The Hunger Games (2012): Dystopia Versus Utopia

The Girl on Fire

I first read the novel this year in preparation for the world premier of the film that had been adapted from the book. I will not hedge nor will I guild the lily, I only read the book and preprepared myself for the film for one reason and one reason only. To hate them both.

Like a lot of people who have been intellectually blown off their feet by a concept so far beyond anything seen to date in a book and a film that took dystopia filled worlds to a different level, I felt that Suzanne Collins who wrote the original novels had taken a huge leaf out of  1996’s Battle Royale written by Koushun Takami .

I then further decided that the film made from Collins’s book would use as much of the film version of Battle Royale as possible to ensure it’s success.

I knew that this was a blatant rip-off of a Japanese  futuristic film about children killing children that had not even seen the light of day State side until December 2011

Furthermore, I knew all this without ever having read a single line from the book or watching a single trailer from the film.

How comfortably correct and outraged  we allow ourselves to feel, cocooned in the depths of our ignorance.

If you look in my archive you will find a review I did for all three of Suzanne Collins’ books in the Mockingjay Trilogy. So in the area of the novels, at least, I could hold my hand up with an embarrassed grin on my face as I did a 180 degree turnaround on the story, the author and the book’s themselves.

I then waited impatiently for the film adaptation to hit the big screen (which it did at roughly the same time as my review was posted). Unfortunately due to the flow and ebb behaviour of my finances this year, I had to pass on the big screen viewing. Last night, I watched the high-definition downloadable version via iTunes.


I was not disappointed.

Director Gary Ross (who co-wrote the film’s screenplay with author Suzanne Collins and Billy Ray) manages to catch the look and feel of the novel. He puts us right behind Katniss (katnip) Everdean (played by Jennifer Lawrence who brought Katniss to living breating life) from the very beginning of the film and keeps us there until the film’s dangling ending.

And before I go any further, a quick word about csting, it – was – perfect. Elizabeth Banks as Effie, Woody Harrelson as Haymitch. But the winners in the above and beyond category for simply sublime casting has to go to Donald Sutherland as the scary President Snow and to Josh Hutcherson as the lovelorn Peeta with honourable mention to the genius who talked Lenny Kravitz into appearing as Cinna in the film.

Honourable mention: Lenny Kravitz as Cinna.

As with many adaptations from favourite novels there were some things changed or added, but, they did not ruin the film in the least. The one added thing was the chance for readers of the books to see how the orchestrations of the ‘games’ were performed. A hugely modern television control system combined with CGI effects that could kill and you had the reality tv show from hell.

Of course in the books where we see everything from Katniss’s point of view, we don’t get to see the mechanizations behind the arena and it’s killing fields. We, like Katnip, can only wonder where the cameras are located and just how much the audience can see. With the film we can see it all. It really helps sell the film and it’s feel of a dystopia dictatorship that yearly punishes it’s unwilling denizens.

Like the book, this film has been aimed at the ‘young adult’ market and this is most obvious in the scenes of battle which are almost curiously bloodless. But the scene at the very beginning of the games where the ‘tributes’ arm themselves from weapons stored in the cornucopia, the lack of blood does not detract from the horror of what these children face as this is where half of them will die.

Do yourself a favour and get this film on blu-ray. If ever a film deserved to be viewed in high definition its The Hunger Games.

About Michael Knox-Smith

World traveler, writer, actor, vlogger, blogger, journalist. Cinephile who reviews films, television, YouTube shows, Books and interviews professionals in the industry. Member Nevada Film Critics Society

17 thoughts on “The Hunger Games (2012): Dystopia Versus Utopia

  1. Man, when I first read the beginning about the novel, I thought this was going to be a negative review. I haven’t seen the movie yet. Just bought the blu-ray a few weeks ago, so still finding the time to watch it. Glad you liked it! I hope to see it soon! Awesome review!

  2. I really liked the initial viewing of it but after a second watch I didn’t enjoy it as much. Still is an exceptional movie and Lawrence was very good in it. Nice review.

    1. Thanks! I went in thinking that I would not like it (a sort of mislead Battle Royale comparison) and after reading the books found that the film was one of the best adaptations I’d seen in a long time. Cheers mate! :-)

  3. I honestly think this is the worst film I’ve seen in theaters this year, thus far (PIRANHA 3DD I saw VOD, and, to be fair, it IS worse), and quite possibly the worst I’ve seen in theaters in the last three years. And, no, my opinion has nothing to do with my like/dislike of BATTLE ROYALE. This movie was juvenile (in every sense of the word), cliched, monotonous, and, worst of all, boring.

  4. Apparently Jennifer Lawrence talked Lenny Kravitz into being in the film since she’s really good friends with his daughter. :)

    I’ve read the books and watched the movie (which I thought was pretty good minus the end when…well…spoilers but you know the end with the cornucopia and what was supposed to happen only partially happened? That was disappointing to me) but I do think it takes a lot from Battle Royale (which I’ve been a fan of for awhile). But it’s fun.

  5. @Teepee12 – I think you may have missed the point; the theme is supposed to be appalling – in fact I’m pretty certain if you watched the film you’d see that it’s on your side, that the film is full to the brim of metaphor and allegory discussing such things as first world class division, the darker side of entertainment “business”, and the dangers of the multimedia lifestyles we are all entrenched in nowadays.

    Your issue is in fact the more graphic, sledgehammer approach to getting it’s idea across.

  6. I have all three books and I have not read them. It’s not that I don’t think they might be good, interesting, exciting, well-written. It’s that I hate the theme so much that I don’t want to like the books or the movie. It won’t matter how well written, well cast, well directed they may be … the theme appalls me and I can’t get past it. I don’t even want to.

    1. Exactly how I feel, a close friend has highly recommended the books but I just can’t bring myself to read them yet for the same reasons which you give

  7. Great review. You made me want to see the film. My buddy just saw the blu-ray and hasn’t stopped bugging me to get it. So on your and his recomendation…Hunger Games here I come.

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