So. The Hunger Games, then. I’ve never seen a movie really quite like this one.
We open on some text. This is Important Text. We know that because it fades away ominously and because is the (admirably subdued) title sequence. I didn’t even realize it was the title sequence until right now, which is how subdued it is. It’s the modern Batman of title sequences.
The text informs us that this world is a dystopian future; in this future, kids kill each other on each successive season of what is basically the Truman Show, which is the most popular television program inside the big super city. This big super city, of course, is immune to sending kids to the show to be killed, on account of it owning all of the other cities. It is Evil. We know this because we’ve seen it before. It’s Big Brother using Ancient Rome’s Coliseum except More Evil since the gladiators never did anything wrong except be kids, and hey, fuck kids, right?*
The main character is Mystique from X-Men First Class. Her name is Kitlass, or Catliss, or Catkiss. It’s a Future Name, which is what we should take away. That’s the crucial information. Her sister has pigtails and just turned old enough to be swept up in the new hot murder craze. Of course, as it would happen, she is the one chosen to participate in the new hot murder craze (It is actually probably important that this is the seventy fourth iteration of the new hot murder craze, which establishes that this is Very Far in the Future. It’s comforting, then, that the trees are still alive. It’s also comforting that humans are still alive. Perhaps this is part of the reason why there is a massively multiplayer snuff film television show in this future) and of course Catbus takes her place. She is, after all, the chosen one, because she is the underdog, which, we are told, is a theme that is important to this movie. We’re actually very specifically told this by several characters, all of them villains. The villains in this movie are basically the writers of this movie.
Kleenex’s partner in this Reaping (which is, in fact, the actual real-life fictional name of this event, and not, in fact, a made up fictional name I thought of just now) is a blonde man who, again as a result of not remembering his Future Name, I will call Jason From Twilight, even though he is nothing like Jason From Twilight, because from what I can surmise from the little information I’ve gathered regarding Jason From Twilight, Jason From Twilight has never worn a shirt in his life. To be honest, I doubt Jason From Twilight is capable of such things. Isn’t he a werewolf? It’s probably pragmatic to never wear a shirt, then, given that you’ll be tearing it to shreds every time you hulk out. Jason From Twilight is perhaps actually pretty smart, considering.
In any case, Jason From Twilight From The Hunger Games and Kimlips end up being taken on a ride that is more or less the exact center of a venn diagram wherein the two circles represent the Hogwarts Express and Star Wars. There is alchohol on this train, despite the fact that I am absolutely sure neither of them are of drinking age. Of course, this is the future, and drinking age may be meaningless (In a world where America and the American Way are both concepts that have no hold on the world, anything really does go, I guess).
Then: Woody Harrelson waltzes into the movie swinging a bottle of future-whisky. He’s the lovechild of Mr. Miyagi and Jeff Bridges. He’s the bartender from Bunraku after downing every shot he’s supposed to serve. He’s every character Woody Harrelson has ever played. After five minutes, he leaves Kitkat and Jason From Twilight to their thing, which still is comprised of one-sided romantic longing. There are problems because Karkat has a boyfriend back home, and it’s implied that the two of them are very much in love. Jason From Twilight, though, has the power of narrative on his side.
The games take them places and they go unwillingly. By the end, they’ve taken the games places and the games go unwillingly.
There’s a point in the film where they have to be prettied up for television, so their designated fashion designer wants to make a splash; of course, they go out wearing fucking fire. They literally ride a chariot while engulfed in flames.
It’s a movie unlike any film I have ever seen because I have never seen a film attempt so much and so successfully to be a full season of a television show. Watching The Hunger Games delivers the exact experience of discovering a very good television show and watching the first season all the way through without stopping over a breathless, exhilarating weekend. The movie doesn’t really have an ending. It simply stops, like a TV show that knows it will continue in the next season. The movie knows a lot of things about its fate.
The film is very self aware. It’s a very Hero’s Journey film. When the finale begins, the main character actually literally says “This is the finale.”
There is a significant amount of handheld camera. It detracts from the film, but not enough for me to feel uncomfortable about it. The movie is very nicely shot otherwise and has gorgeous prop, set, and costume design. It’s a fully realized world. It knows exactly what it wants to be, which is overwhelmingly refreshing among today’s no-personality blockbusters.
Speaking of bees, they feature in the film. Wasps, actually. Mutant wasps. Genetically engineered mutant wasps.
To be fair, this movie can be fucking weird sometimes. That’s okay.
The man who made this movie made Pleasantville, which is one of my very favorite films. This is almost nothing like that movie. It’s not nearly as good, either, but it’s still pretty good.
Watching The Hunger Games once was a thrilling experience, actually. Watching it a second time may not be.
I haven’t watched it a second time.
I can know this, however: there will, inevitably, be an adaptation of Uglies, and dear god in heaven it is going to want to try so hard to be this movie and fall on its face in the process.
*do not fuck kids