Let me start by saying that I haven’t read the Hunger Games books. I heard about its popularity only when the posters for the film started to appear all around the London buses. Then I saw the trailer and like all of you (apart from those, who have read the book I guess) I thought it looked like a mixture of Twilight and Battle Royal. Before I went to see it, my knowledge have been a little broaden by its fanbase and I learnt that it indeed might have something to do with the Japanese horror, but how dare I compare it to Twilight. Being reassured that the Hunger Games brings more to the table than just some hot teenagers giving each other provocative looks, I entered the cinema (7 minutes late) as Tabula Rasa, with no expectations to be unfulfilled and no enthusiasm to extinguish. The Hunger Games have left me hungry, but definitely not for more. Rather it left me with this unpleasant taste that has to be killed with some decent cinema. Something like Battle Royal or even the first Twilight, for god’s sake.
The Hunger Games makes all the mistakes every bad adaptation of teenage book saga could make, the main one being to keep its audience interested.
It is a futuristic story of the world divided into twelve districts in which once a year, during the title Hunger Games, one boy and a girl are chosen from each of the areas to take part in a match where their lives are what they fight for. When Katniss Everdeen’s sister is chosen as a representative for their district, Katniss volunteers to take her place instead and along with the spoiled brat from Journey 2, she is sent to the forest from Twilight to compete in the brutal and merciless game of survival. Sounds amazing? Yes, it does. Is it amazing? Not at all.
Katniss Everdeen is what Hollywood now pushes to its audience as an ‘everygirl’. An ‘everygirl’ is a female character who unlike all the other female characters in a movie is not a bitch or a whore. She is an outsider, and often a socially awkward one. She is strong and caring, but has a needy, cry baby side of her too. She is not the prettiest one, but somehow creepy guys (Edward, Peeta) find her attractive. She is there, so all the girls in the audience can identify with. She is there to be cheered for and to influence young women’s hearts and to shape the estrogenous minds. She is the role model.
The only thing I learnt about Katniss Everdeen is that her character is flatter than naan bread. Oh, and she should be dead after ten minutes into the forest.
She is brave enough to volunteer so her little sister doesn’t take part in the Hunger Games, but this is literally the only moment when Katniss shows any personality trait. Other times we just see her pronouncing some general sentences, looking at something grumpily, sitting on trees or almost dying. She also gets into emotionless relationship with people in which the chemistry level between her and them is as great as the chemistry between Bella and her cactus.
Other characters try to give Katniss some characteristics pretty desperately. They call her arrogant, brave, strong, likeable, charming, empathetic and different. But how can these words have any value if Katniss remains…well, boring.
Lacking any personality is not really a problem when it comes to the audience ability to identify with the character. Twilight has proven that the protagonist needs only one face in order to make all the girls want to be like her. It is because even though Bella is pretty offensive to all the ladies in the world, at least we know what she is thinking. Well, as the narrator Bella literally never shuts up, so we know everything about her. EVERY SINGLE THING. Like every respectable woman, Bella spends hours loudly thinking about Edward’s shiny skin and Jacob’s disturbingly muscled chess. We know when she likes one, and we know when she likes the other. It is all very Brazilian soap opera style, but at least we know what Bella wants and does. When it comes to Katniss from the Hunger Games…what the fuck is she doing?
I understand the teenager’s desire to take part in the emotional threesome but at least give us some dilemmas, chemistry or at least some sort of reason for it.
When Katniss (oh, for christ’s sake with her name) decides to take part in the match, she leaves her beloved boyfriend behind. Actually, I have no idea what relationship between them is because the film decides not to focus on it much. At all. Whatsoever. The only thing we know about it is that these characters know each other and although they never show any affection towards each other, this boy will wait for this girl, I think.
But this nameless boyfriend is not the only one to fight for Katniss’ heart. Peeta, who is chosen as the district’s representative too quickly reveals to the whole world that although when the girl was staving in cold in front of his house, he failed to offer any help, he has the biggest crush on her ever. Katniss accuses Peeta of being an asshole that tries to get the crowd’s attention by sharing this sudden love with them, but of course, her anger is just a step before she falls into his arms for no particular reason.
And I am not over exaggerating when I say that there are no signs, apart from the Hollywood cliche, which suggest that those two should ever be together. Peeta is acting like a little bitch throughout the whole movie which clearly irritates the brave Katniss. Besides, right at the start of the match, he turns out to be a traitor leading ‘the bad guys’ to her in order for them to kill her. And from flashbacks that Katniss suffers from every so often we learn (many many times, while actually not learning anything) that Peeta did not help Katniss when she was in need. Just because. So how come she suddenly decides to cheat on her boyfriend with Peeta? It seems like even Katniss doesn’t know the answer to this question.
