If you were listening to the Sidekickcast during the Smack My Pitch Up section and we were pitching Hunger Games, it would probably go along the lines of Battle Royale meets Willy Wonka and a soup-son of Harry Potter narrative.

The set up is quickly run through in the first few minutes. In a future following a civil war, the ruling Capitol “commemorates” (read: reminds) the divided 12 districts of Panem by hosting The Hunger Games; where two children from each district will battle to the death.  The children’s names are picked from a goldfish bowl and then they are whisked from their monotone-clothed, countryside district to the avant-garde, Victorian Technicolor setting of the Capitol.  It is indeed a contrast, but has all the subtlety of a poke in the eye.

This is just the beginning of the problems to come.  Any opportunities to give the movie an allegory or social commentary seem side-stepped or muted.  More importantly, it seems to vault through the details in order to reach the games you’ve been waiting for, while we cut to Stanley Tucci’s game show host fills in any exposition – subtexts be damned.  In addition, the cunning camera work (a la Bourne), to get around the movie’s 12A rating, often lead to annoyingly obscured images. This makes perfect sense while the kids bludgeon and maul each other into pulp, but not so much when they sprint through hours of forest.

Similarly, the boredom isn’t staved off with either the telegraphing of upcoming beats or convenient saves at the last minute.  Sadly, this means that any of the peril is immediately lost and threat dwindles from set-piece to set-piece.

Ultimately, the movies greatest downfall is it’s greatest coup.  This is made for teenagers and as a teenage movie goes, it certainly has an edge from its premise alone.  However, expecting any kind of sophistication or surprise will only lead to disappointment and you should just probably watch Battle Royale.

3* - Mediocre Games