Things which would’ve made The Hunger Games better [Spoilers]
1] Make the kids less skilled and more like kids
Battle Royale, that Japanese film about kids forced to kill each other in a controlled environment which was in no way the basis for The Hunger Games, did this quite well. Most of the kids in that don’t know how to hold a gun let alone blow someone’s face off. The Hunger Games gives a reason for its characters’ skills, but it makes for a less emotional story. Also, it opens itself up to the common mistake of this kind of portrayal. By showing the elite kids being spectacular with knives and swords and things in training, it makes no sense for them suddenly not being able to kill the lead character when she’s right in front of them.
Another advantage of making the kids less skilled is that some of them grow into the killing side of things. They improve the more they slaughter, and they become more and more immoral. The Hunger Games elite kids are bastards right from the start. It is explained, them having a superiority complex towards the other districts, but it’s not as good to watch as the one bastard in Battle Royale who was a bastard right from the start because he was deranged and volunteered to fight or Shibasaki Kou growing into a more skilled and manipulative killer.
2] Give the lead character someone to kill that she doesn’t want to
She only kills the bastards, and only in self-defence. This might make her likeable, but it punishes the story.
There are no hard choices for her. Great, she likes that little kid, but what if they were the last two left? Never mind, it doesn’t happen. It was never going to happen. She’d probably kill herself before killing the kid, but we’ll never know for sure.
Okay, maybe they don’t have to put her against the kid…what about the guy who isn’t good or bad? They could’ve at least put her against him then she would’ve had to kill someone she didn’t want to in order to survive. This is the kind of thing that makes interesting character. The Hunger Games is an extreme situation, but the lead character isn’t given the chance to take her character to an extreme place.
3] Bump the certificate up and show more kills
It tries to show as much as it can, but the Hunger Games needs more blood and dirt. Before she enters the arena, Katniss is shaking and we start to feel nervous too as the shaking makes you realise what she’s about to go into. But the following scene takes all that away. There’s no horror, just a ridiculous moment where the girl who’s good at throwing knives throws a knife at Katniss’ head and hits her rucksack instead. This is the exact moment where the tension flatlines. Oh, it’s that kind of film.
How should they have filmed it?
Well, first of all, details. For example, when the bastard snaps the kid’s neck, you could show one of the other kids bending down and playing with the broken neck. Or when Pru is dying, you could have her coughing up blood and swearing at the unfairness of the whole thing. She could even tell Katniss to fuck off.
4] Don’t bring the emus into it
It was a mistake. As soon as they appeared, the final battle could be predicted. The last bastard left is going to be eaten by emus. Then they’ll just leave.
5] Make everything more desperate
There’s a lot of relaxing in this battle zone of death. Some quiet moments are understandable, but the scene where they find a beach and play volleyball for twenty minutes is a bit much.
The son of a baker decorated some cakes once and turns into a professional-standard make-up artist.
7] The sex scenes
It’s puzzling that the Hunger Games refuses to show kids being killed, but it’s okay to show both Woody Harrelson and Lenny Kravitz taking advantage of a confused Katniss before she enters the games. One sex scene might be understandable, but Harrelson literally fucks her in every room of the penthouse. It’s too much, and it’s hard to think of a good reason why these scenes were included. To show how naive Katniss is? To show how confused she is? Well, maybe, but what about when Kravitz hugs her before the games start? He sees her shaking, holds her hand, tells her ‘it’s gonna be okay’ then leads her over to that tube and pushes her head between his legs. Not only does it border on rape, but it also dilutes the impact of the relationship between Katniss and Peeta later on. How can we believe they truly love each other when she’s already been fucked by a drunk and a hairdresser?
8] Jessica Chastain cameo
It was unnecessary.
9] Minotaur references
The author has gone to great pains to let people know she based this story on the old Minotaur tale [and not any modern film]. This is fine, we don’t really care, but perhaps it wasn’t a great idea to have every character in the film mutter ‘man, this is just like that thing with the minotaur.’ Katniss, Gale, Peeta, Woody, all the kids…even the emus say it. What does it all mean? Well, we’re not sure, but it could be something to do with the author knowing that she ripped off modern films and suddenly realising that the Minotaur myth was kinda similar to the concept too, and what if she constantly referenced that instead? Then it would be unmistakeable design on her part, not accidental, and she could feel better about herself even though she’s a hacky piece of shit.
10] Death of Wes Bentley
From the moment he ate the berries to the moment he stopped crawling along the floor en spasm de mort, seventeen minutes passed. One take, no cuts. Why? Also, his monologue: ‘I’ve seen things you wouldn’t believe. D-beams bouncing off the HanTauser Gate, defence ships on fire…in Space. Alas, poor me. I knew him, Horatio.’ Who exactly is he talking to?
There wasn’t enough of it. Come on, it’s supposed to be a dystopia. How can we take it seriously if our society is more racist than theirs?
12] The Capitol
Where everyone seems to be funky and oblivious.
13] The arena
Forest x infinity. And a river. How about some structures, buildings or ruins? When the concept is so strong, you might think the terrain they’re fighting in is unimportant…but when the concept is so diluted, it starts to matter. That piece of modern art they’re brawling on at the end, it’s not enough.
14] Dialogue of the final bastard
The bastard at the end, when he’s hugging Peeta…was he speaking Cantonese? Only thing that could be understood was ‘fighting for the pride of my district as always.’ Even the emus had sharper pronunciation.
15] Donald Sutherland
Just him being there makes you think the film must be worse than it really is. Last thing he was seen in was ‘The Mechanic’, where, as usual, he lasted around ten minutes. Is he too tired to do feature length characters anymore?
16] Young Adult Fiction
It’s hard to decide if this is good or patronising to that genre. It is true to say that anyone under the age of sixteen doesn’t yet know what’s good and what’s not*, and they are willing to accept something that makes it halfway. But is this good enough? Shouldn’t we be forcing them into reading better? Well, maybe not. If you don’t have any experience of living independently in the real world then you won’t be able to relate to films that show realistic actions/situations. Example, they’ll watch Star Trek for the space battles, not the concept episodes. Or they’ll ignore it and watch Star Wars instead.
* This seems suspicious but is in fact…err…fact.
I’ve fucked enough under 16’s to know what they think about things.
The Hunger Games is out now. You’ve probably seen it already.