May The Odds...
The Hunger Games. A popular book, trilogy, and now movie. I have a lot of thoughts on the books, and I'm still somewhat processing the movie. It's a big story. And it's also not. What makes it great? What makes it not? And what do we do with that?
I have no idea what to tell you to do with the books, movie, or overall story. I don't know what to do with it myself. All I can do is share some of my mixed thoughts.
For starters, it's brilliant. No, really. The books, in first-person point of view, show us an intimate, in-depth look at a world that feels like the Great Depression + nuclear war aftereffects + ruling politics gone terribly, terribly wrong. And since it's in first person, we get just about every single thought and feeling that Katniss experiences. (I even used it in a paper I recently re-found as a useful book for examining the reality of facing one's own death.) And the use of present tense amplifies the immediacy and intensity of every. single. thing.
And the movie is a pretty great adaption of the story from the print media to audio/visual media. The actors portrayed their characters spot on. The additional points of view of the gamemakers, President Snow, and Rue's district fleshes out the world with things that wouldn't have translated from the book otherwise. The core conflict of the games is lived out. The subtext conflict of fighting corruption is shown a little more than in the book.
Some things in the movie were a little weird, like the crossover of worlds when Katniss has delusions from the Tracker Jacker venom. And, honestly I was really looking forward to the visual portrayal of Katniss' costumes, Cinna's masterpieces...and was disappointed. They were nice, but for me a little of a let down. And we didn't get to see Haymitch's character arc as clearly, even though we saw him working behind the scenes (a nice touch). But all in all, those things 1) aren't enough to detract from the movie as a whole and 2) are a part of the media.
It's Good, Or Is It?
It's a compelling story. Katniss obviously has a lot of determination and bravery. Peeta carries his compassion with him into the arena. Rue and Prim motivate Katniss to action. Haymitch...well, Haymitch is one of my favorite characters, sweetheart. He actually has a defined arc of character growth. The worlds are clearly distinct, and the complications are simple enough to follow while still making things interesting and hard for the characters. So what's the problem? What bothers me about the book and movie?
1. As much as the characters distaste the concept of the Hunger Games to begin with, they follow through with it, not even really trying to stem the symptoms, much less trying to stop the problem.
2. It's a rather draining read or viewing experience.
3. Katniss' defiance is mostly accidental.
4. And there is a distinct lack of hope. Throughout. Even the happy ending (in the book) has immediate hopelessness and loss to it. (The movie's happy ending felt like, "Yes, we 'won.' But it wasn't enough.")
And that last one, even more than the others individually, gives me pause. Put these all together, and by the end of the story, whether book or movie, I feel hollow, even dirty. I feel like I have been torn down just about as much as Katniss has been. But it's not because I've literally gone through everything she has, and it's not because I relate with her 100%. I like her okay, and I understand a degree of where she's coming from, her motivations, and her actions. But I'm very different from her and get frustrated along the way.
What Kind of Message?
It's not a happy book. Not every book has to be happy; I get that. But the "no hope" laced throughout and coloring the ending is, I think, damaging to people. People need hope. It's damaging to me. I need hope in order to get up in the morning. This work of fiction tends to sap it from me, translating into real life where I interact with real people, oozing a loss and hopelessness through my actions by taking root in my thoughts and feelings.
What is the message of The Hunger Games? What do you take away from it? Can you see how things could be better (and if you can, why couldn't/didn't the author?)? Is it a warning story? Watch out, or this will happen to our world (it is, after all, futuristic United States of America). Is that Suzanne Collins' goal? Is that enough?
Now we have to ask what we do with the story. It does get us to think, I'll give it that. Where do our thoughts take us?
And Happy Hunger Games
There are many more things I could say about The Hunger Games. Things I like, and things that concern me. And I could continue on into Catching Fire and Mockingjay. But for now, I think this is plenty.
Do you have a reply for my concerns? What are your thoughts on The Hunger Games, both book and movie?