Winter break means getting caught up on some movies I'd missed during the year. I'd been curious about this, from the YA novel by Suzanne Collins. What I'd read about it made me suspicious of the nerdmob's knee-jerk allegations that the book (and, by extension, the film) was a ripoff of Battle Royale, but I kept sleeping on chances to watch it and gauge the similarities for myself.
Ultimately the story (of a young woman's fight in a gladiatorial battle televised throughout a futuristic dystopia) is a distinctly American take on its familiar subject matter. It is as awash in direct references to Greek & Roman cultures as it is in similarities to Battle Royale or other hunting-humans stories, but its take on the specifically American aspects of a media-saturated culture (and the attending desensitization to both violence and the more systemic suffering of others) makes it A Young Person's Guide to Class Warfare, Volume One (of Three). The story's focus on protagonist Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence, as assured as ever) further muddies any comparison to other, similar stories. Is it the most effective treatment of this kind of story? Perhaps not (and, yes, I do believe that BATTLE ROYALE is a stronger film), but for better or for worse it is its own story, with its own agenda, its own strengths and weaknesses, and ultimately its own power.