By Michael Lydon
The Hunger Games, I’d imagine, was always intended to be a film; it is a story that is entirely about being subjected to the gaze of spectators, even in moments of tragedy and hardship.
After all, it is from a visual medium that its concept arose—a blending of violent war footage and reality television, according to its author. Fittingly so, both the popular novel and the new movie adaptation are powerful studies of the repulsive human need for distraction. It is an end-of-the-world story for the modern age.
Apocalypse has never been more relevant, particularly at the time when people seem entranced by the regular humiliation and ridicule of those unfortunate enough to be positioned in front of a camera. Those unfamiliar with the series may be taken aback by the severe intensity of the film’s premise—a Gladiator-like competition in which 24 adolescents must fight to the death until only one remains, all for the amusement of the economic elites–but how much do the tastes of this shocking future society really differ from our culture’s own obsession with the Kardashians? In either case, I pity the celebrity.
At times during the film, I groaned to myself about the overuse of a constantly jittery camera that could not seem to hold its place, only to realize that my objection stemmed from my wish to get a more cohesive view of children murdering other children. Perhaps I, along with the entire audience, am guilty of the same gruesome attitudes that the movie seems to criticize; shooting it comprehensively would only have indulged our bad habits.
Collins’ work, as well as that of director Gary Ross, should be commended here, for its respectful treatment of its fans, and its insistence on remaining true to a startlingly cruel, and upsettingly reflective, vision of our society’s future alter ego. Neither artist shies away from material that might alienate more timid demographics, but instead challenges them to think critically about their role as an observer, and as a citizen of a government that may one become too Orwellian for their liking.
But don’t bother seeing this movie in IMAX—this sort of story isn’t meant to look pretty.