Wednesday, November 20, 2013

From Hunger

Every now and then, just to prove what a hep cat I am, and to see what passes for entertainment these days, I'll check out a fairly contemporary movie. This decade I chose The Hunger Games, thinking if there's something out there that can pierce my cultural semi-consciousness, perhaps it may be worthwhile.

First of all, and about the nicest thing I can say, it's a very shrewd property. If you target a very young audience, you can pretty much steal, I mean borrow, from anything you like. What fourteen-year old is going to know the difference? How many adolescents are going to ask the questions I asked: From which movies does it crib?  Which novels does it remind you of? Did I turn off the iron?

Everything is so familiar, and all the whiskered tropes are checked off:  Dystopian future? Yep. Oppressive Big Brother government? Natch. Technology used for evil? You bet. Enslaved but noble proletariat? Sure. A future that looks like the Industrial Revolution on a sad day? In spades. A human hunt to the death? Gotcha. Donald Sutherland? No surprise.

Not every action film has to be 85 minutes long, but it sure helps to keep my ass from getting itchy. The Hunger Games clocks in at a whopping 135 minutes. I could have watched two Bowery Boys and several Tom and Jerrys in the same amount of time. Or I could have easily chopped off thirty minutes, without harming the continuity and improved the pace. For example, do we really need a hallucinogenic flashback in the middle of an action sequence? As John Candy of SCTV once said, "John Ford would have put a bullet through their heads!"

Using so much hand-held stuff may have been clever forty years ago, but now it's just stylistically lazy, pointless, and ugly. For example, there's a static shot of a sign on a barbed-wire fence that needlessly shakes and a close combat rasslin' scene where it's impossible to tell what's happening. Fortunately, since there's never any doubt as to who's going to survive, it doesn't make much difference.

And since there's no serious political point of view, only a mess of predictable plot points cobbled together, we have no idea where it takes place. (Unless it was mentioned while I was taking a much-deserved snooze, I beg your pardon.) And it doesn't seem to matter; just The Future will do. At first I thought it may have been a future America, since every filthy prole hovel sported a big-screen TV; but then they featured a luxury high-speed railway system, so I knew it wasn't a future America.

Maybe it's Canada. After all, everyone carries a knife and eats wild game and berries to survive, and Donald Sutherland is their leader. 

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