Over the weekend I finally got round to watching the two Hunger Games films. I should have enjoyed them more, and if only I had remembered to do what I was told to at school I probably would have done.
All the way through the films I kept wondering how on Earth actors of the stature and quality of Donald Sutherland, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Stanley Tucci, Jeffrey Wright and Woody Harrelson could be involved in something so poor. That is not to say that I found them totally unwatchable: Jennifer Lawrence’s performance alone made it worth seeing, even if there is no way she can pass as between 12 and 18.
The thing is I forgot the golden rule of appreciating science fiction (well arguably any fiction, but especially science fiction) – willing suspension of disbelief. It was almost a mantra of my old English and film studies teacher and I forgot to do it, so I was in the wrong frame of mind completely.
What you are supposed to do is accept the starting premise that there was some sort of rebellion and that the government instituted these hunger games and proceed from there. Accept that all as a given and then it is all about how people would react in those circumstances. Instead of that I could not get over just how unlikely the whole thing was.
Admittedly, even if I had done that I would still have had other problems with the whole setup. The idea of an insulated elite of the idle rich, living in luxury while the masses struggle and starve is a common enough concept. The problem is that the pampered elite seemed to outnumber the masses enormously. The districts seemed to be able to gather all their children into a small town square for the reaping, implying a population of not more than a few thousand, while arenas in the capital were packed out with tens of thousands of people.
But I would have found that easier to ignore if not for the doubts over the whole premise of the story. There is also the small matter that the whole idea of the hunger games seemed like an inferior copy of Battle Royale, which is still one of my favourite films, which is why I put off watching for so long.
I’ll try to approach the third and fourth films with a more open mind, when I inevitably watch them.