Tuesday, April 3, 2012

"Hunger Games" Fails to Satisfy

by Pa Rock
Film Fan

A friend and I went to see Hunger Games on its opening day at the Camp Foster (Okinawa) Theatre.  The fact that this “premier” occurred on April Fool’s Day is, I am sure, nothing more than a quirk in the alignment of the stars.  The movie was over-hyped, lame, and, in spite of some breathtaking scenery, pedantic and tedious.  The only “hunger” in evidence was a nagging desire in some members of the audience to rush out and salvage what was left of a beautiful Sunday afternoon.

The plot was simple.    The people of the world have grown tired of useless wars and decide to quench their bloodlust with annual survival contests called "Hunger Games" in which twelve geographic districts each have a lottery to send one boy and one girl to the capital to compete in the deadly events.  After several days of carnival and hype resembling a reality show on steroids, as well as some combat training, the twenty-four young people are finally set free to run into the woods where they must evade and kill each other until only one survives.  That person will be declared the winner of the "Hunger Games."

The heroine of the story is an older teen girl named Katniss from District 12 who volunteers for the games to replace, and thus save, her little sister who actually “won” the lottery.   Katniss, who grew up in the woods poaching squirrels and other small creatures to feed her mother and little sister, is adept at the survival stuff, and quickly becomes the target of several older and more villainous contestants who gang up in an effort to eliminate her.  The violence isn’t overly appalling considering what it could have entailed, and there weren’t even many hints of sex.

But the young people in the audience seemed to love Hunger Games, and scattered applause broke out several times in the theatre.  It was basically Twilight without vampires and werewolves – and the killing was the responsibility of ordinary young people, a couple of whom appeared to be no older than twelve.  

The movie had a very political feel to it - kill or be killed, don't question authority, wealth is a virtue.  The lotteries were representative of the draft with certain young people being forced into the maw of violence and death, regardless of their hopes for the future, to benefit the privileged classes.   The capital city where the games were organized was splendidly futuristic, and in some respects a utopia - the way the world could be if we didn't give all of our national wealth to arms manufacturers, bankers, and corporatists .  The twelve outlying districts were distinctly dystopian*, or miserably dreadful places.

And as with the draft, the lotteries reached into these dreadful places in order to find the fighters to protect - or in this case, entertain - the privileged classes.  The one percent had the wealth, and the ninety-nine percent were expected to help them keep it - or give them a really thrilling show.

Mitt Romney has said that he watched Hunger Games with his grandchildren and liked it.  I suspect that he really did enjoy the movie.  It was a tale of two realities - with the poor eating squirrels and fighting for survival, and the wealthy relying on them for entertainment.  And the games themselves were rigged.  It was a conservative wet dream of how the world could be.

(*Note:  The word "dystopian" has not yet made it into the Microsoft dictionary, but its first recorded use was in 1868 by economist John Stuart Mill.  It is literally the opposite of "utopian."  There is an article in today's Los Angeles Times detailing how the use of the word "dystopian" has surged in the print media since the release of Hunger Games.  http://www.latimes.com/news/nation/nationnow/la-na-nn-hunger-games-dystopian-20120402,0,303533.story)

1 comment:

Don said...

I read (or tried to read) the book some months ago but was unable to get past the first few chapters.

The premise was so odious that I found myself wondering about a more equitable way to entertain the rich.

Perhaps dueling fleets of helicopter gunships could amuse gaggles of investment bankers looking for a bit of high drama at lunchtime.