With such a gripping and unique concept comes the challenge of explaining how these conditions might have come about. And at such swift pace, such explanations are something the film scrambles for at every free moment.
The Hunger Games were established by the state as a punishment against the districts for an attempted revolution some seventy-five years ago. The districts supposedly experience a sort of Stockholm syndrome with regard to the “punishment,” as the Games have turned into a national pastime, with televised coverage and public excitement comparable to our Olympics. However, this glee is really only reflected in the upper districts, which can afford to train a winning tribute nearly every year, while the poorest districts are little more than paralyzed with terror.
As with most book-to-film adaptations, we get the strong sense that the content of the original novel has been heavily abridged just to fit the two-and-a-half hour running time. Still, it's a testament to the filmmakers' agility and the strength of the story that we're hungry for more than what's provided.
This snipping of detail truly is a shame, as the film so frequently suggests questions beyond the main narrative of Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence), female tribute from lowly District 12, and her struggle to win the games. Uneven distribution of wealth, television as a national opiate, and the creation of public political apathy are all touched upon, but none with any more than passing curiosity.
Considering the targeted demographic, I suppose this is to be expected. It's doubtful that the teenage fans of the book flocking to the theatres have great deals of patience for in-depth investigations of socio-political concerns.
Oh well. Maybe we'll delve a little further into these things in the sequels. But regardless of how fascinating the premise might be, it's a rather morbid one for a teenage craze, no? Does this say something about today's youth and their sensitivity to death and violence?
Possibly. Though every teenager feels as if growing up is a fight for survival, and who wouldn't want to feel as if victory in their fight made them a national hero? Besides, the teen-on-teen killings in the film aren't exceedingly violent, and most tastefully (if such a word can be applied here) occur off screen.
The art direction is probably the greatest casualty of excessive editing. For example, we end up seeing so little of the creative, idiosyncratic costume and make-up design for the bourgeoisie classes, that they end up feeling out of place, as if they didn't get full commitment from the filmmakers.
It seems as if I want more of everything, and yet I doubt I would have sat through a three-and-a-half hour Hunger Games movie. Fingers crossed there will be a director's cut blu-ray and we can reassess after that.