It’s my own fault really. About five days before I went to see The Hunger Games, I watched Battle Royale for the first time. Now I’m not going to be one of these people who’s like ‘ohh, Hunger Games ripped off Battle Royale!!!’ because by this logic Battle Royale also ripped off everything from Highlander to gladiators in Ancient Rome. But what I will say is that Battle Royale is complex, tense and utterly blood soaked. By comparison, it makes The Hunger Games look like Sweet Valley High with a couple of murders.
That said, The Hunger Games isn’t a bad film. Yes, I may have seen it for free, but that’s not the point. But since everyone and their dog is going on about how incredible it is, I thought I’d list some of the problems I had with the movie.
The biggest is that the film completely loses the sense of isolation that Katniss and the other competitors are meant to feel in the arena – from the artificial grid of the sky to cameras whirring away in tree trunks, the fabricated environment feels more like a paintball arena than anything else. And nobody dies in paintball. Well, except for these guys. Constantly flicking between the gamemakers and the contestants offers an interesting insight into the process of the games, but I would have preferred being totally immersed in Katniss’ experiences.
A quick note on a technical aspect of the movie – having done film studies through to A-level, maybe I should know what the team was trying to accomplish with the shaky camerawork. But I don’t. And, at times, it makes The Blair Witch Project looks overproduced.
Another huge problem is the complete loss of subtlety. In the books, Katniss and Haymitch’s relationship develops through his withholding of food and medicine from sponsors. This forces her to consider how he wants her to act and who she should ally herself with. No danger of such psychological torment in the movies though, since they tuck little notes in the packages from sponsors. Seriously. Also, the mockingjay pin becomes something Katniss gets in the market for free rather than a gift obtained through a friendship borne out of terrible circumstances. Why not, I mean it’s only one of the most important symbols in the book…
Character development is also, to put it mildly, shallow. We only see Gale’s (Abercrombie model) face a few times, Foxface isn’t even referred to by name until the final third of the movie and Rue only speaks to Katniss a few times before…well, you know. The casting of Rue is utterly perfect (though a bunch of idiotic tweeters weren’t happy about her being played by a black actress), with Amandla Stenberg offering up a wonderful blend of mischief and innocence. Oh, and the riot scene that follows Rue’s death is genuinely one of the most powerful and touching pieces of film I’ve ever encountered.