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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire trailer: the future is now

Poor people set upon one another for the entertainment of the rich. Why does this sound so familiar?


US/Canada release date: Nov 22 2013 | UK release date: Nov 22 2013
official site | IMDb
posted in:
movie buzz | trailers
  • bronxbee

    i think it’s called Survivor… or maybe American Idol… or any other reality show currently on air.

  • There’s also the Lets Blame Poor Immigrants For *Your* Lousy Standard Of Living! game. Such fun.

  • Prankster36

    My biggest problem with the first one was the way the political aspects were tamped down (though still present) to the point where elements of the story didn’t actually make sense. My girlfriend (who’s read the books) had to explain to me why they were called The Hunger Games. It’s really weird that they didn’t make it clearer how and why the Games function, thereby undercutting what was otherwise a pretty decent piece of 70s-style social-conscience SF. I can’t help but think that they wanted to avoid politics, which is dumb; the premise is inherently political. Hopefully this sequel, which looks a lot better (visually as well as storywise) will bring the goods in that regard.

  • RogerBW

    I found the political angle in the books very heavy-handed. YA doesn’t have to abandon subtlety, but the politics came over to me as “We Are Evil Because We Like Being Evil”.

    Is that Philip Seymour Hoffman talking to the President? It reminds me of one of diCaprio’s modern roles, all slime and pointless nastiness.

  • Tonio Kruger

    Well, the political angle in the first movie wasn’t all that subtle either. Even though the plot was so lacking in specific detail that it could be interpreted as an allegory for almost anything from the Yankee Occupation of the Confederacy to the Soviet Union’s war against the Baltic States.

  • RogerBW

    Yeah, the first film certainly wasn’t perfect. But — if you’ve read the second book, there’s a [huge spoiler] towards the end that came across to me as frankly facile, and I’m very interested to see how the film handles that.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    I suspect, rather than delve in the specifics of Collins’ world-building (such as it is), the films will skim the surface of Generic Totalitarian Regime Is Bad Y’all.

    As it stands, I will be disappointed if Donald sutherland doesn’t twirl his moustache at least once.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    It is Phillip Seymour Hoffman. But, he’s playing Plutarch Heavensbee.

  • Prankster36

    The thing is, the politics are still there in the movie, but as you say, they still to the simple, easily commodified “fight the evil empire” stuff while not bothering to detail the way the system keeps the Districts down, thereby undercutting it. The basic idea that the Hunger Games exist so that the Districts will remain at each other’s throats instead of organizing to overthrow the capital is a powerful and rather dangerous one to be inserting into a mainstream blockbuster, so of course they minimized it as much as possible. But this made the plot rather confusing (it seemed implausible that the Tributes wouldn’t just team up in the first place, but if they’re all angling for a prize it makes sense).

    I haven’t read the books, but it seems like they’re going to HAVE to touch on this a little in the sequel based on the fallout (i.e., District 12 receiving more food in the coming year) and hopefully the success of the first movie lets them be a little more daring.

  • Bluejay

    The basic idea that the Hunger Games exist so that the Districts will remain at each other’s throats instead of organizing to overthrow the capital is a powerful and rather dangerous one to be inserting into a mainstream blockbuster, so of course they minimized it as much as possible.

    I thought that idea came across clearly enough.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G7TOzHr6jXk

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Full disclosure: my exposure to “The Hunger Games” novels is about the same as yours: my wife read them and explained some things to me. In fact, as my wife reads so quickly that she loses track of details, you might have a better grasp on the books than I do.

    The basic idea that the Hunger Games exist so that the Districts will remain at each other’s throats instead of organizing to overthrow the capital is a powerful and rather dangerous one to be inserting into a mainstream blockbuster

    I dunno, seems like a pretty standard trope to me. Basic “divide and conquer” from the perspective of the bad guys. And I rather doubt Suzanne Collins was trying to write a heavy hitting social commentary, so much as an adventure story with a female protagonist. But i could be wrong on that.

  • RogerBW

    Certainly I found the political content in the books very heavy-handed, with the Capitol being evil not for its own gain but to give our heroine something to fight against. There’s never any suggestion as to how they manage to get the Districts to hate each other when they never meet each other, while the Capitol is constantly sending people to beat them up, take their work, starve them, and steal their children.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    This is my fundamental problem with Collins’s world building. The backstory she’s created can explain how The Hunger Games were established. I can even see that continuing for a couple decades. But she hasn’t thought through the logistics of maintaining this kind of social order for three generations. As Collins has set it up, the Districts have almost all the land, almost all the population, and almost all the resources. The Capital has… what? The nukes, maybe. And and the power of authorial fiat. To me, that the whole thing will come crashing down on the Capital during these books is never in question, since I can’t tell what was holding it up in the first place.

  • OnceJolly

    Surely less dangerous than a Rage Against the Machine song. Which is to say harmless.

