2 April 2012

The Hunger Factor

I don't hate Twishite the way some people do. I've seen the first one and considered it pretty poor, but whilst Michael Bay's still alive there are worse things out there to get worked up about. As a 23 year old male doing my best to stick it into who I can, I don't appreciate a franchise that aims to teach girls to practice abstinence. However, where those prudish, cock-blocking movies are concerned, I just don't dwell on them. I ignore their marketing, books, news and films. It's the movie equivalent of an unloved grandparent: if I just don't pay it any attention, then it may as well be dead.

The recent marketing campaign for The Hunger Games has been insisting it's the next franchise for the still virginal fans of Twishite. Having therefore shown no interest in it, I was surprised on release to see the influx of good reviews it was receiving. For a refreshing change I knew very little about a film. I'm sure to some a Hunger Games movie is knicker-pissingly exciting. However for all I knew it could simply have been a cheerful recreation of some of the pre-death funsies enjoyed by Bobby Sands.

The film starts with some exposition explaining to us that the world has gone to shit. Apparently we now live in a society that thrives on the death of children with huge games to promote sponsored infanticide. To prove the state is still in charge, they insist on taking two minors from each district and then pit them all against each other in a battle to the death. Sounds fair to me. Why only take two? As far as I'd be concerned, all the little bastards are up for grabs.

During the first few minutes we're introduced to our cool, new, independent heroine, Katniss played by Jennifer Lawrence. She lives with her ex-Deadwood-whore Mum and young dependant sister on a disused Firefly set. By living in an impoverished future where food is scarce and nobody has an Xbox360, Katniss spends her free time secretly hunting for some finger-licking-good deer and playing flirty with Thor's non-Loki brother, Liam Hemsworth.

For those who don't know, Jennifer Lawrence is a great new actress. She brilliantly played Mystique in X-Men: First Class and single handedly proved to me that a strangled prostitute isn't the only blue lady I'll find sexy. Like in that mutant prequel, Miss Lawrence is really good here too. She's moan-y and angry but manages to avoid becoming as irritating as Anakin on his whining road to becoming a bitch-Sith. It's also nice for an action film to have a female as it's main character; the last big franchise like that was probably Tomb Raider. Katniss is written as strong role model for girls to respect, I can't help but feel the purpose of Lara Croft was to have big tits and make boys jizz. If so, they both do their jobs very well.

Eventually the Hunger Games come to Katniss's town and she ends up being that districts female fighter. She's therefore whisked off to training where she meets her mentor who is either Woody Harrelson playing a drunk or simply a drunk Woody Harrelson. It's nice to watch this film when he turns up and pretend we're watching an apocalyptic sequel to Cheers.

The Hunger Games themselves are wrapped up in a fairly obvious pastiche of reality shows such as Britain’s Got Talent. The soon-to-be-dead children appear on an interview with Stanley Tucci in order to win the public's affection, as doing this will gain them more sponsors which will help them to live. Kind of like how on The X-Factor, if the public likes you, then Simon Cowell will rig the votes so that you win.

There is an obvious difference too, between how the poor and the rich people are depicted in this movie. Those who live in the different districts look basically normal but trampy. The rich however, are tarted up to look like luminous cocks from the land of the gay. Tucci for example, is like a cross between Barton Fink and Marge Simpson. Whilst Toby Jones who crops up later as a commentator has a hair style that could only belong to a man who has confused his dildo with a cattle prod, if you can imagine.

This results in a slightly bizarre clash in styles between grounded reality and rainbow camp. Kind of like a film that's half Serenity, half Speed Racer. The subtlety of the clothing is quiet metaphorical of the satire in this film, it's glaringly obvious and not too deep. Still even a little depth in a film like this is commendable. I've thought about it a lot and the only layered message I can find in Harry Potter is that you might be a wizard... but let's face it: you're probably not.

Eventually the games themselves begin and the youngsters from districts 1 to 12 are all taken to some woodlands to stab the living shit out of each other. In all honesty, I wish I'd properly checked everyone out before I gambled serious money on what I assumed would be the two alien contestants from district 9. Not sure why there's only 12 districts but I think we can safely presume that district 13 managed to run away.

The ensuing knife off is violent, lethal and not too dissimilar to a post-happy-hour Liverpool city center. There are plenty of enjoyable scenes in these junior killing fields although my favourite has to be when Katniss's friend accepts he's about to die. Rather than doing anything productive about it he simply paints his face to look like a rock, lies down and fossilises himself. If you can do face-painting as unbelievably well as he can then it seems like a good plan. Just don't give yourself away the first time somebody steps on your face. I'm no geologist but my A-level in the subject taught me that like plants and kittens, rocks probably don't feel pain.

The film as a whole is pretty good and I don't disagree with the positive reviews out there. However I am shocked at how few of them have mentioned the obvious similarity between this and Battle Royale. If remaking a film like this for a western teen market is the new trend then I look forward to their attempts with both Oldboy and Ichi the Killer. 

The main problem with The Hunger Games is that it's probably just a little too long. I could easily lose about half an hour of this movie and end up liking it more. There was a scene in it during the killing in which a young girl dies and Katniss mourns her death for fucking ages. The girl's funeral is longer than the scenes of her being alive. After what felt like ten minutes I just started to think, “for fuck's sake! Either bury or eat her. I don't care which, just move the fuck on”.

This indulgently long running time can be put down to the same problem as most big budget adaptations of a popular book. They stick too closely to the source material and refuse to cut much out in an attempt to not piss off the fans. Unfortunately though, no matter how similar you make it, the knobs are always going to say, “the book was better”. So fuck them- just cut shit out to make it less baggy and therefore a better film. I'll be massively surprised if there is any die hard fan that walks out of this with their eyes opened stating that, “in comparison, I now consider the books unworthy as shit-stained loo role for a tramp's infected arse hole”. It's just not going to happen is it...

The Bourne Franchise, The Shining and Blade Runner are almost nothing like their original sources and are all the better for it. Harry Potter, too, got better as the series progressed, streamlining the meandering sub-plots in favour of a tighter, more Harry focussed narrative. The Hunger Games was still a good film, I just think that being a little harsher with the book (and kinder to the shredder) might not have been a bad thing. I don't remember a section in the bible in which Jesus is whipped with razor blades and flecks of his back get flicked off everywhere. However I did enjoy those scenes when Mad Mel adapted them into his religious-torture porn classic The Passion of The Christ.

To me, a book is just an unnecessarily long script treatment. I'll read subtitles but only because foreigners spitefully decided to evolve their own languages. Beyond occasionally glancing at a child's pop-up book, I generally think, “fuck it I'll wait for the film”.

Now that I've seen The Hunger Games, I'm looking forward to the sequel. As franchise starters go, it's a stronger beginning than Harry Potter managed and I loved what those films became. I have no idea where the series will go and so, like with this, I'll do my best to only find out when I sit down to watch it. Apparently the next one is called Catching Fire. From the love-triangle conclusion to this I can only assume that Fire is some sort of piss-burning, future STD. Sounds like fun!

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