The Hunger Games

April 7, 2012

Note:  I haven’t read the book.  Yet…

Minor penalties for completely unnecessary opening scroll and way too much jerky-cam.

But holy crap, it’s been a really long time since I’ve been that stressed out in a movie. Like, first act of Aliens stressed out.  The first half of this is absolutely grim.  I kept thinking, this is the kind of society Kirk and the Enterprise would come along and just squash flat, screw the Prime Directive.

Ironically, the movie became less stressful during the second half, after the game actually started.  On the one hand, once we got to the game, I had no idea what was going to happen since the preview clips all came from the first half (well done, previews!).  On the other hand, the second half fell into a lot of action/adventure cliches that made it a bit predictable/unsurprising.  I kept wanting Katniss to be a little more clever and self reliant.  Also, a bit disappointingly, the film makes sure Katniss never has to face the moral dilemma that’s at the heart of the whole setup:  she never has to really make a decision whether or not to kill someone.  She kills indirectly, she kills by instinctive self-defense, or her enemies are killed for her.  It’s a missed opportunity, I think.  We like Katniss, she’s a good person, but that doesn’t mean moral dilemmas will naturally avoid her.

Speaking of Katniss, despite my criticisms, I loved her to pieces.  She’s a Robin McKinley heroine:  the young woman who doesn’t really want to be a hero, but she will because she has to, because she’s the person standing in the wrong place at the right time.  An essentially good person who doesn’t really fit in her world, who’s going to do the best she can because she doesn’t have a choice. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a McKinley-type heroine in the movies, and I want more, please.

Surprisingly, at two and a half hours, the movie felt too short.  After all the talk about how important sponsors were, I wanted to see more of the wheeling and dealing and wrangling, and see more of an influence on the game.  I also wanted to see more of what the audience was seeing, and how the game was manipulated for the sake of entertainment.  Don’t get me wrong, we got a couple of scenes of all of that, which is essentially good movie making, so I can’t really fault it.  But I know there’s more to it than what we got.  I’m told the book has more.  It’s on my shelf right now, and I’ll be reading it.

It’s worth paying attention to the allegory here, I think.  To note that this isn’t really a story about the future.  Like a lot of great science fiction, it’s about right now, and how if the game is that rigged, your best bet is to break the rules and get the hell out.


9 Responses to “The Hunger Games”

  1. sef Says:

    It’s allegory was about as subtle as a falling anvil…

    I also have not read the books. I saw the movie because the reviews were generally good. I walked out liking it for two main reasons: first, Our Heroine was not pining for a boy, and choosing one wasn’t her life’s goal. Second, the politics in it were … interesting.

    (Things like, the implausible background, used to set the Districts against each other so they’d never be able to rise up against the Capital again. Implausible, but interesting. I also really liked Woody Harrelson’s character, and watching him play people.)

    I think my biggest complaint was nearly asking out loud, “Wait, how many people are supposed to live in District 12?”

  2. Girl…. We have to talk! Saw it last night… Still shaking my head… Would love to compare notes!

  3. Thomas Says:

    I would love to see the wheeling and dealing as well, but as the books are actually set strictly first person I can understand why they didn’t show it.

    The overuse of shaky cam is the main reason I’m a little hesitant to see it. My opinion is that it’s a TV show, so why not shoot it as if it’s such, with the steady/railed cams mostly. Even Survivor and those other reality shows don’t use shaky cam much if at all.

    Also there’s a lot more of her making the conscious decision to kill in the book, and at least in my mind is more graphic considering my imagination. Finally, Katniss is a lot more self reliant throughout the book.

    Hope you enjoy the book when you read it.

  4. Joe Says:

    You must read the book, and you are right the movie would have to be twice that long to capture the book. maybe a really good mini series., The scariest thing for me is the whole kids killing kids being a popular movie. Don’t misunderstand me, I loved book and movie. But if the networks could get away with it they would do it for real, and then bad on bad it would be the most popular show on the air. I look for a watered down version (no real death?) within the next year.

  5. carriev Says:

    The story certainly raises lots of interesting discussions, which is why I think the allegory, though obvious, is worth talking about. I was reading a thread of comments on some article or other, and someone asked, “Are kids really this cynical about the future?” and I wanted to say — no, this is how they feel about *right now*.

    But then, that thread has always been there in YA literature — The Giver, etc.

  6. C.E. Petit Says:

    Keep in mind that the subtitle of Animal Farm — as demanded by the author — is A Fairy Story. And, for that matter, that More’s Utopia‘s largest “market” was the sixteen- and seventeen-year-old students matriculating at Cambridge.

    I’m withholding final judgment on the film until we see the next three. My preliminary judgment is favorable, as some of the actors (Woody Harrelson in particular) went far, far beyond what the script and books gave them explicitly in understanding and portraying their characters. Hint: Harrelson’s previous role in The Messenger is closely related.

  7. Jackie Says:

    I’ve read all 3 books, and you will see more of the wheeling and dealing and sponsor effects later. The tight 1st person POV effects that a lot in the book.

    And, Carrie, the comment about kids view point is spot on, as far as I can see of my son and other young relatives. Teenagers are full of angst, and this is an angsty book. I think they actually have more hope for the far future, than they do for right now. I hope that means that they think that as us old fogeys die off, they stand a chance of making things better. Think Arab Spring. And I hope they keep trying and make it happen. These kids deserve more than we have left them.

    Btw, I love the comments on Robin McKinley heroes. She would love yours too. She likes stories about Girls Who Do Stuff. We need more People Who Do Stuff.

  8. Besa Says:

    The comment about a movie this violent being popular is making me twitch with “infinite loop” warnings in my logic circuits. Beautifully ironic, isn’t it, that a movie about violence being popular entertainment in this awful, terribly improbable future society is popular as entertainment in our society because of its exciting violence (twitch). Gee, I guess you don’t have to be a teenager to see “right now” in this story…

    Sorry, got distracted there. Speaking of segues…

    I saw this movie with a young man who, having been rather spectacularly failed by public education, just taught himself to read two years ago. This was the first time he had seen a book he had already read made into a movie (well, except _Lightning Thief_, which doesn’t count). He kept commenting on the differences, congratulating the makers of the movie on things that were just like he imagined, etc., and nearly drove the people sitting to our right to complain to the management about all the talking. (The people on our left, however, smiled and make gestures of fannish solidarity. I think we’ll sit in the back next time.)

    It was like taking a little boy to his first circus. I almost cried, so deep was my sorrow that he had missed all those adventures of the imagination for all those years, and so great was my joy at seeing him experience it now. I wanted to thank every author of every novel ever for the light in his eyes as we left. Since that would take too long, I’ll start by thanking you, Carrie Vaughn, for _Kitty and the Midnight Hour_, which is first on the long list of things I hope to force him to read, now that he can. He loves philosophical discussions, and in the near future I intend to start many extremely nerdy conversations with him about lycanthropy as a metaphor for various aspects of the human condition. It is authors like you who give us the funhouse mirror in which we can find the courage to take a long hard look at ourselves and our world, and have a great time doing it.

  9. carriev Says:

    Besa: thank you, that’s an awesome commentary.

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