I can think of few things more off-putting for a film to be described as than ‘The New Twilight’, so it was with some scepticism that I approached ‘The Hunger Games’, something the storm of hype surrounding it only added to. However due to the positive reviews coming in and the fact that its director made what I consider one of the better films of the 90s (‘Pleasantville’), I reluctantly took the plunge.
I had in fact encountered the book not long after its publication (my younger brother was given a copy). I started reading it one evening but didn’t get very far, I found the protagonist (who narrates) somewhat irritating and the blurb just made it sound too much like one of my favourite films.
This leads conveniently to the point which simply cannot be avoided. Much has been written about this previously so I shall try not to dwell on it but one just can’t deny that the premise is virtually identical to that of ‘Battle Royale’. The only major difference seemed to be that in ‘Battle Royale’ all the doomed kids new each other previously.
That said, it was a fascinating idea and one that I didn’t object to seeing been explored further (and hopefully not in as disappointing a manner as ‘Battle Royale 2: Requiem’).
So on to the film. It sets up its future world quite well, showing us the kind of lives people in its ‘districts’ are living. However once the selection for the titular games takes place it takes quite some time before they actually begin. The real excitement doesn’t really start until they do but unfortunately a major problem with the whole film also emerges. It’s been criticised already for the amount of ‘shaky cameras’ in the games sequence and it’s easy to see why. It seems this method was chosen in order to ensure very little of the violence is seen clearly and therefore to ensure the film acquires a lower certificate.
Now there’s nothing wrong with not wanting to fill your movie with violence or aiming it at a younger audience but there are points when such thinking just doesn’t make much sense. I mean if you are going to write a scene in which a child is hacked to death with a machete don’t then try to put it into a film you want pre-teens watching. While there are plenty of examples of film violence when what you don’t see makes it more horrific but this simply isn’t one of them, here it just takes away from the impact of the scene.
The remainder of the games themselves maintain a suitably tense atmosphere despite mostly being quite predictable, but there were several moments when I just couldn’t help feeling like I was watching a US remake of a celebrated Asian film. Often Hollywood remakes of good recent foreign films aren’t bad they’re just unnecessary and inevitably inferior by the nature of being a copy (‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ being an obvious recent example). ‘The Hunger Games’ has just about enough of its own material to seem fresh but it’s still overlong and would have been improved by cutting down the pre-games sequences, embracing a higher certificate and showing its horrifying premise in all its glory.