A bloody tradition

Hey, so I finally saw The Hunger Games. See, when it first premiered I thought to myself “That looks a little Twilight-ish, but I really should see it so I can have an opinion.” Then, as it was on its way out of the cinemas, I thought “People say that it’s better than Twilight, so maybe I should watch it on DVD to see how much better…”. Then when it came out on DVD I thought “Ok, this has gone on long enough! It’s about time that I illegally download The Hunger Games and watch it once and for all!”

So now I have. Yay, go me! Procrastination? Yes. Incomplete goals? No. Plot? As follows:

“Set in a future where the Capitol selects a boy and girl from the twelve districts to fight to the death on live television, Katniss Everdeen volunteers to take her younger sister’s place for the latest match.”

– IMDB

So how much did I like it?

Well first we have to address the history of the film. I’m sorry to all the Hunger Games fans out there because you’ve probably heard the Pulp Fiction joke a million times by now. In case you haven’t, it goes like this:

Battle Royale with cheese

…and for those of you who have no idea what that’s a reference to, there was a Japanese novel published in 1999 called Battle Royale. It concerned a near future in which selected classes of children were forced to fight and kill each other until there was only one survivor.

So yeah, it’s a little similar.

Then in 2000 there was a movie…

…and it was pretty good. That’s why The Hunger Games has constantly been on the receiving end of a plagiarism accusation. The author claims to never have read Battle Royale and that all similarities are coincidental. I have to admit that, while I was watching it, I couldn’t help but see the “coincidental” overlapping of plot between the two. The setting, style, and tone are all the same as well. Still…

To all those out there who think it’s a blatant rip off of Battle Royale, I have news for you: Battle Royale is a rip off of The Running Man!

How many people out there have seen The Running Man? Didn’t think so, but remember; just cause a movie like Battle Royale seems original to you, doesn’t mean it is. The Running Man is about as far removed from Battle Royale as Battle Royale is from The Hunger Games. All we’re doing is taking one more step back in film history here folks…

“In the future, a wrongly-convicted man must try to survive a public execution gauntlet staged as a TV game show.”

– IMDB

The “future” we’re talking about is the year 2019, so that’s about 6 and a half years from now. Sweet, I’m looking forward to the resurgence of Gladiatorial games in the 21st century and will be excited to see it happen in my lifetime! Now we just have to get those pesky flying cars and personal robots invented and we’ll finally be living in the future that the 1980’s predicted for us.

It was originally a novel written in 1982 by Stephen King under the psuedonym Richard Bachman (Why? I don’t know, maybe just because he could), and was then made into a movie with Arnold Schwarzenegger in the lead.

The part of this film that truly reminds me of The Hunger Games is the role that television plays in the overall commentary. The violent battles that Schwarzenegger has to survive are broadcast for the whole world to cheer and boo at. I’m glad reality television hasn’t sunk to such a morally corrupt level yet, but in a world where the TV cameras are pointed squarely at The Jersey Shore and Honey Boo Boo Child, I’m not sure there’s too much further to go.

Speaking of “not too much further to go”, we’re almost at the end of our journey of inspiration. All of these movies, all of them, are traceable to one original source. It’s not a movie, nor a novel, but instead a short story…

The Most Dangerous Game is a 46-page story, published in 1924, by Richard Connell about a big-game hunter who washes up on the shores of a Caribbean island. There he meets a crazy Cossack aristocrat, named General Zaroff, who declares that he wishes to hunt him like an animal and subsequently releases him into the wilds of the local jungle. Zaroff then proceeds to stalk the protagonist through the bush in an attempt to challenge his own hunting skills. The title is a double entendre referring to both the danger of the hunt aswell as the true most dangerous game – man!

If elements of this story or these characters sound familiar it’s most likely because they are. Have you ever seen Jumanji?

That’s right! This single story continues to inspire novelists and moviemakers to this day. I’m not sure why; perhaps it’s the revealing nature of pitting man against himself or the irony of its similarity to so many of humanities violent activities that we consider trivial. Something about The Most Dangerous Game inspires people to re-imagine it time and time again for each new generation.

The point I’m trying to get at is that none of these movies are rip-offs, they’re remixes. Stories are retold over and over in several different forms, that’s how they stay alive. The Hunger Games is just another stroke in the dotted line that stretches forever into the sunset. Please stop shouting about how similar it is to everything else. Everything is similar to everything else. We live in an age where even the concept of a “remake” has been remade into a “reboot”. Studios nowadays don’t fix the blunder of a bad film by making a better one, but instead they just make the old one again. Didn’t like Spider Man? How about The Amazing Spiderman? We’re going to have to get used to this people, and in a world of remakes of remakes of remakes- an american remix of Battle Royale for the teenage audience isn’t exactly the most offensive thing imaginable. If you want to get riled up about plagiarism, turn your attention to things like Christopher Paolini’s Inheritance Cycle. That is outright plagiarism!

Alright, I will. I thought The Hunger Games was alright. I still prefer the goriness of Battle Royale, because it’s more adult, but I have to say that this was no Disney movie. I was surprised by just how bloody certain scenes were, considering the target audience. Even more important than that; the overall tone is very grueling. You definitely don’t have the continuously assured feeling that “it’s all going to be alright in the end.”

What didn’t work? First of all the Tim Burton’s Alice In Wonderland clothing style of the upper class districts was weird. Not cool and creative…just weird. Why are people in the future caking themselves is pasty white makeup and donning clown outfits?

If the future of the wealthy looks like a 15-year-old girls Halloween party then I’ll settle for middle or lower class, thank you. It’s like some sort of alternate universe where the ridiculous costumes we see on the runway are actually worn in day to day life. I give them props for taking the fashion sense of the future into consideration but I just didn’t buy it. What else didn’t I buy? Oh yeah…

Note to the filmmakers: FIRE DOES NOT LOOK LIKE THIS!

I know that in the movie it’s implied that the flames are fake somehow, but come on! Even as Katniss is running through the woods, dodging fireballs, the VFX people never bother to try and make it look real. But hey, just because I didn’t buy it doesn’t mean that you can’t. It’s just that when you do it’ll look like this:

*ba-dumbum-CHING*!!!

Ok fine, I promise that I’m almost done ripping on it, just one final thing; what the hell is the point of…

Liam Hemsworth is on screen for about 5 minutes at the beginning of this movie – and then just spends the rest of the time sobbing in a field. Apparently he plays a bigger part in the next instalment, but boy is he a waste of celluloid in this one!

The opposite of this would be Woody Harrelson, who’s character I found charming, well rounded, and of course properly acted.

Jennifer Lawrence, Wes Bentley, and Stanley Tucci also do impressive work. There’s been some hate wafted in the direction of Elizabeth Banks for her portrayal of Effie Trinket. I won’t stand for this! Elizabeth Banks should be displayed in a museum somewhere on account of her rarity. She’s a beautiful woman who’s also insanely funny, with a a great ability to laugh at herself and have fun. Besides, anyone who eagerly partook in James Gunn’s Slither gets an instant pass from me for the rest of their career!

I was going to say something about Lenny Kravitz and acting but the two can’t stand to be seen in the same sentence together, let alone an entire film.

So I didn’t love it, but I didn’t hate it. It was a notch above Twilight and The Vampire Diaries, but still a couple notches below Battle Royale.

Rant Over!

One thought on “A bloody tradition

  1. Excellent post. I’ve said to others you can tell how old somebody is based upon what they say the Hunger Games is a rip-off of, from Battle Royale to The Running Man to Lord of the Flies to The Most Dangerous Game, etc.

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