There is a ubiquitous assertion among movie fans and film critics that Hollywood is completely out of ideas. This is often followed by the complaint that movies are, for the most part, wholly unoriginal and completely derivative of every film that came before them. This position is problematic, firstly, because it implies that the movie going audience should not enjoy films that are unoriginal or derivative, and secondly, because it also implies that movies which happen to be original will be good. While I agree, somewhat, with the statement that most movies are derivative, I reject the negative context in which the statement is often made. Sucker Punch (2011) is a movie that was not based on any previous intellectual properties, and is a wholly original work by director Zack Snyder. However, Sucker Punch is also one of the most spectacular failures in my recent film memory. I bring this up because one of the biggest grievances about The Hunger Games is that its material is “ripping-off” other narratives, such as Lord of the Flies and the Japanese film Battle Royale. Is The Hunger Games derivative? Absolutely it is. Its themes of children dealing with friendship and loyalty in an extreme survival situation are quite similar to the themes found in Lord of the Flies, and the idea of children being forced to kill each other for the amusement others comes right out of Battle Royale. While The Hunger Games may not score points in originality, one will have a harder time arguing with its execution.
The biggest problem that The Hunger Games faced, in my estimation, was that in the books the story was told from the heroine’s (Katniss Everdeen) perspective, giving the reader a way to directly sympathize with her, and giving the author the chance to fill in the gaps of the events that were taking place. I feared that the filmmakers would either add in a narration, which I feel would have been distracting, or that ability for the audience to sympathize with Katniss would be lost in translation from book to film. Luckily my worries were all for not, because Jennifer Lawrence proved herself as a fantastic actress, and the filmmakers did an excellent job in creating a world that is absurd in its excesses, heartbreaking in its poverty and subjugation, and terrifying in its acceptance of brutal violence. Lawrence was able to convey all the internal conflict and emotion that the first person narrative gave the readers in the book. But seeing as this is an adaptation, there were aspects of the book that had to be cut, and I wonder if the distrust Katniss had toward her pseudo-love interest (Peeta) came across to viewers whom have not read the book. There are two issues with this film: first it may be that it relied somewhat on the notion that the audience has read the book, but if that is the case, I think this film will nevertheless, impress such viewers. Second, the shaky-cam; curse you shaky-cam.
The Hunger Games clocks in at about two hours and twenty minutes, but it hardly seems like this is the case. It is expertly paced and incredibly well acted. And while it may borrow themes and elements from other books and films, such complaints come off as ridiculous in light of The Hunger Games. What The Hunger Games demonstrates is that a film’s success is not dependent on its intellectual and artistic origins, but rather on its execution. The Hunger Games, consequently, was incredibly well executed.
Directed by Gary Ross
Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, and Liam Hemsworth
Showtimes in Salt Lake City