Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Hunger Games Review


If you're reading this, I might imagine what you're thinking: "Jeremy is finally breaking his blogging absence by reviewing a teenaged-hyped movie?" Yes...yes, I am, actually.

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I remember that when my wife was first reading the Hunger Games trilogy, she was slightly disturbed by the content. I think I recall her asking me something about them, but I just passed the books off as the next Twilight. Despite that I now reject the comparison of the two series for the most part (having read them all), the first movie went to pathetic lengths to imply similar themes. If the scenes that flash Gale's reaction to Peeta & Katniss' interactions were meant to bring forth the whimpers of teenage girls, the directors were successful (at least judging from the row of them that sat in front of me at the theater last night). And though I've not read the Twilight books and only suffered through one of the movies, even I can see the resemblance between the character cast as Gale and the one I think is the werewolf dude in Twilight.

I decided to read the books after a Mennonite pastor whose blog I read suggested that those drawn to the peaceable Kingdom (or the "nonviolence of Christ') would do well to interact with the themes. I read the first and was hooked. I couldn't wait for the movie. After initial reviews came out, including a not-so-good one from the afore-mentioned pastor, I was worried that what I valued in the series would be absent from the film.

While there were several things that I didn't like, overall, I thought the movie did very well with the story.

The casting and performance of Katniss was great. I've been sorely disappointed when characters formed in my mind while reading a book were drastically different when cast in a movie. The girl who played Katniss, while beautiful, was not "perfect" in the sense of today's magazine cover teenager. And she played the role of Katness wonderfully.

I had been warned that the effect of violence was not present in the movie in the ways it was in the book. However, I found Katniss' response to Rue's death wonderfully-depicted. The result and response to fear and violence in the books was what made them worthwhile to me. I believe we need to wrestle more with the agony of death and our role in it.

That said, Katniss was a bit too "innocent" for me. One of the things I valued in the series was the inner turmoil she had with the notion of killing. Short of a narrator-like over-voice in the movie (which would have had the potential to be horrible), much of this was probably impossible to portray. Hopefully, the forth-coming movies will not remove this important part of the story. I can envision a director making the final killing scene of the series one of revenge rather than the confused, conflicted, and impulsive action of a young woman devastated by the effects of violence.

What I'm saying is this: the main reason I even "enjoyed" the series were the implications of "power by fear" and "fear by [the threat of] violence". While the state and situation of Panem might seem far-removed from 21st century America, the notion of out-sourcing violence isn't so much. Do we ever really wonder just how it is that America is so "peaceful" while we every so often hear rumors of war, trial, violence, and death throughout much of the rest of the world?

Just how and why is it that we eat enough to get so fat that we spend billions in fat remedies while other parts of the world starve in hunger?

How and why would a bunch of human beings decide to board airplanes and exterminate themselves by kamikaze-ing them into our centers of commerce and government? Just what exactly breeds that passion and willingness to kill?

I don't think these are questions to leave to those who lead and who oversee power. In fact...the thought is rather scary.

But back to the movie: the interplay between scenes in the arena and in the control room (which was remarkably similar to one of my favorite movies: The Truman Show) or dialogue between President Snow/Seneca Crane/Haymitch was probably necessary, but it sure was a departure from the book. It seemed to blatantly tell the "progression" of power, rather than the guessed implications of what was going on through Katniss' thought processes in the book.

Movies like Wall-E and The Lorax are okay in that they demonstrate the effect of human ravaging upon all of nature. But the story of The Hunger Games does me better in showing the effects of humans ravaging one another.

While the arena and the idea of an annual event like the Hunger Games (a death-match to instill fear and maintain the "pax of Panem" disguised as entertainment's value) is again far-removed from our society, there are plenty of ways in which power is enacted or abused for entertainment's sake or one's own pleasure. These include the sex-trafficking trade, massive pornography industry, food over-consumption, sports industries, and certainly the whacko bi-partisan political scene which is little more than a spectator's sport at the moment.

Perhaps The Hunger Games will go beyond a teenaged romance triangle for some people.

In the end, I enjoyed the movie very much and look forward to the next. But as almost always...the book was better. :-)