It is probably late to give my thoughts on this movie. I went to see it last Tuesday and by now most people who are interested will have either seen it already or read so many other reviews they are sick of hearing about it. Anyway this is just a brief summary of my thoughts and I will try to keep it as spoiler-free as possible.
Not a Seagull or a Moltres apparently.
First of all I am just going to come out and say it; this movie bares a close reassembles to the Japanese movie Battle Royale, by which I mean it is within law-suit throwing distance. Should you care? No, you should not. Both are brilliant films, but I do feel the similarities are just too big to ignore. For those not familiar Battle Royale is about a class of kids sent to island ordered to reduce their numbers to one for the pleasure of a national audience. Its based on a novel by Koushun Takami who wrote it is a satire against the Japanese Government, following his experiences of horror and death a child in World War 2. Now the idea of the death sport is not a new one, nor is the idea of the child survivalist. Stories such as Lord of the Flies, The Running Man, 1984 and even Gladiator have all had a similar premise, so trying to suggest that one is a ‘rip-off’ of the other is a redundant argument.
However, ideas such as the romance between the male and female protagonists, the gruth lone survivor of the previous games helping them out, the two ‘volunteers’ who are in it for their own gain and even the nightly announcements listing the dead are all suspiciously similar. Were these similarities deliberately included in The Hunger Games by the original author? Its extremely unlikely. Where existing similarities enhanced by Hollywood as a way to cash in on both franchises? Much more likely, especially considering their eagerness for a so far unsuccessful American remake of Battle Royale. In America the Battle Royale movies have were very recently removed from the banned list and given proper releases, whilst in the UK we got the enhanced Blu-ray and up-coming 3D version. Now has to be more then a coincidence.
I did have a few more points to make on this subject, but I will save that death match for another day. Lets talk about The Hunger Games. Its good. I am not a screaming fan-girl so I will not try and convince you this is the ultimate movie, because it isn’t. But for every flaw there at least two positives, something strangely unusual for a movie with this much hype.
As discussed the general storyline was been seen before. In a post-apocalyptic world, a group of children consisting of a boy and a girl from each of 12 districts, is picked at random to battle to the death in front of a live audience. If watching youngsters murdering each to other to death makes you feel a bit uneasy then do not touch this film (and avoid Battle Royale like it carries the zombie-plague). In the UK it carried a 12A rating, something me and others felt was shockingly under-rated and doubling annoying as most of the film had to be cut in order to get below a 15 certificate. If you come stomach the violence (either because you are over 15 or a psychopathic) then the rest of the story is rich with satire, especially the first half which takes numerous swipes at our increasingly media based society. For me this was my favourite part of the film. The children going to their deaths are made into talent show-esqe celebrities and forced to play up these roles in order to win the favour of their wealthy ‘sponsors’, who often mean the difference between life and death. It also tries to make a point about the desensitising effect of the violence in said media, a point I felt was drowned in a wave of irony.
A young Lily Savage introduces tonight’s next hopeful before impaling them on a big spike.
The setting was stylish, although sometimes familiar, the rich capital city contrasting well against the poorer districts with its Roman/Greek style designs and grotesquely bejewled citizens. It reminded me of some of the old 80′s sci-fi movies like The Fifth Element and The Running Man and I have a feeling this was done intentionally. There are some sci-fi elements in this movie, such as an awesome hover train, but these are brief and do not distract from the plot. A pre-game talk show the contestants (all of who are great young actors) participate in is both funny and creepy, whilst the way in which the heroine and her love interested are deliberately forced together for the sake of ratings was a rather refreshing after most other stale movie romances.
The second half of the movie is the game itself and in my opinion is not as enjoyable as the first act. Rather then a flowing plot, it feels more like a set of events breaking up the occasional next step in story. Unlike in Battle Royale (sorry to keep bring it back up) where most of the constants are given their own little side-stories, here all the focus is on the main lead and I could not help but feel that when see was sitting in a tree we were missing out on the action elsewhere. On that subject, one of the bizzare things I noticed was the way in which the violence was covered up during this second half. This may have just been because I was watching the 12A edited version (hopefully there will be an uncut dvd) but a lot of the time the camera would pan away from a death scene or disguise it with the dreaded ‘shaky’ effect. I find it odd that a movie which features children as young as 12 killing each other, including being stung to death by wasps and torn apart by mutant dogs (who had no real business being in this movie anyway) should suddenly shy away from its subject matter like this, almost as if the director had lost his nerve during the final stretch.
At about the 3/4 mark I have to admit I was starting to wish the conclusion would hurry up and arrive, and when it did I found it was pretty much exactly what I was expecting. I will not go into the details, but it is not a hard one to predict. The ending is left open for the obviously forthcoming sequels, which my friend (who has actually read the books) assures me they will be very different in terms of story and is already hyped up to see them. Although I have never read the books, I probably will be seeing them too. The Hunger Games whilst not being the greatest thing ever put on screen did at least show that people behind it cared about what they were making and put a lot of effort into it. There are plot holes and themes that are not fully developed (‘I don’t want to kill’ ‘Its just like hunting’ ‘Oh okay.’ FWAPPP) but despite this the overall experience is gripping and well worth seeing at least once, even if like me you never knew The Hunger Games existed until now. If you did, chances are you have already seen it and this review has been completely irrelevant.