Just forget the words and sing along

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Netflix Nonsense - The Hunger Games

As you've probably noticed, for the past few months, I've taken advantage of the streaming video services to fill in some notable gaps in my personal film viewing history, and binge on certain franchises I'd never watched.  Back in November, I poured through every Rocky film.  Coming home from Mad Max: Fury Road, I figured it was finally time to go through the Mad Max franchise.  And so, when I recently noticed that the first three Hunger Games films are on Netflix, I decided it was finally time to see what all the fuss was about.

As we all know, The Hunger Games really launched our current Hollywood trend of every Young Adult book series being adapted for the big screen.  Some have mocked their formulas, but I fully understand the formula.  In a society where everyone is told to conform, look the same, and act the same, our hero or heroine feels like they just don't fit in.  Eventually, they discover that their unique skills that make them an outcast make them the One that will eventually bring down the system and bring freedom to the masses.

  Gee, I have no idea why teenagers would find such a formula appealing.   I mean, back when I went to high school, we didn't have the Young Adult book franchises that we have today.  But I always felt like the misfit who didn't fit in.  Hell, while all my classmates were out drinking and fucking during the lunch hour, there I was, hanging out in the science lab, watching The Flintstones

What, you don't believe me when I say that the students of Seba Beach spent their lunch hours getting hammered?  I once had an Australian exchange student ask me, "Is it normal for kids at Canadian high schools to brag about how drunk they are by noon?"  Some day, I'll tell you about the guy who convinced my graduating class to cancel the prom and have a kegger at his place instead.  That idea got him voted valedictorian.  True story. 

So, while they were all out having a grand time, there I was, burying my head in my studies.  And in English class, we read 1984, the granddaddy of all dystopian tales.  Needless to say, I instantly sympathized with Winston Smith and his struggles against the state.  It encouraged me to seek out other legendary tales of dystopia:  Brave New World, Fahrenheit 451, and for my CanCon, The Handmaid's Tale.   The trailers for V for Vendetta made me seek out the graphic novel, which made me hate the movie (seriously, read the graphic novel instead).  And I blogged about finally watching Brazil on Blu-Ray, something I'd been wanting to do ever since high school.  My English teacher would frequently reference it when we were studying 1984

So with my love of tales of finding hope in the bleakest of worlds, I'm surprised it took me this long to give The Hunger Games a chance. 

In this particular totalitarian regime, the land is divided into 12 districts.  To maintain law and order, and to make sure the people don't rise up, the 12 districts are pitted against each other every year in a competition called The Hunger Games.  Each district selects one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18, and then all these kids are dropped into an arena and made to fight each other to the death.  Sometimes they get assistance in the form of sponsors...the wealthy elite who airdrop in supplies to their favourite competitors. 

Our heroine is Katniss Everdeen.  Hailing from the impoverished District 12, she has become quite adept with a bow and arrow, allowing her to supplement her family's meager food rations with her hunting skills.  Katniss's little sister Prim has just had her 12th birthday, and is now eligible for the Hunger Games.  When Prim's name is drawn, Katniss volunteers to take her place, and thus save her sister. 

What really got me about the film is how the first half is the set-up to the Hunger Games, and we see how ridiculous this competition has become in this world.  It has aspects of the Olympics, as the competitors are brought out in a parade.  It delves into reality TV, as all the competitors eventually do the talk show circuit.  And it's all designed to curry favour with the audience, and thus win them more sponsors.  Totalitarian tales like this are always their best when they delve into satire, and The Hunger Games has a good share of that, as it takes swipes at our media culture.  I mean, these are kids being made to fight to the death, and they have stylists

And what also got me is what a lush universe they create.  This a massive, massive world.  The pageantry of the Capital City easily outclasses ancient Rome for opulence.  I had no idea that they went though such a massive effort to create this world. 

Great performances in the film, too.  I didn't know Woody Harrelson was in it.  Harrelson plays the only person from District 12 who ever won the Hunger Games, and now, it's his job to mentor the new competitors.  The guilt of winning coupled with the guilt of sending future kids to their deaths has left him deeply emotionally scarred.  He does a great job. 

And of course, Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss.  We all know this the film that turned her into the mega-superstar she is today.  I can't  help but wonder how much of Katniss's training to be likeable for the cameras Lawrence applied to herself to create the lovable persona she has in interviews. 

I am surprised at how much I enjoyed The Hunger Games.  It's a well-made film, with some good satire, great performances, good action scenes...it had it all. 

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