Pop Off: ‘Hunger Games’ lacks substance
Published: Tuesday, September 4, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, September 4, 2012 00:09
SUBOG held its annual outdoor movie, “The Hunger Games,” this past Sunday, Sept. 1. It is one of the year’s most acclaimed and culturally impactful films, still maintaining relevance five months after its release.
Back when it first came out, several people, I amongst them, dismissed the film as a rip-off of “Battle Royale,” a Japanese film that pitted schoolchildren against one another in a battle to the death. A friend of mine told me I should not call it a rip-off without first seeing it. Because I failed to see “The Hunger Games” during its theatrical run, I attended the screening over the weekend. Now I can safely say that “The Hunger Games” is not only a rip-off of “Battle Royale,” it is a very poor man’s “Battle Royale.”
First, to defend the notion of accusing a film of being a rip-off without seeing it, I define a rip-off as something that uses a known but uncommon concept or premise, but has less meat on the bone. The watered -down nature of “The Hunger Games” became apparent once it was given a PG-13 rating. “Battle Royale” contained brutal, graphic violence, which displayed the horror of the situation. “The Hunger Games” consisted of cutaway, off-screen deaths, shaky camera fight scenes and painfully obvious confrontational scenes, all of which lasted about ten minutes. The rest of the time we were treated to characters meandering through a generic forest. “Battle Royale” is an action film; “The Hunger Games” is a schmaltzy soap opera that desperately wants to be an action film.
One of the reasons “Battle Royale” was so interesting was it balanced its cast. There was not really a lead character, so you did not know who was going to live or die. Because we got to know more characters, it made the idea and sight of them killing each other more emotionally devastating. In “The Hunger Games,” we know from the beginning Katniss is going to live and we dare not give anyone but the love interest and space filler any development lest they begin to gain our empathy.
Wasn’t one of the primary thematic elements of the “The Hunger Games” how sadistic the world had become, now look at teenagers slicing each other’s throats as entertainment? This theme would have been a lot stronger if we were treated to brutal fights to the death and cold-blooded murder, because we would have become the audience in the film. After all, to enjoy the film is to enjoy the bloodbath. Actually, when you look at it that way, you can also make the argument that it is a rip-off of “The Truman Show.”
“Battle Royale” succeeded because it was raw. It promised a gruesome, disturbing and strangely exhilarating experience, and it delivered. “The Hunger Games,” on the other hand, feels processed, a predictable story with a single dimension that it doesn’t even bother to explore. In the end, I suppose being a rip-off of something doesn’t matter, as long as the product holds up on its own. “Battle Royale” is a good film; “The Hunger Games” is not.