Some Thoughts on The Hunger Games Film

I watched ”The Hunger Games” last night, the midnight showing. I didn’t really know what it was going in, I mean I had heard about the novels briefly on a few episodes of [[link: Pop Culture Happy Hour]], but I didn’t remember what was said about them. Nevertheless I was invited to go see the movie, and it has been a long time since I’ve seen a movie in the theater, so I figured, ”Why not?”

Warning: This post contains spoilers about the film The Hunger Games.

Going into the film, it was described to me as, “A bunch of kids get put on an island and have to kill each other.” This turned out to be an inaccurate description as there was no island, but other than that what I heard was an accurate summary. The way I describe it, however, is a little different. I would describe it as, “It’s kind of like ”The Running Man” only different because it didn’t have Schwarzenegger.” Seriously, though, it has a similar premise as ”The Running Man”, and I want to make a few comparisons to that film in this blog. The premise of both these films originates with the gladiators of ancient Rome, men who fought to the death as a form of public entertainment. The idea of human brutality and death as a form of entertainment has appeared frequently in classic science fiction. One major difference with this film was that it was written for teenagers, and so the gladiators or “tributes” as they are called, were kids aged 12 to 18. Talk about barbarism at it’s worst.

My overall impression of the film ”The Hunger Games” was positive. I now intend to read the novels. However, I do want to address one major problem with this film. The problem is in the plot, and it is that ”NOTHING HAPPENED!” That’s not to say that no events occurred. Events did occur, but nothing in terms of plot. To explain, let me give the exposition of the film:

It’s a world of pain and grief. Each year twenty four children aged 12 to 18 are chosen as “tributes” to compete in ”The Hunger Games”, a televised spectacle, only one will survive.
Katniss and some dude in ”The Hunger Games”.

This was more or less the opening crawl of the movie. It was also all that happened in the film. I mean literally, you read the opening crawl, and the whole movie was spoiled for you. There was no plot to this film. Twenty four kids were placed in an arena and they killed each other, but that was the way the world was. Every year twenty four kids were placed in the arena. Every year there was only one survivor. This movie chronicled the 74th annual “Hunger Games”, but nothing unique happened this time around. It could have been any year. Sure, there was some emotional development of the characters, but that would have happened any year. Anyone watching this knew that the main character, Katniss, would survive, and she did.

Viewers will know I’m not being completely forthcoming about one thing in the film, but the reality is, that the one thing that was supposedly so drastically different, wasn’t really a big deal. I will get back to this topic, though. Meanwhile, let me discuss the film ”The Running Man”. I will do as I did with ”The Hunger Games” and briefly present the exposition:

It’s a world of pain and grief. Humanity is at it’s worst. As public entertainment, condemned criminals are thrown into an arena where they are given the chance to run for their freedom. Gladiators are swift behind them. No one has ever survived.
Schwarzenegger as Richards in ”The Running Man”.

Now to the plot of ”The Running man”. Schwarzenegger’s character, Richards, is a condemned criminal who competes on the show “The Running Man”. Unlike every other contestant, he fights back, kills some of the gladiators, and exposes the TV show and those that watch it for the barbaric lovers of violence that they are. Everything about Richards is very different from the typical scenario presented by the exposition of this film.

If ”The Running Man” had been written in the likeness of ”The Hunger Games” this would have been the plot: Richards, a condemned criminal was a contestant on “The Running Man”, he was killed, and nothing out of the ordinary happened. A short story, at best, certainly not a feature length movie.

I did mention that there was one thing different about the 74th annual “Hunger Games”: Two kids survived instead of one. That’s it, one more survivor. Those that watched the “Hunger Games” were never confronted with their inhumanity. They were never made to question that their love of this show was somehow morally deficient. They just sat and watched it, and cheered. Briefly at the beginning of the film, Katniss’ boyfriend suggested to her that if no one watched the “Hunger Games”, then they might stop doing them. Other than that there was no mention of change. No greater good to be accomplished. Merely two people survived instead of one.

I mean even after the “Hunger Games” were over, the two survivors just went onto talk shows and acted as if they were heroes. As if they were proud of themselves. They did exactly what the 73 winners before them did. They didn’t call out the barbarity. They didn’t declare, “I’m not proud of myself.” They didn’t tell the audience they should be ashamed of themselves. They merely basked in the glory, or at least acted as if they were. They were no different from any other survivor.

This brings me back to the topic of exposition. A plot like this isn’t a plot, it’s exposition, and exposition is not good storytelling. Now I’ve been in writing seminars where it has been said that you don’t need plot, just character development. Some writers suggest that ordinary people in ordinary situations makes the best plots, and that all you need for good storytelling is character development. By development, change is implied. Now some can argue that the character’s in ”The Hunger Games” did change. They didn’t. Not to say that the characters didn’t personally change, but they changed in the exact same way that any previous winner of the “Hunger Games” changed, and that isn’t really change at all. Character development must be extraordinary, not expected. This is what I mean when I say that the survivors in the film were no different from any other survivor.

With as negative as I’ve been, though, like I said, I have every intention of reading the novels. I’m hoping that there is something more to them, maybe some actual plot. I can’t blame ”The Hunger Games” for lacking what ”The Running Man” had, though. ”The Hunger Games” is juvenile literature. ”The Running Man” originated from master writer Stephen King.