kids die in the first minute of the battle. I don’t even remember what they looked like, there was no blood, no screaming, no pain, and it happened in such quick cuts, you couldn’t really tell what was happening. If you had a battle in which kids were killing each other with sharp objects, people would be screaming in agony, limbs would be all over the place, it would be hell. Am I advocating that we really make a “Saving Private Ryan” version of “The Hunger Games”? I’m not sure, but I feel if you are going to tackle the subject of a televised slaughter of 12-18 year olds, then fuckin man up and face it realistically. Which leads me to:
4) There is almost no discussion of the televised nature of the games. Sure, there are cameras placed all over the battlefield, but they seem to be more used for the mission control people to add crazy monsters and fireballs and stuff. First, if you have 24 kids trying to kill each other, I feel like you don’t need fireballs or giant dogs. Let the kids go at it. It felt like “Jurassic Park” or something once they started adding the dogs/beasts. As if the thought of getting killed by your best friend wasn’t scary enough. But back to the televised aspect. There is a commentator sort of in Stanley Tucci, but there are no reaction shots of anyone watching the games, we don’t get any sort of sense of who/how many/where people watch it. Do people go to bars? Watch them on their Iphones? Have viewing parties? There are references to betting, but no scenes of them. There are references to sponsors, but so much more could’ve been done with them. IF they had used the movie to explore the first Hunger Games, then you could really explore the reactions of people watching, like, what the fuck are the parents of these kids doing? They are dying on national TV apparently, but they die, cannons go off, that’s it. They missed a HUGE opportunity here for social commentary, but I guess when you’re trying to make money off of a movie about kids killing kids, you can’t really explore the “sick fuck” aspect of the people watching kids killing kids.
5) It doesn’t feel real enough for me to give a shit. Because of all the stuff I listed above, it’s obvious that the movie really doesn’t take it’s subject matter that seriously. The games are just a setting for a teenage love story. The rich populace looks like extras from “The Wizard of Oz” crossed with Lady Gaga and the Oompa Loompas from “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” They’re laughable and so they don’t seem human, so therefore, I don’t really care who they are and we never see any reactions of them even watching the games. One of my favorite moments from “Gladiator” (a movie that I didn’t really enjoy overall) is watching Commodus react to the games, sticking out his tongue in an almost sexual enjoyment of the mayhem in front of him. That guy enjoyed savagery, these lame asses from the Capitol, they’re just WEIRDOS. And then we don’t see enough of the poor ass districts to really care that much about them either.
To sum it up, Michael Bay basically ruined the attack on Pearl Harbor by focusing on a love triangle. “The Hunger Games” does the same fucking thing and ruins a really interesting/promising premise by Twilight-ing it up. And just like no one is ever going to chance making a great movie about Pearl Harbor, no one is going to chance making a great/epic movie about oppressive governments ruling over televised battles to the death. Maybe that’s a good thing, but shame on “The Hunger Games” for screwing it up.