As a fan of Battle Royale, going into The Hunger Games had me a bit on edge as, from what I knew of it, it sounded to have a very similar idea and premise – and, certainly, it does. But it deals with it in a very different way that made it, while not as satisfying as the Japanese teen shocker, at least a decent way to spend an evening.
Telling the story of young woman ‘sent’ into the titular games, in which she has to survive a host of other youngsters as they fight to the death in a specially created arena, it is clear to see how comparison’s will be drawn to Battle Royale, which deals with a school class trapped on an island until only one survives, both in the form of a TV show.
What it does though is take a different approach to this idea, while throwing in something that makes it far more of an entertainment, which ultimately makes for a far more satisfying movie than I had expected before I saw it, or even during its opening section.
This opening drops us into this future society and doesn’t instantly tell us what is going on, though the opening title cards do give us a hint as the nature of the games, and it reveals to us a world divided between districts where people are fighting, day-to-day, for food and fuel (where our heroine, Katniss Everdeen, comes from) and a world of seemingly limitless wealth, decadence and technology (and some particularly bizarre but well designed fashion).
Once the scene is set we are dropped, with Katniss, into The Hunger Games preparation, which smacks of how I see X-Factor and its ilk working with cynical producers turning real people into archetypes who can sell products and, in this case, with the feeling that it will distance the decadent viewers of the televised killing show from the people being sent in.
Without wishing to be too spoilerful, once the games get going things do start off in fairly shocking (for a film aimed partially at younger teens) style, and moments of this remain giving a real sense of danger and suspense to things as we are never quite sure how this will all come out (although being a mainstream motion picture, there’s always a fair idea).
What happens though to make this more interesting is that Katniss becomes a figure of power as she goes through the games and begins to have an effect on the movies wider world, beyond the simple notion of her survival and the inevitable romantic subplot (which is also given an interesting spin).
With all of these ideas of power of the individual, corrupt society, revolution and media exploitation of both youth and the general population the film has a feeling of being something a bit more than general Hollywood sci-fi fare which, these days, tends to rely more on robots having fights than anyone thinking and so harks back, albeit only partially, to the pre-Star Wars notion of sci-fi where the idea was to “hold up a mirror to reality” and, while The Hunger Games doesn’t totally do this, it certainly sows seeds of it and it’s nice to see a film try.
This gives it an appeal certainly wider than the teenage girl audience all the promotional material I had seen seemed to suggest and makes for something that can be enjoyed on several levels and, thus, by several different types of audience. Not being a teenage girl I don’t know how they’d react to it, but I can safely say that as a lighter end piece of well-made sci-fi, The Hunger Games holds up well and certainly is commendable in at least trying to make something interesting in a climate of Transformers sequels and increasingly repetitive comic book super heroes.