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The Hunger Games full movie 2012 is a very enjoyable futurist adventure, presented with a compelling, beady-eyed intensity
If sport is violence by any means, then reality TV is cruelty, envy, spite and group hate by exactly the same ways. The Hunger Games is an exciting dystopian fantasy-thriller on this theme, taking place in a world of circuses but no bread. The film is directed by Gary Ross, and adapted from the 2008 young-adult bestseller by Suzanne Collins, who co-wrote the screenplay with Ross.
The Hunger Games is an exciting dystopian fantasy-thriller on this theme
The entirety of North America has become a totalitarian state, traumatized by chronic food shortages; these once inspired a people’s uprising in outlying regions, which was ruthlessly suppressed but the relevant communities “forgiven” on condition that they supply 24 young people by lottery every year to compete in a televised survival battle in a fenced-off woodland arena, provided with weapons and food, fighting with the elements and one another until only one remains alive.
In this way, the authorities hope to siphon off the people’s tendency to violence and resentment. At first petrified, the chosen contestants are eased by the pre-contest period: they had been living in dirt-poor rural areas that have regressed to a parody of 19th-century pioneer austerity, like something from Laura Ingalls Wilder. But the chosen teenagers are brought to a gleaming futurist metropolis beyond their dreams, where people dress with absurdly obvious decadence and foppery. Provided with food, luxury, excellent athletic training and the intoxicating thrill of celebrity, they start to glow: sacrificial lambs who think they’re rock stars.
Among them are tough, level-headed Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), two people with some emotional history together. When Peeta confesses his feelings for Katniss on screen and the ratings explode, the idea of lovers who must battle each other to the death starts to electrify the TV public, and demands for a rule change are pressed on the malign president, played, perhaps inevitably, by Donald Sutherland. But is Peeta just playing to the cameras?
The Hunger Games full movie is partly an amusing throwback
The Hunger Games full movie is partly an amusing throwback to satirical flicks such as Norman Jewison’s Rollerball (1975) and Sidney Lumet’s Network (1976), even though those films had a very adult, sexy-sleazy feel; The Hunger Games is remarkably chaste, despite all the fighting. It could also have been inspired by Kinji Fukasaku’s Japanese nightmare Battle Royale (2000) and Daniel Minahan’s excellent and underrated satire Series 7: The Contenders (2001). The movie also awoke in me a very delightful memory of the epic first-season Star Trek episode “Arena”, in which Captain Kirk is sent to a deserted planet where he has to battle the giant reptilian Gorn, and is told there are raw materials there to craft a weapon, if only he can find them.
The Hunger Games 2012 movie represents a strange kind of post-ironic accommodation
But these points of reference existed before reality TV took its grip. Whereas Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games were made by and for people who have grown up with it. Now pop culture has been absorbed in Pop Idol, American Idol and all the other reality shows in which young folks are ritually exposed or humiliated or capriciously promoted to headspinning, temporary fame. The Hunger Games full movie represents a strange kind of post-ironic accommodation: it doesn’t read as satire in quite the same fashion. The vicious use of Warhol’s 15 minutes to oppress and cheapen the public is not presented with distancing black comedy, more a protracted growl of pain.
Yet the vinegary tang of satire still lingers in the film. When Katniss has to showcase her archery skills to the drawlingly expert judges, she sneers: “Thank you for your consideration.” Could this be a sly dig at the campaign language for Academy award nominees? I busted out of laughter at Sutherland’s shrewd dismissal of the Hollywood-ized “sympathy” narrative: “There are many underdogs in this world,” he snaps, “if you could really see them, you would not cheer for them either.”
Just like The X Factor, the contestants have preening coach-figures – here they have Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson), Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks) and Cinna (Lenny Kravitz). And like Big Brother, warring contestants establish short-term alliances to manage the outcome, to prolong their presence in the fight, but also because a sociable denial-mechanism is hard-wired into them: for much of the time, they act as if death is not looming. Reality TV’s horrible fascination, presented here, is that we can see this on our screens; they can’t. The humiliation of failure on a real reality show is mortifying: the contestants’ non-celeb ordinariness counts against them, and their dignity levels plunge well below zero. A living death?
The Hunger Games full movie 2012 is a very watchable futurist journey
The Hunger Games full movie 2012 is a very watchable futurist journey, completed with a gripping, beady-eyed intensity. The worry now is that with big-screen versions of the next books in Suzanne Collins’s series coming down the line, the impact will be lessened, and it will become a Twilight-ish soap. Already there is a suggestion of a Team-Jacob-versus-Team-Edward conflict as Katniss may have her eye on another hottie, Gale (Liam Hemsworth). For the time being, however, this is supremely effective entertainment.