The Hunger Games
April 7, 2012
Note: I haven’t read the book. Yet…
Minor penalties for completely unnecessary opening scroll and way too much jerky-cam.
But holy crap, it’s been a really long time since I’ve been that stressed out in a movie. Like, first act of Aliens stressed out. The first half of this is absolutely grim. I kept thinking, this is the kind of society Kirk and the Enterprise would come along and just squash flat, screw the Prime Directive.
Ironically, the movie became less stressful during the second half, after the game actually started. On the one hand, once we got to the game, I had no idea what was going to happen since the preview clips all came from the first half (well done, previews!). On the other hand, the second half fell into a lot of action/adventure cliches that made it a bit predictable/unsurprising. I kept wanting Katniss to be a little more clever and self reliant. Also, a bit disappointingly, the film makes sure Katniss never has to face the moral dilemma that’s at the heart of the whole setup: she never has to really make a decision whether or not to kill someone. She kills indirectly, she kills by instinctive self-defense, or her enemies are killed for her. It’s a missed opportunity, I think. We like Katniss, she’s a good person, but that doesn’t mean moral dilemmas will naturally avoid her.
Speaking of Katniss, despite my criticisms, I loved her to pieces. She’s a Robin McKinley heroine: the young woman who doesn’t really want to be a hero, but she will because she has to, because she’s the person standing in the wrong place at the right time. An essentially good person who doesn’t really fit in her world, who’s going to do the best she can because she doesn’t have a choice. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a McKinley-type heroine in the movies, and I want more, please.
Surprisingly, at two and a half hours, the movie felt too short. After all the talk about how important sponsors were, I wanted to see more of the wheeling and dealing and wrangling, and see more of an influence on the game. I also wanted to see more of what the audience was seeing, and how the game was manipulated for the sake of entertainment. Don’t get me wrong, we got a couple of scenes of all of that, which is essentially good movie making, so I can’t really fault it. But I know there’s more to it than what we got. I’m told the book has more. It’s on my shelf right now, and I’ll be reading it.
It’s worth paying attention to the allegory here, I think. To note that this isn’t really a story about the future. Like a lot of great science fiction, it’s about right now, and how if the game is that rigged, your best bet is to break the rules and get the hell out.