by Caitlin Murphy
I had made a vague, but deeply felt decision about The Hunger Games before I even walked into thetheatre. Something about hating it. My conclusion was based on a few previews, but also my sad suspicion that Jennifer Lawrence – who I’d adored in last year’s stirring film Winter’s Bone – was about to cash in her chips in yet another hyped-up book-to-blockbuster orgy.
Even when the film moves into clichéd action-adventure waters, such as with the unleashing of over-grown pit-bulls hopped up on steroids, we are always forced to remember that this is what ‘they’, (meaning audiences, meaning us) wants. Collins has us in an interesting bind.
The film avoids an easy ending, primarily of course because this is a trilogy and there are more films to come, but I think also because it’s genuinely interested in courting complexity. I am certainly not the target demographic for The Hunger Games, and part of me wonders where the film actually ‘hits’ with the ‘kids these days’. I guess I worry that the Hollywood machine is just such a big-mouthed monolith that it can consume any dissent and simply grind it up into the same old meat. For instance, I cynically suspect that not much of the movie’s press junket has been devoted to its true themes.
Collins has said that the idea for her book arose when channel surfing; flipping between a reality t.v. show and footage of the invasion of Iraq, she noticed that the two "began to blur in this very unsettling way". This kinda of blurring is certainly disconcerting, especially because it’s everywhere, and I think it’s among the most troubling aspects of modern day existence. What I applaud most about the film is how it examines the pressures of living in a world with ideologies “gone wild” but unacknowledged. So accustomed to spectacles of competition and elimination and celebrations of the individual, we have come to ignore the most basic human truth – that we need each other. The Hunger Games has just about as much heart as it’s got bite.