But of course, like many have already emphasised, what is suppose to make the Hunger Games better than Twilight is lack of cheesy romance and the main focus being put on the match itself. So, did THAT work it the film? Well…
Because I have been pretty ignorant when it comes to the Hunger Games books, I had no idea if the match that takes place will run throughout only one novel, or maybe all three of them. After forty minutes of badly editing and randomly cut scenes in which characters do stuff that doesn’t lead anywhere, I got to the conclusion that in the first movie, we won’t be even watching the match. It is probably spread within all the three books and the first one is more about Katniss’s eating and watching other people training for the competition. For an hour and ten minutes nothing happens. Yes, the competitors are chosen and taken to some luxury apartment where they wine and dine. Katniss and Peeta get their mentor and thus Woody Harrelson is being introduced, however, we never actually see him training them or giving them any sort of valuable advice. Then Katniss eats some more and watches other people train. And another day comes and she eats and they train. Sometimes she talks to people about blabla and then she eats and then they train. Finally, she gets to some sort of examination where her skills are being judged by the organisers of the competitions. She gets more points than the scale has, but I personally have no idea what influence this honour has on her performance during the match. If you miss first hour of the Hunger Games, you probably didn’t miss anything.
After over an hour, we finally get to the match part. The part that the Hunger Games (based on what the trailer suggested) are all about. The part so often compared to Battle Royal, the part which children should not watch because of its realistic brutality, the part in which Katniss can prove that she is worthy representative of her district, the female Legolas, the mythological Artemide who fights with a bow and a honourable heart, our ‘everygirl’.
Katniss is one of twenty four contestants who represent different districts. What do we know about the other twenty three? Nothing more apart from the fact that they die. They die one after another, in majority of cases we never even find out how. We don’t know if they are good or bad fighters, if they have any background stories and if they have any chances of winning. We know though, that Katniss is being treated pretty well in this competition and because we have no idea how the others are treated, it seems like she is actually cheating…
No offense to all the Hunger Games fans, but the match part made me question the whole idea of the Hunger Games themselves. So, if you are willing to enlighten me, feel free to comment on my doubts posted below:
What is the point of the Hunger Games? According to what one of the organisers claim at the beginning, the purpose is purely peaceful. The ‘tributes’ need to be sacrifice in order for the districts to co-exist without fighting. However, in one of the scenes we see that the death in the game causes chaos in one of the district. And isn’t it obvious that all the districts would hate the winning one? Especially if the representative killed their people? If the Hunger Games cause chaos, where does the peaceful purpose go? And if the purpose is not that peaceful, what is it then?
In the film, Katniss gets a lethal wound and we know that she is in danger of dying if the wound gets infected. However, the medicine is sent to her and Katniss can use it in order to proceed in the competition. It happens twice in the movie. Do other tributes get help to? If no, then why not? If yes, then how can it be fair? Who choses the ones to be supported with the outside help? Why others aren’t?
The most important rule of the Hunger Games is that only one person can win it. Yet, when the organisers see the potential for romance between Katniss and Peete, they decide to change the rules. The rules that have existed in the match for 72 years! And nobody cares? Why isn’t anyone shocked by it? And why isn’t anyone shocked when they change the rules back to its origins shortly after?
Katniss and Peete are doing well in the competition and they still have to way to go before they can win it. They are doing ok when suddenly the organisers decide to place some dogs in the forest which are programmed to kill the final contestants. Why? If throughout the whole game, there was no mention of any monsters or creatures being involved, why doing it now? What’s the purpose of even trying, if the creators seem to be able to manipulate the surrounding as much as they want and kill whoever they want anyway? So what’s the point of training, if it seems that the winner is chosen from the start by the organisers? And if it is the case, then why didn’t anyone mention it anyway? I like the ambiguous plot, but not when nothing suggests that there is one! And where do these dogs come from anyway? And what are they? And why after they get one person, they don’t try to get anyone else? Why? What? Why?
And also, what happens to the winners of the Hunger Games? What does winning get you? Does one become famous? Does he/she get some sort of money? Is life the only reward? I guess it’s a lot, but just do the lottery, pick 23 people and kill them all instead. Why spending so much money on this match?
These are just few questions that I wasn’t able to answer myself while watching the Hunger Games, however, the simple fact that throughout the screening I felt sceptical towards every single aspect brought up in the story, made the film confusing and irritating to me. This combined with the average acting (apart from always amazing Woody Harrelson, who clearly took this role just because he doesn’t give a damn), bad editing, unfocused directing and wonderful soundtrack makes the Hunger Games a hugely disappointing Hollywood product. It lacks soul and heart and technically, it lacks structure. It is flat and flavourless and on the basic level, it fails to provide entertainment. Thank you for the sequels, I think I’m not that hungry anymore.