I’m still not sure why The Hunger Games, with its heavy-handed Marxist moralizing about the inherent corruptness of the one-percenters, became the huge cultural phenomenon it did last year (yes, it was only last year), but it did. Maybe tweens were looking to glom onto another corny romance as The Twilight Saga was wrapping up, and on the lookout for a pouty heroine, found one in Jennifer Lawrence’s Katniss Everdeen. The audience for that movie — and now Catching Fire, its first of three sequels, due in successive years, like hurricanes or the flu virus — was a mix of sardonic historians and giddy youth, lured by the barely-out-of-puberty heroics by Katniss, Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) and their ilk.
I don’t see the appeal myself. Both films are garish romps that tend to keep me off-kilter about whether the actors, set designers, costumers and director (this time, Francis Lawrence, who made Constantine — as if that’s a good thing) know what they are doing. When good actors like Stanley Tucci and Elizabeth Banks ham it up like they’re being paid by the pork lobby, you wonder: Are they just excited to know they can do anything and still be in a hit, or are they embarrassed by their idiotic hair-don’ts as the audience is for them? Sure, Tucci’s Caesar Flickerman is meant to be a post-modern Ryan Seacrest, and the flittery inconsequence of the Capital City residents who vomit up their dinners to make room for desserts is meant to mirror the fall of Rome. But c’mon, is anyone under 30 gonna get that? And isn’t everyone over 30 appalled by the Mexican-whorehouse-on-angel-dust look of it all?
Best not to think too much about it — just shrug it off, make catty comments about Katniss, and enjoy watching our own culture play itself out.