Thursday, August 16, 2012

3 Short Paragraphs: The Hunger Games

2012, Gary Ross (Seabiscuit, Pleasantville) -- cinema

About two years ago Kent asked if I had heard of The Hunger Games, a post-apocalypse series of teen adventure novels with a Battle Royale sense about it.  It actually took me a while to get myself e-copies of the books and sit down and read the first one.  I liked it, I liked the style and the sense of responsibility it played up the heroine with, instead of focusing on the battle, as the Japanese story does.  But when the hype of the movie started coming out, I was a bit confused.  The books are for teens with a definite sense of maturity, but the marketing of the movie seemed (at least in the media) focused on a younger audience, with retroactive attention to the books, as if they were the next Harry Potter, when they should have been marketed (again, retroactively, as the books were already a phenomena on their own) as the next Twilight, thoughtful adventure books with strong characters instead of melo-romantic vampire pap pumping sexual repression at us.  You can guess what books I prefer.

So, that said, the movie is definitely not for the pre-adolescent set, even less so than the books.  No, not so much in the visual representations of the violence, but really in the style and direction of it.   This movie has a lovely, mature directing sense about it, with loving close shots of Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss and a reserved nature to the violence.  And where the movie has to be grand, it is so, depicting the wealth of the capitol in all its stolen glory.  Genre movies don't often get this attention to directing, all too often falling into a series of wide shots, so we see all the lovely dressed sets and action, connected to inventive quirky shots to show off the CGI.  But this is a story ultimately about a girl who has to has to make difficult decisions in order to save her sister from an uncaring government.  The director cares for Katniss and we see that in the shots.

Only one thing bothered me about the movie, as a comparison to the book, in that it tried to be more science-fictiony in its depiction of the arena.  I always had the impression that these were not so much fully man made facilities but more, areas of their own world reconstructed and edited to be self-contained environments capable of being manipulated.  Sort of like a nature reserve but with more technology.  But in the movie it all seems a bit more like a giant Star Trek holodeck with the ability for techs in a control room to alter anything at will, adding in monsters on the fly or inserting geographical elements as needed.  While I accepted that the arenas were definitely manipulated by a superior technological society, as in the genetic engineering of the tracker jacker wasps, I did not like the idea of designing a mutt on the fly to have him appear like tea, earl-grey, hot on the arena floor already chasing Katniss and the other tributes.

(And Kent said....)