Part two of the trilogy by Suzanne Collins about Katniss Everdene who is one of a group of young people recruited in a dystopian future by a totalitarian regime to provide reality TV killing contests. Donald Sutherland is the tyrant and Philip Seymour Hoffman is his new games impresario. The proletariat work in mines and are subject to brutal militarized discipline. Katniss is recruited with her boyfriend Peeta Mellark. She meets the other contestants and appears on Stanley Tucci’s reality TV show. The contestants are let loose on each other in the jungle…
Even though this is mostly a re-cycling of the first film, that is not necessarily a bad thing. After all, Katniss is let loose with new people facing new challenges like on a hi-tech Dr Moreau’s island. Philip Seymour has devised a kind of water wheel which interferes with the hunt when things get a bit slow. They face poisonous fog, carnivorous baboons and each other. Survival is supposed to be the paramount concern but contestants are effectively subversive when they undermine the rules and show inefficient compassion. The satire is obviously directed at the infantile vileness of reality TV, this is Brave New World with violence rather than soma as the drug. Elizabeth Banks re-appears as the decadent mentor of the players, in her post modernist make up and clothes she is a Blade Runner Paul Theroux-type party goer (from or a parody O-Zone) of ’70s transgressions. Under the exotica she is a fussy martinet. Donald Sutherland is all ruthless smarm, with his power-entitled delivery of self serving logic. There is the usual caricature of Hollywood Rome: the chariot procession and the Neronic banquets offering its guests instant regurgitation (like in a Roman vomitarium) so as to try all food. Corporate power relies on the availability of ritual as cliche, Hunger Games exploits this and satirizes it at the same time. StanleyTucci as the impresario is so transparently insincere that he’s actually quite honest, a sort of study in visual irony (Simon Cowell in the X Factor is simply slimy). This shows that sincerity and honesty do not have to be synonymous. Katniss is superior to the other contestants, her only concession to emotion is for her family, not for any leading man. I would say that this is a film ‘about’ adolescents and young people rather than ‘for’ them.
Since it largely repeats the idea of the first film, we get the re-appearance of the good ideas – the cornucopia, the electric dome of the sky, the sky telecasting – which are a welcome elaboration but in the next film we should expect development.