  • Prankster36

    There’s too much intrinsic political stuff for me to believe that Collins wasn’t trying for social commentary. Among other things, it’s very much in the mode of a number of dystopian 70s-era “modern Rome” SF stories like Rollerball and Death Race 2000, in which a spectacular competition is used to distract the populace.

  • Prankster36

    Well I’m not trying to claim these movies and books are a latter-day Communist manifesto, or anything. But I always appreciate it when subversive ideas are smuggled into something that lots of people see and read; in a way, that’s edgier than making a tiny indie movie that’s free to really cut loose. (It’s why I argue the first two X-Men movies did more for gay rights than Brokeback Mountain. Sure, the latter is more direct and passionate, but the former snuck a pro-gay-rights agenda into massive blockbuster movies that everyone saw. If art has a responsibility to change hearts and minds, then surely those movies can claim to have done some good in the world.)

    I’d also argue there’s a big gap between the generic, commodified “fight the evil empire!” sloganeering of something like Star Wars, which even Ronald Reagan could twist to his own ends, and something like this, which goes into the actual mechanisms of how nasty regimes keep people in line. Again, not claiming that this is a work of in-depth political insight, but it has the ring of truth, and it’s a nice thing to plant in the minds of a young audience.

    And hey: if I had a teenaged daughter, I’d much rather she be listening to Rage Against the Machine than the Jonas Brothers.

  • Prankster36

    This was sort of my issue too, but I do see how it works in theory. The idea is that the winning District gets to feast for a year while the others starve; it wouldn’t be hard to use the media to spin this to keep the Districts at each others’ throats. History, or even a glance outside your window, shows that holding out the promise that you–YES YOU–could join the elite, while blaming some other group (gays, immigrants, people on welfare) for your inability to do so, is a great way to keep the blame from falling on the people who actually hold the strings.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    There’s too much intrinsic political stuff for me to believe that Collins wasn’t trying for social commentary.

    Yes, but it’s all broad strokes and lacking in anything like subtlety. And the fact that Collins didn’t seem to think through all the details suggests to me that such details weren’t all that important to the story she wanted. And she’s not wrong. I just wish she’d either reigned it in a bit, or gone all out.

    it’s very much in the mode of a number of dystopian 70s-era “modern Rome” SF stories like Rollerball and Death Race 2000

    Hence, well established trope. I’d even say that it’s older than the ’70s. Maybe even Older Than Jesus.

  • OnceJolly

    I’m a Canadian, so maybe I can’t appreciate how subversive a pro-gay-rights message was in 2000. By then, my best friend from grade school had been out of the closet for five years and I was living in a city that has reputation for being gay friendly and had several large communities openly catering to alternative lifestyles. I’d also read the X-Men back in the mid 80s, a period in which the anti-racist/anti-Holocaust message of the comic was hardly subtle, so the presence of such subtexts in the movie were hardly surprising. However, gay rights have never struck me as fundamentally antithetical to Empire (or at least a secular Empire). The X-Men movies may have opted for allegory for commercial reasons as well; a movie that explicitly included gay characters may have faced various kinds of backlash affecting the bottom line.

    I’m still not sure what “danger” a more politically explicit Hunger Games presents to the status quo. I would guess that a substantial fraction of the parents of todays YAs would have been exposed to Orwell’s 1984 (or is that another thing we only do up here in Canada?), with apparently little effect on the developments of the decade or so…

  • Prankster36

    I’m also Canadian, OnceJolly. And it sort of sounds like you don’t believe movies can have any effect on people’s belief systems or prejudices, so I don’t know if this is a productive line of discussion.

  • OnceJolly

    I don’t think that’s what I’m arguing. I’m skeptical that this particular piece is likely to have much effect. A broad audience, yes, but not a particularly substantial message.

  • Prankster36

    Well of course I’m not arguing it’s going to make people overthrow despots around the world with a single viewing. I already said that. But you’re basically blowing off 1984, one of the most influential books ever written, because it didn’t INSTANTLY MAKE EVERYTHING AWESOME, and obviously no one is going to put The Hunger Games in the same league, so I don’t know what to say to you. That’s not how art or storytelling works. All it can do is plant seeds.

  • OnceJolly

    If pushed, I think I would argue popular culture (with the emphasis on “popular”) mirrors contemporary culture much more than it shapes it. Partly because anything that runs too contrary to widely held sentiments is unlikely to become popular, unless it’s generally misunderstood. I think more influential items tend to be direct works of political philosophy (works like On Liberty, Das Capital, A Theory of Justice, and so forth), which may then influence subsequent art. Perhaps art popularizes some of these ideas, but again, I think they already have to have reached some critical level of acceptance before being capable of becoming “popular.”

    I’m not at all dismissive of 1984. However, one of the ironies of Orwell’s most popular works (1984 and Animal Farm) is that they were embraced by the right, because they could be seen as being about the practices of the governments of the Eastern Block. Of course the word “totalitarianism” is just as likely to be invoked by the NRA with regards to gun restrictions as it is by civil libertarians reacting to various Homeland Security measures.

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