There has been a lot of talk about The Hunger Games recently. I have read the comparisons to Battle Royale, to The Running Man and even to Logan’s Run and Dangerous Game. I have read that The Hunger Games topped $15 million in advance ticket sales. Unfortunately, I even read some of the racist tweets from people who were angry that characters from the book that were described as having brown skin in the book, were actually played by people who fit that description in the movie. I promised in a tweet that I would watch The Running Man, Battle Royal, and The Hunger Games and see for myself if there are any similarities.
Let’s take a look at The Running Man (1987). The plot is described by IMDb as, “A wrongly-convicted man must try to survive a public execution gauntlet staged as a TV game show”, and is based on a novel written by Steven King that was published in 1982. Already I see where the comparisons come into play with the fact that it is a fight for survival made into a TV show. There is a love story that culminates in Ben (Arnold Schwarzenegger) having to survive with and falling in love with Amber (Maria Conchita Alonso).
Here are some of my random thoughts as I watched this movie. [SPOILER ALERT]
- Exploding neckbands! Bonus: Exploding decapitation within the first 5 minutes!
- Who works out in lingerie?
- Maria Conchita Alonso = The first Sophia Vergara (Salma Hayek was the 2nd)
- The Climbing for Dollars commercial within the movie was hilarious and reminded me of Fear Factor, which makes sense because we are only a few years away from Ow My Balls.
- Ben has a theatrical agent and a make-up artist/hairstylist!
- Wow! Paula Abdul choreographed the dance sequences.
Next, I watched Battle Royale (2000) on Blu-ray. Battle Royale is based on a 1999 novel by Kaushun Takami. The IMDb movie plot description reads as follows: “In the future, the Japanese government captures a class of ninth-grade students and forces them to kill each other under the revolutionary "Battle Royale" act.” Already I spot the similarities this movie has to The Running Man, but with teenagers. It is not emphasized whether or not the whole battle is televised, but the film starts with the victor from the last battle being swarmed with media coverage. There is also a love story between Shuya (Tatsuya Fujiwara) and Noriko (Aki Maeda) who have to survive together and end up falling in love.
The original theatrical trailer does not allow embedding, but you can view it here.
- Here are my random thoughts while watching the movie. [SPOILER ALERT]
- Why is Shuya's father’s pants down when he commits suicide?
- Did he just shank the teacher? That teacher has a very casual reaction to being shanked.
- That kid in the corner looks a bit like Edward Scissorhands.
- Neck explosion within the first 10 minutes!
- Their neckbands look like Seiko watches.
Finally the movie you’ve all been waiting for……The Hunger Games! The Hunger Games (2012) is based on the 2008 novel by Suzanne Collins. When I looked up the publishing year, I discovered that there is also a book called The Hunger But Mainly Death Games: A Parody by Bratness Everclean. I would like to read that! Anyway IMDb describes the film’s plot as, “Set in a future where the Capitol selects a boy and girl from the twelve districts to fight to the death on live television, Katniss Everdeen volunteers to take her younger sister's place for the latest match.” This already sounds like Collins put The Running Man and Battle Royale in a blender to come up with this. Oh and there is a love story too.
Here are my random thoughts as I watched the movie. [Guess what? SPOILER ALERT]
- If there are trees everywhere, why can’t they just grow food? Pollution?
- Centuries into the future looks a lot like Little House on the Prairie for the poor…and Alice in Wonderland for the Rich.
- They have spaceship like hovercrafts, but use 1940’s style microphones. O.K.
- Is Lady Gaga and Nicki Minaj’s contribution to the world future fashion trends?
- Why is President Snow dressed like the guy from the “Rent is Too Damn High Party”?
- Looks like the costume designer raided Nicki Minaj’s wig collection.
- Why did the stylist give Katniss Octomom eyebrows? That’s not a good look.
- Over use of the shaky camera technique = under use of a stunt choreographer. You can’t hide laziness with editing.
- What is that a tigerlionbearwolf creature?
After watching the movies I must revise my initial reaction to The Hunger Games. It is as if Collins put The Running Man, Battle Royale and Twilight into a blender with a side of boring sauce and after totally castrating the TRM and BR. The first issue I have is that Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) is an unlikeable protagonist. She has close to no personality. She is a sci-fi Bella Swan. I understand that in young adult literature there is a trend of leaving the protagonist a blank slate so that the reader can insert themselves into the character’s shoes. I am not so sure this approach works well on screen, because we are meant to root for Katniss. It is very hard to root for someone so bland and unlikeable.
The film really failed to elicit the same reaction from me to the participants’ deaths, the way Battle Royale did. I’ve read a few reviews that note the editing for a PG -13 as the cause. They felt that because they were not shown the violence that they did not feel for the characters. On the one hand, I do feel it was overly cautious. One can view more gore on network television, and in video games so I’m not sure whom they were trying to protect from violent content. Insidious and The Ring were both PG-13 and they scared the crap out of me, so I don’t think that a movie necessarily needs to be rated R to be jarring.
I think that the reason it did not inspire an emotional response, aside from the utter unlikeability of Katniss, is that the other characters were so underdeveloped. We meet the competitors, but know nothing about them. Battle Royale developed the characters through the use of flashbacks to their lives pre-battle. We see a great deal of their different personalities on the bus ride to the battle and during the battle. We get to care about them, so that when they die it has a greater impact. In The Hunger Games we meet Rue, she helps Katniss once and then she dies. It should be sad because she is so young, but we barely get to know her before she is killed.
Then there is the nearly useless love triangle. We are to believe that Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) has always loved Katniss, although this is hard to tell by his actions. However Katniss loves Gale (Liam Hemsworth), who together have no chemistry what-so-ever. We are supposed to be torn between Katniss’ need to pretend to love Peeta, and her actual love of Gale. It’s all very two guys vying for the same girl Twilight cakes etc. Maybe the actors just didn’t sell it; maybe one must be 14 years old to ‘get it’. This film kills 22 children without being half as gut wrenching as a one-hour episode of 16 and Pregnant. They say there are no original ideas anymore, but that is no excuse for mediocrity.