TV tomfoolery for our times
Hunger Games 2: Catching Fire
by Peter Hulm
Awkard teenagers who wear their naivety like a badge of authenticity, sinister and ridiculous adults, ensconced in front of a Frank Lloyd Wright stained window (old art = oppressive art): Hunger Games 2 is -- no surprise -- more of the same.
Could the sequel to the shabbily commercial original also take us deeper into its more powerful points -- the hints that teen-targeted shows are by no means as benign as the host Stanley Tucci? We have Donald Sutherland, Jeffrey Wright and Philip Seymour Hoffman as guarantors of some kind of gravitas, plus Lenny Kravitz. Woody Harrelson plays his ringmaster for teen guffaws and who could blame him, in such a piece of tosh? Surely no adult who hated the first outing for teenies would sit down for the second unless forced.
Well, I did, on a long and boring plane flight.
Of course, Harrelson again shows himself a good guy. Where else could such a franchise go? Certainly not to show us the argument of dictator Sutherland (he can't have any justification for keeping people in hunger except for reasons of power). We are back in the realm of television tomfoolery for our time. Gone is all the backstory reminding us of the warlike Greek city-states.
This time the reference back, for those oldies who know their pop films, was to Ben Hur. But don't worry. All it required of teens to pass its cultural literacy test was recognition of the chariots. What would have been really subversive was to show how modern militarism plays into the hands of tyrants (Ukraine or Shakespeare's Coriolanus anyone?)
The film we didn't see is the one about the cynical teenagers who know the adult world is a cheat that they try to outwit but then find out it is deadly serious just when they have gotten used to treating it lightly. I'm thinking of the Officer Krupke song in West Side Story. And we know how that ended.
For a sycophantic couple of pieces about the Hunger Games franchise with the release of the fourth and (supposedly) final episode, see:
In debt, out of luck: why Generation K fell in love with The Hunger Games
How The Hunger Games staged a revolution
Don't fail to read the amateur critics' comments to get the real picture.
And then there's this: Mockingbird Part 2: Is the best Hunger Games Film.