The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games is like American Idol meets The Bachelor on the set of Survivor, filmed and directed by the criminally insane.

People are “The Most Dangerous Game”, which is the title of the literary ancestor of the “human being as quarry for other human beings” theme. A classic short story written by Richard Connell and published in 1924 in Collier’s Weekly, it has since, for better or worse, been reproduced with so many variations on that theme, in both book and film, it would be impossible to get an accurate tally.

“The Hunger Games” is a futuristic variation on this concept with the film adaptation based on the first of the youth novels of the same name by Suzanne Collins. Two thoughts come to mind after reading a couple of reviews: (1) someone either didn’t watch the film, or (2) they weren’t paying attention, like the girl in the row in front of me who was messing with some lighted gadget during the whole first portion of the movie.

One reviewer was glad they finally came out with a movie where the heroine did not have background in physical training. Okay . . . the main character, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), hunts with a bow in a vast, mountainous (and off-limits) forest, not for physical qualifications, but because she is starving, which gives a little more motivation, I would think.

Another reviewer said the opening of the movie dragged because it took too long, but also said it did not give enough information to know quite what was going on. Actually, the opening sequences showed the audience that the people of this area lived in dire poverty, and that Katniss had to do the hunting because her father was dead. It also showed she was the only provider for her mother, who wasn’t all there emotionally, and her fearful young sister Prim (Willow Shields), whose name was coming up for the first time in the yearly Hunger Game lottery. (Some good advice for any movie goer is — keep your mouth shut and your toys at home and maybe it won’t drag because you’ll know what’s going on).

In the plot, The Hunger Games is the ultimate reality show, the brainchild of the rich and ruthless dictatorial government of the North American post- apocalyptic nation of Panem. While the elite and privileged Capitol residents live in wealth and luxury, the dwellers of the twelve districts of the failed rebellion live on the edge of starvation in a bleak and hopeless world. As a reminder to these descendants-of-anarchy that another such rebellion will not be tolerated, a drawing is held once a year to choose a boy and girl between the ages of 12 and 18 from each district to participate in The Hunger Games. Twenty-four kids go into the games, but only one comes out alive. They are pitted against each other, to the death, over a designated, wild terrain, and televised for the pleasure and entertainment of their viewing audience.

The Hunger Games is like American Idol meets The Bachelor on the set of Survivor, filmed and directed by the criminally insane. It poses the question: How far are viewers prepared to take these reality shows? How much have audiences already been inured to suffering for the sake of entertainment? Yes, people (young people in some cases) go on reality shows for their fifteen minutes of fame, a paying contract if possible, and a willingness to sell their dignity to any bidder at any price just to get on television. We, the viewing audience, not only don’t seem to mind that their emotions, real or feigned, are manipulated and ripped to shreds, we revel in it. We might even shed a tear over it. But these are real people pitted against each other, and only one comes out on top.

As for the movie itself, I can’t give a thumbs up or a thumbs down. I give it a waggle. It entertained. It kept the blood and gore to a minimum while it did make a horrible impact that these were children killing children (reminiscent of the impact of Lord of the Flies). It had a plot. It had a social message. The actors were fine. I didn’t want my money back. But it also didn’t blow me away emotionally or otherwise. I don’t know why. Maybe some other reviewer with a grasp of these things, who actually saw the movie and paid attention, can give us a clue.

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