After all the work I’ve done moving (packing and unpacking and running stuff up to Goodwill and cleaning our old place and setting up our new place — all while making sure the twins had a smooth transition), I treated myself to a mid-day screening of The Hunger Games. I’ve already written about loving the books and discovering Hunger Games nail polish, but now I’ve finally seen the film.
The New Yorker gave a rather hard review of it, but The New Yorker is always pretty rough on films. (All those blurred arrows in the picture below could be coming from David Denby’s pen.)
I agree with Denby in that I wouldn’t want to watch this movie from the front row (because of the sometimes wild and disorienting camera-work), but I hardly think the bulk of the film was “a disaster.” I dug it. But here’s why it’s scary (and don’t worry — there are no spoilers in this short list!):
- The Capitol-ites. Their crazy fashions would be fun … if they weren’t so close to how we actually style ourselves — and didn’t seem to forecast the direction we might be headed. Powder your wig and paint your lips and strap on your tippiest high heels (whether you’re a man or a woman) so you can look your best … as you watch a bunch of poor kids kill each other in a gigantic arena.
- The game-makers — and the delight they take in creating deaths for the tributes. You know that 2012 video game designers probably have the same sense of pride — and glee — when they come up with some awesome killing technique where, say, a fighter kills a foe by ripping his arm off and beating him to death with it. (I’m thinking Mortal Kombat. I may be dating myself here.) It’s only a game, of course. But the Hunger Games remind us that we’re taking pleasure in killing people, whether in fact (in the world of the film) or in fiction (in our living rooms via our Xboxes).
One thing that Denby wrote in his review, though, sticks with me:
“The Hunger Games” is a prime example of commercial hypocrisy. The filmmakers bait kids with a cruel idea, but they can’t risk being too intense or too graphic (the books are more explicit). After a while, we get the point: because children are the principal audience, the picture needs a PG-13 rating. The result is an evasive, baffling, unexciting production—anything but a classic.
I don’t expect this movie to be a classic. And judging by the gasps and sniffles around me (from both girls and boys hovering around the age of 13) it was plenty intense and graphic. And I don’t know if the film itself is an example of commercial hypocrisy — but much of the marketing around it is.
I still can’t get the idea of Hunger Games nail polish out of my craw. Buy your daughter — or yourself — a mockingjay pin, or a special hair tie to mimic Katniss’s braid.
But nail polish to be an Effie Trinket or a Caesar Flickman? What’s next — the Hunger Games video game (which must already be in the works) where you get to pick your character (Cato? Clove?) and slash and stab and crush the rest to death?
That just seems one more step towards becoming more like Panem’s Capitol.
And that’s the scariest thing about this film: how close we already are.