March 27, 2012

Movie Review: The Hunger Games

You have all probably heard about The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins. Honestly, who hasn't?!  The books have been nothing short of a phenomenon, engaging youth, adolescent, and adult reading audiences around the world.
Interesting sidenote:  The author, Suzanne Collins, graduated from my high school (the Alabama School of Fine Arts).  In this case, it's not six degrees of separation, but more like two!  Pretty cool, huh?!

I, myself, read the trilogy as each book was being released.  I would finish the newest book within a couple of days of its release, and would then have to agonize for over a year awaiting the next installment.  Thankfully, unlike Harry Potter and the Tiger's Saga (each of which have five or more books in the series), The Hunger Games only had three books.  Therefore, the misery of waiting for the next part of the story was confined to a couple of years, as opposed to half a decade.  Hey, book geeks like me have to count our blessings! :)

Every year in the ruins of what was once North America, the evil Capitol of the nation of Panem forces each of its twelve districts to send a teenage boy and girl to compete in the Hunger Games. A twisted punishment for a past uprising and an ongoing government intimidation tactic, The Hunger Games are a nationally televised event in which "Tributes" must fight with one another until one survivor remains. Pitted against highly-trained Tributes who have prepared for these Games their entire lives, Katniss is forced to rely upon her sharp instincts as well as the mentorship of drunken former victor Haymitch Abernathy. If she's ever to return home to District 12, Katniss must make impossible choices in the arena that weigh survival against humanity and life against love. (source)

Last Friday, before leaving to go out of town for two weeks, Bo took me to The Hunger Games movie.  While Lola visited some of her puppy friends in our neighborhood, Bo and I enjoyed our final date night for several weeks.
Note:  This was not a situation where I was dragging my husband to see some chick-flick that I knew he wouldn't like.  On the contrary, Bo read The Hunger Games back in January, and was actually looking forward to seeing the moving almost as much as I was!
Before heading to the theater, I paid close attention to the critical reviews the movie received.  According to Rotten Tomatoes, an online movie review site, The Hunger Games scored an 87% rating...not bad for a young-adult-novel-turned-film adaptation!

I was immediately struck by how precisely the film translated the book into film.  In addition to a true telling of the novel, the movie also visually captured the:

  • despair and poverty in the districts;
  • outlandish and fashionable style of the Capital; and
  • horror of The Games (including the arena, inhumanity behind the scenes, and brutal killings...without any gore).

The Hunger Games film was also successful in capturing the complex histories and relationships among the stories' main characters Katniss, Peeta, Gale, and Haymitch (although much more on Haymitch will be revealed in the second movie).  Katniss, played by the Oscar-nominated Jennifer Lawrence, is a young woman not yet sure of her own heart.  In my opinion, as a result of losing her father in a mining accident, growing up in the poorest district, and being forced to provide for her mother and sister by illegally hunting in the woods, Katniss fears loving others because it opens her up to the vulnerability of loss.

Although Gale is her best friend and most trusted confidant, and she knows that she loves him, Katniss struggles to understand the depth and meaning of that love.

On the other hand, Katniss cares for Peeta; but unlike Gale, she doesn't trust him.   Katniss' affection for Peeta grows only when she begins to see and appreciate his pureness of heart.

In Peeta, Katniss is aware of what she is not: innocent, peaceful, and unselfish.  Although she has the ability to be all of these things, through Peeta, Katniss becomes more aware of her fiery nature, her tendency to think of herself first, and her propensity to quickly judge others.  In this way, Peeta is both her opposite and her equal.

As one critic noted, "while not particularly charming or friendly, Lawrence's Katniss is easy to empathize with, and it is refreshing to see a female protagonist who is driven by more mature, adult motives than adolescent romance, though there is some of that.  Her humanity amid the senseless death around her is what really gets the audience behind her."

Much like A Brave New World, 1984, and Herland - all famous novels in their own right - The Hunger Games presents this generation's dystopian narrative.  Addressing question of power vs. disempowerment, control vs. subjugation, and compassion vs. the selfish desire to live, The Hunger Games is a novel that hits a little too close to home.

Could we ever end up like this?

If Panem is a metaphor for the present, where are the District 12's of the world?

Who/where is the Capitol?

Are there not variations of the Hunger Games going on all the time, albeit on different continents, in different countries, or in different backyards?

Are we the games' audience - passively watching - ignoring the forced suffering of others for entertainment, or worse, calling it entertainment?

Can we all be mockingjay's?

Surprisingly, I found myself thinking that the horrors outlined in both the novel and the movie were not that outlandish; and apparently I wasn't the only one to think so.  In his movie review in the Covington Reporter, TJ Martinell states:

"The police/soldier uniforms looked rather goofy instead of intimidating, which made it hard to understand how anyone takes them seriously, until you remember how goofy the TSA look. The outlandish, over-the-top interviews the tributes have with a ridiculous host could easily pass off as most of the shows I've seen on TV now.  What saddened me the most was that none of it was "shocking" in the sense that I thought to myself, 'That could never happen here!' or 'Glad we don't have to worry about that!'"

Enough of my jibber-jabber.  To close, I will provide you all with a few comments from critics that make their living reviewing films.  If you don't trust my opinion of the film, take it from the experts!

  • The Hunger Games features a functioning creative imagination and lots of honest-to-goodness acting by its star, Jennifer Lawrence, who brings her usual toughness and emotional transparency to the archer-heroine Katniss.
  • It is so much more than a game.  It is a memorable human experience.  Thank the gods for the wonder of literature and the vision of movies.  Some of us still hunger for eloquence on the screen.
  • Finally we have a female lead character who is strong without being brutal, appealing without being objectified, and confident without being female-chauvinistic.
  • People regularly complain that films can't be both entertaining and clever.  The Hunger Games exists to prove them wrong.
  • The Hunger Games has as much to say about oppressive politics and the bloodthirsty, heartless media as it does about the internal struggle among the combatants. (source)

Not to mention, Peeta - played by Josh Hutcherson - isn't too hard on the eyes either.  He's no Edward Cullen, but he's mighty close! hehehe...

The second film in The Hunger Games trilogy will not be released until fall 2013, ARGH!  Until then, I suppose that I will have to settle for rereading the books.  In the meantime, at least I have the fourth installment in the Tiger's Saga to look forward to...

Question of the Day:

What is the best book-to-movie adaptation you have seen?!

Ally and Bo

No comments:

Post a Comment