Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Beyond Blunderdome

The Hunger Games is in the news again because you swine have no taste. I gave the first book a try and promptly dismissed it as a pathetic escapist fantasy for reactionaries looking for their own version of Twilight. And I sure as hell ain't reading the sequel that just got its own holiday blockbuster.

So I sat down and suffered through the first film - with some help from the good people and bots over at Rifftrax. I'm reminded of John Dolan's view of the Lord of the Rings films - all of the higher themes are buried under bathos and the more vile aspects. Except The Hunger Games, both the original novel and the broader series, have no higher themes. They're vehicles of pure narcissism and so there's nothing to emphasis in a film translation but the vile.

It's starts with Jennifer Lawrence. A good enough actress but far too clean and healthy for some post-apocalyptic survivor hero. Her whole podunk town is too clean and healthy. And pretty. All unblemished white WB kids and the sort of middle aged white people you see as "middle class" shmoes in Republican campaign commercials. I counted all of three black people in the entire two and half hours and the only one who lives is Lenny Kravitz. And he doesn't count.

See, when just reading Suzanne Collins terrible prose, I can at least visualize a properly dystopian setting with properly worn down protagonists. Jennifer Lawrence sure doesn't look like any coal town girl I ever saw - and I've actually been through Appalachia, something the filmmakers didn't do. Instead, they just cribbed from Depression era photographs for the aforementioned pretty poor white people and then just smoked a whole mess of crack when dreaming up the super-rich capitol city. Everything is so clean there, in contrast to the squalor of the Heroes' hometown. Clean and filled with ridiculous clown people, like some guy with an exaggerated beard stencil and what I assumed was the ghost of Liberace.

"Lady Gaga, I am your father!"

And don't try to argue this shit isn't important. Film is a distinctly visual medium and the visuals in The Hunger Games go against it's attempted depiction of some pseudo-soviet state because the contrast is so sharp. The actual Soviet state could put on a kick-ass parade once in a while but the apartment blocks of the elitny got just as moldy and run down as that of the prols, not to mention how no city ever has been just rich people. After all, who would do all the real work?

It just gets worse when the two white-bread, corn-ball leads finally make it to the killing fields. The film briefly becomes passable, as all the kids rush to kill each other. But that's more fast-cut editing, the same thing Sam Raimi did to make the epic battle in Army of Darkness so punchy and engaging. As soon as Lawrence runs off into the woods, it just devolves into an hour of her and the baker boy making moon eyes at each other, when not being menaced by the Jocks. And only menaced - not like the heroine is gonna be proactive, stalking and killing them methodically like that whole opening of her hunting a deer implied...

But there I go again, expecting a coherent story from another geek stroke book. The whole "evil opressive government" deal is constantly undermined by the absurd delivery - which goes on for bloody ever, reducing the dramatic effect. And the supposed horror of the Camp Kill Your Kids is watered down to make it broadly palatable. Yes, in the book too! It's not just the poor man's Battle Royale, but an insultingly bad retread of the great unknown Series 7.

You wanna see people hunting each other for sport? You wanna see a commentary on violence in contemporary American entertainment? Series 7 is all of that and more - nominally a marathon of hit reality show The Contenders, it follows a clutch of unlucky lottery winners compelled to hunt down and murder each other for U the viewer! And not in some sanitized forest but all across suburbia, culminating in the two romantic leads trying to rebel against their own tyrannical government and meeting a much more realistic result.

Shot dead beneath the snake cakes...

But you don't want any of that. Not really. You want some corn-fed white kids to enact all your violent, paranoid fantasies but through contrivances that allow them to strike a moral pose.

Well listen up you primitive screwheads - you are not the brave hunter or huntress frolicking in the woods and bringing the strawberries. You are not a threat to the government or anything but small animals trying to cross the road. You are oppressed though - by your job and social convention and a kleptocratic system that rewards wealthy failures and gambling addicts. And you're just fine with that set up because it placates you with escapist fluff like The Hunger Games, where you can try to feel those real human emotions so alien to your craven, sedentary existence.

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