Well, Hollywood, I'm happy to report that 1) I've finally seen the first installment of The Hunger Games, and that 2) you just might get that un-coveted 65+ demographic after all! One of my elderly viewing companions seems to be a Jennifer Lawrence fan, and they told me that they "wanted to see something different." Hard to say if we're going to get into the sequels yet, but who knows.
As for me, however, I am a pickier audience, which is probably why I was pleasantly surprised to find that Katniss started out with contempt for the Hunger Games in the story... but who knows? Maybe being a part of them, and totally rock-starring it in the process, will change her mind a little bit. Which brings me to the plot. For those of you who aren't familiar with the well-selling books, here's the basic premise: it's another post-nuclear war-type deal here, and America is now called Panem, which is Latin for "bread," if memory serves... close enough. Instead of fifty states, there are now twelve "districts." And there's a Truman Show type show on television, but it's more like The Running Man. So apparently, instead of income taxes, the new yearly ritual is having young people kill each other on television. Hey, go hard or go home, right? Maybe George Carlin was on to something in his 2005 special Life is Worth Losing, when he talked rather extensively about putting suicide on television.
Anyway, that's the setup. Now, on to the Time of Transition. It's the 74th Annual Academy Awards... I mean, Hunger Games, and ... well, I just hate to give it away, so all I'll say is that Jennifer Lawrence ends up volunteering to be in the Games. Normally, a person is picked, but volunteering's okay too. And so, after that we're treated to, in the following order, a train ride to the capitol, a big feast, then the killing, then survival, etc. And of course, lots of close-ups of Jennifer's face. I tells ya, this girl's going places! Oh right... she kinda already has.
Still, I couldn't help but think to myself, hmm! There's an awful lot of gruesome non-war-related killing for a PG-13 movie. Also, there's rather awkward handling of black and white race relations, if I may be so bold. I never thought I'd say this, but there's a riot in the movie that owes a little bit to Do the Right Thing, methinks. The special effects are mostly top-notch, and downplayed really well, except for when the forest catches on fire. This technically is sci-fi, yet somehow doesn't feel like it; even The Onion's gotta like that. However, I want to be critical of the big chariot sequence. There were a couple shots of Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson that were a bit confusing to me. I'll never really know what the problem is, but this is all I can think of: it looked like the people were filmed with a wide-angle lens, and the background green-screened in later was filmed with a telephoto lens. Somehow, the two didn't quite match. Oh, but that's just nitpicking, isn't it?
So, did I enjoy myself? Oh, I think I did a little bit. I hate to admit it, of course. Why, look at me! I'm positively gushing over this! And sure, the experts will go over the comparisons to Soylent Green and Logan's Run, and even The Prisoner to an extent. I'll get that conversation started: see, it was an old TV show where this dude was trapped on a strange island, and each week, the Man would send a new operative to try and figure out why Number Six quit his job. When an operative failed, they would be killed. Spoiler Alert: this is what happens to the similar character in The Hunger Games, played by the dope-dealing kid from American Beauty with the gnarly chin-do, or man-scaping as the kids say? Maybe I'm just cynical, but somehow I knew when they said "A new, one-time-only rule change in the games" that it wouldn't be the last. I tell ya darling, these Hunger Games are about as ratings-conscious and as squeamish as the Oscars: when a Katniss Everdeen and her man comes along, they change the rules just for her! But I think the Oscars for now are done with that part of the show where they individually kiss the nominated actors' asses before handing out the statuettes. Another credit to James Franco, perhaps?
-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan