I missed the whole Twilight phenomenon, so to try to stay hip to youth culture I went to see The Hunger Games. One thing I learned from this movie is that kids today have a much longer attention span than I ever did.
When I first saw The Hunger Games in 1987 it was called The Running Man and it lasted an hour and forty minutes. It only took the filmmakers half an hour to give us what we wanted, Arnold Schwarzenegger running for his life in a televised battle against celebrity assassins.
Now in 2012 they decided to remake the movie with an adolescent girl in the Schwarzenegger role. They made the movie two hours twenty minutes and we wait an excruciating hour to get what we want, kids running for their lives in a televised battle against celebrity assassin kids.
The producers of The Hunger Games don’t give The Running Man due credit and claim it was instead based on an original book. The filmmakers did not want to alienate this core audience by deviating too much from the so-called source material, but the difference between a movie and a book are books can be filled with descriptive exposition. Movies need plot and they need it now. Spending a leisurely hour learning about this dystopian world might have been captivating on the printed page, but was boring on screen. Much of the time is spent on a talk show where a celebrity host interviews the child gladiators before they battle. I suppose it was trying to parody American Idol and other vacuous entertainments, but did they really need twenty minutes to satirize these idiocies?
Once the contest began I thought it would get interesting and it did for a moment. Kids killing kids isn’t something we’re privy to seeing very often.The protagonist, played by Jennifer Lawrence, runs through the woods convincingly giving us someone to root for, but all the battle scenes were timed wrong. Time that was wasted in the previous part of the movie where Jennifer Lawrence bonded with her fashion designer, could have instead been spent on the battlefield. When Jennifer Lawrence sheds tears over dead contestants it seems false, because she and the audience didn’t have the time to get to know these characters.
But the most egregious sin of this movie is why they took their time telling the story. The first movie is cynically just an introduction for a brand new franchise. This is the first of what is a planned four part series. This profit motive deprives any sense of fun that could have been had with the movie’s absurd concept of kids killing kids as televised entertainment.
So now we must wait for the sequel to see if the citizens of this cinematic world will rebel against their superiors for not sharing the wealth and seeking to opiate them with manipulative entertainments.
But I have the feeling just as many tickets will be bought for The Hunger Games Part 2 as were purchased for the first one.