At a loose end this weekend I joined the throngs of people who decided to watch ‘The Hunger Games’.
Now I’ll always try and watch at least one blockbuster a year but one thing that usually strikes me is how noisy they are. Just watching the trailers advertising the latest round of big budget mega flicks like Spiderman gives me a migraine. Its wall-to-wall booms, bangs and crashes. And that’s just the soundtrack.
How refreshing then to see a film that instead uses not explosions or masses of special effects but simple story and character to drive the narrative.
‘The Hunger Games’ in that respect is a surprising hit. It has no big name actor, no big dramatic end of the world style ending. In fact there is no attempt at all to be big
Because really the film is about displaying what a person needs to do to survive in the world. Which means it has to develop character.
It also taps neatly into contemporary American psyche with a disgruntled, poverty stricken mass venting its anger on a rich, spoilt, manipulative over class.
It’s hard not to see the parallels between the capital city where the games are held and Washington. Or in the pastoral home of the heroine, Katness Everdine, not to see a parallel with pioneer America.
Indeed Kat’s main weapon is a bow and arrow, playing with old western imagery but turning it on its head. She is not a cowboy but the hunted Indian.
This is not the only stereotype the film plays with. The hunky boyfriend is not the hero; he is just the eye candy. The male rival to Kat in the games, Cato, is brutal and strong but imbecilic and very emotional and no match for the wily heroine.
Jennifer Lawrence, who was great in ‘Winter’s Bone’, plays Kat and in so doing creates a character that I’m certain most young women would want to identify with. Tough but tender, smart yet moral, she is no fashion plate (and in fact the women in the film that are, are figures of fun.) and doesn’t conform to the size zero style of the leading ladies favored by Hollywood these days.
Occasionally the film panders to its adolescent audience by becoming a little sappy, but that’s a pretty minor criticism.
I hadn’t expected to enjoy this film but I did and more than that I also enjoyed its philosophy, which questions the whole notion of competition and what it does to people.
What would you rather have a 16-year old watch? This or X-men? I know my answer.