The Hunger Games Written by Gary Ross, Suzanne Collins and Billy Ray
The “finale” of the The Hunger Games trilogy-in-four-parts is coming-up soon, and my local cinema screened a marathon of them all. So I figured that as enough justification for reviewing them. The initial installment is The Hunger Games, based on Collins’ novel of the same title. And its defining fault is its inability to build a world that feels both real or large.
We’re introduced to Katniss Everdeen, a girl who lives in District 12 – one of thirteen districts surrounding the Capitol district of Panem, a nation formed from the remains of North America. And under the Panem constitution, each district must offer a mixed pair of Tributes in a random selection known as the Reaping. These Tributes are then transported into the wilderness where they must kill each other while becoming self-sufficient in order to survive. It’s kind of like Battle Royale, except exactly like that.
And if that seems like your typical Crawling Text exposition, it only gets more complex. Which is where The Hunger Games fails at its premise: assuming the audience have read the novel. Currently, there exists a mentality on the Internet that novel adaptations are for only those who have read said novel. But I say being familiar with the source material simply skewers one’s own perception of any adaptations towards biased liancy, not to mention that distributors want as many people to see it regardless – don’t expect the producers’ opinions to correlate with the populous.
And as the film fan as I am, I can’t betray myself to that. I must judge The Hunger Games: the Movie for what it is – a movie. And as a movie, it’s frustrating to me, as a viewer, how little there is of either two things that make a film entertaining: style or substance. Preferably, a film should be stylish as well as substantial.
But films that aren’t substantial can still be stylish enough. And vice versa, a film that’s not stylish enough can still be substantial enough. I can engage with just about any film that has enough of at least one. The style distracts from lack of substance, and the substance therefore distract from a lack of style.
Whereas The Hunger Games is lazy. It aims for the market already familiar with the novel, which is a mistake because they don’t need it to be advertised. They’ve already read the novel, so it’s not as if a film adaptation will convince them to see what they think of it. And for the audience who haven’t read it… that’s the clincher.
There’s so much plot left unsaid that it’s alienating to the majority. And it is a majority. Most people watching the film haven’t read the book. That’s not a criticism of the readers – who won’t necessarily have even liked it – but a statement of reality.
But, it’s not a reality The Hunger Games seems to grasp. The plot moves between one thing to another without filling in the gaps, on the assumption that I’ve already filled them prior. It uses its status as a novel adaptation to fall-back on being a film in its own right, only putting in half the effort. Did it think being incomplete would prompt me to seek the original text?
Because it doesn’t work. Remember: an unappealing adaptation will make for a seemingly unappealing source material. This didn’t make me want to read the novel. Which, ultimately, was its intention.