Hollywood

Mortal Combat From a Feminine Perspective

March 28, 2012

When you stop to think about it, is televised child butchery actually a bad thing?

We are all entitled to our opinions on this complex subject, but I admire how this film comes down forthrightly on the Bad Idea side of the ledger. Former Clinton speechwriter-turned-director Gary Ross (Seabiscuit) doesn’t pull any punches as he shoots innumerable close-ups of starlet Jennifer Lawrence (Winter’s Bone) scrunching up her baby-fat-laden features to convey unhappiness—even sadness—at having to participate in an underage bloodbath.

The reason for all the different theories about the movie’s subtext is because it doesn’t have one.

I’m not measuring The Hunger Games against, say, Charlie Kaufman’s Adaptation or J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. No, The Hunger Games is brain-dead compared merely to last year’s Transformers 3.

Granted, the idea of a mortal-combat show sounds like a slam dunk, which is why there have been so many other movies with the same premise (such as The Running Man with Arnold Schwarzenegger).

The Hunger Games could have been a terrific satire on modern sports or video games if Collins had ever paid attention to either. We’ve been enthralled by quarterback Peyton Manning coming back to the NFL for $96 million after four neck surgeries. The fact that Manning might end up in a wheelchair for life makes the whole story more dramatic. Or imagine how much wrestling mogul Vince McMahon could amuse us if the government ordered him to kill people in pursuit of higher ratings.

Unfortunately, “game theory” is a male concept entirely alien to Collins.

The movie would be far more horrifying if viewers had to figure out for themselves that The Hunger Games were a fight to the death. But that would demand too much of the audience. Instead, the film is an earnest and leaden production with witless, on-the-nose dialogue. The only incisive scenes feature Donald Sutherland as the evil President of Panem. As it turns out, the white-bearded actor made them up himself.

Hollywood is always being accused of dumbing down the American public, but in reality, movie folks waste some of their potential profits smartening up their films for their own enjoyment. The Hunger Games’ success shows how low the audience would go.

 

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