Film #153: The Hunger Games (2012)

hungergamesDirector: Gary Ross
Language: English
Length: 142 minutes
Watched on: June 30 2015 (3 of 3 on my flight to the UK)

This was the third movie I watched in quick succession on the flight back in July. Like Frozen, it was another movie that I’d missed when it first came out a few years ago, but had permeated the pop culture enough that I knew a few details of its plot already – namely, that it has a very similar plot to Battle Royale, a very violent movie starring Beat Takeshi (although as far as I know, this is a kind of coincidence).

It’s an important story because – as far as I know – it (or its novel predecessor) started the recent trend for Young Adult dystopian sci-fi, some of which I’ve covered before on this blog. The eponymous Hunger Games are a reality TV show in a future North America featuring teenagers bludgeoning each other to death and otherwise murdering and maiming one another, to see who emerges the last one standing. While in Battle Royale it was sadistic teachers conducting an experiment, this is the rich residents of a central city punishing the outlying districts of their continent for a past uprising.

The main character is Katniss, who volunteers herself instead of her sister to be the tribute of her district. As a character, she’s also important for starting a trend of more focus on female protagonists, and the story is to be commended for that. She’s played well by Jennifer Lawrence in the film. Over the course of the story – well, I don’t think it’ll be a spoiler that she emerges victorious, exactly; that’s more like narrative inevitability – she uses a combination of stealth and resourcefulness, and seems to be the only one not so keen on the whole concept of the Hunger Games, actively trying to help supposedly rival contestants.

There was a lot to like about this movie. I especially liked the attention to detail, such as in the imagination of the future world’s fashion. That reminded me a lot of The Fifth Element, particularly the depiction of the Capitol city – and here the contrast with Katniss’s hometown was stark and obvious.

As its major theme, the story is a strong indictment of reality TV culture and the obliviousness of the general population to poverty and other issues that happen outside their own culture. To a certain extent I agree with this, and I’m not the kind of person who watches a lot of reality TV or anything… but I remain unconvinced that reality TV is the downfall of civilization, and when I watch films or shows like this that suggest such, I get a bit frustrated. I think the comparison is as vapid as the TV that it is trying to criticize, frankly.

But that aside, I liked this, and one major advantage it has over similar movies like Battle Royale is that it’s not gory. Most of the violence is non-explicit, as I remember. It’s certainly aimed at a lower age of audience than, say, The Maze Runner, another young adult dystopia, which was quite scary in places with its big spiders. This by comparison has a low-level sense of dread running through it, but is easier to watch. I’d recommend it, with the caveat that it probably has an upper age cutoff in the early 30s, since its characters are all teenagers, with all that that entails. I think if I was a lot older than I am now, I’d just be finding them a lot more insufferable. As it was, I’m still young enough to forgive them.

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