WARNING: The following contains several spoilers concerning both the book and the movie The Hunger Games.
If you haven't read the book and/or seen the movie, don't read the following thoughts, critique, and review.
You've been warned
I thank you for your consideration.
I rarely get on a bandwagon about much. The last time I was excited about seeing a movie, rushing to buy a ticket a day before the movie came out, was Star Wars, Episode 1: The Phantom Menace. The experience left a bad taste in my mouth, and I swore off opening-day excitement.
The same is true for books. Just because Stephen King wrote another tome or the New York Times and all my writing friends are slobbering over the latest best seller doesn't mean much to me.
I wait. Like a hunter. To strike when the moment is right for me.
I usually wait some time before picking up a best seller to read it or see a box officer record-breaking movie to view it.
The same held true for Suzanne Collins's The Hunger Games. I didn't read them when they came out as I've been working on my own post-apocalypitic YA novel NevЯland and didn't want to be unduly influenced by her tale.
However, Liz wanted to see The Hunger Games on opening day, and I had bought her the box set of the trilogy for Valentine's Day, so I sat down one day last week and read the first book from cover to cover. I was quite happy that my NevЯland is nothing likeThe Hunger Games.
The problem with being a writer, like being a chef, is that while you can thoroughly enjoy a tale (or a meal), you always find elements of the story to change, like a chef adding his own touch to a popular dish.
Is it ironic to gorge oneself while reading The Hunger Games? Does that make us no better than Effie?
Here's a tasty fruit dip I like very much so you can eat a sweet treat while reading the book (or sneak it into the theatre to avoid those outrageous snack bar prices.
Larry Mike's Irish Sweet Treat Fruit Dip
- 1 (6 ounce package) instant vanilla pudding
- 1 cup skim milk
- 1/2 cup Bailey's Irish Cream (non-alcoholic if children are around or alcoholic if for adults only)
- 1 (8 ounce container Cool Whip)
- 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
- Whip all ingredients together.
- Chill for one-half hour
- Serve with your favorite slices of fruit
One of the first scenes I would have changed in the tale is the death of Rue.
Katness should have been the one to kill Rue. Having to make such a horrific decision would have been an unstoppable catalyst for Katniss to bring down the Capital.
Oh, I got it about Rue in the book. I did like the giving of the bread from District 11 and Thresh's role in saving Katniss so he doesn't owe her. The addition in the movie of the riot started by her father in D11 was a nice touch to set up what follows in the sequels.
In the movie, the attention to the Gamemaster and the tension between President Snow and Katniss were nice, too. A bit of a jump in the series, though.
In the movie, President Snow gives Katniss a Victor's crown and not Peeta (as in the book). To me, this diminishes his role in saving Katniss.
After I finished the book, I said to Liz, either Katniss is truly immaturely naive when it comes to human relationships or she is cruelly cynical when it comes to anybody outside of her inner circle (Prim and Gale). I began to empathize with Peeta in the book. Of course, in the movie, they didn't have time to really play up his love of Katniss to the extent Collins did in the book, so I think those who saw the movie without reading the book have missed that tension/conflict.
I liked the movie very much, but only because I read the book. By some reactions, I could tell some in the audience hadn't read the book prior to seeing the movie. We went to the 10 PM showing, and when Peeta and Katniss kissed, you could tell which females where still in junior high (and what they hell were they doing at such a late show?). The showings completely sold out for 7:15 and 10 PM, and then they had quite a crowd from the Friday midnight showing. I was happy the audience was quiet and into the movie and not using it as a social gathering.
The weakest part of the book was Cato's death. I didn't want to feel anything for Cato and yet Katniss has to put him out of his misery with a shot to the skull. Because the cornucopia was not described in the book, I saw an actual giant gold cornucopia, and during the climatic scene at the field I had a hard time imagining how the hell they were climbing on it. The movie made it more representational than actual, and that helped.
The addition of the mutts was weak in the book, like a reverse deus ex machena. I didn't like that they resembled the other tributes who had died, especially Rue. Such confusion as to their origin distracted me from the action of the story. I would rather a horrific battle between Cato and Katniss had taken place with Peeta getting mortally wounded again and Katniss having to save his ass once again--thus her arrogance towards him being weak would be a nice juxtaposition in the fact that he was the smartest of them all--and the most honest.
Making Rue black in the movie distracted from her real intended purpose story-wise: as a surrogate sister for Katniss to protect. I understand the desire for inclusiveness and have no problem with the casting other than Rue not resembling Prim. Then again, Katniss's protective nature for her sister or any 12-year-old girl is made more evident when she takes Rue under her protection.
As I said, I do understand why Rue was killed by the boy from District 2 (?) and the emotional impact that it has on Katniss,but Katniss needs to truly HATE the Capitol, and if she had been forced to kill Rue, that would spur her to rebellion even more. But, I get it. It is, after all, a YA novel. When in the novel District 11 sends the bread as a way to honor what Katness has done for Rue (flowers/song/respect) and she thanked them, I choked up.
I was glad to see that Collins had a screenwriting credit--that means she had more say in the final draft than most writers, so she approved of the changes. Most writers are given "script approval" but not "final script approval", meaning they have no say-so over the changes and the final look of the film. Her screenwriting credit says she had "final script approval" and is also now a SWG member, which is one of the hardest writing organizations to be accepted into.
The changes from the book were not overwhelmingly distracting. The Gamemaster was okay, but it took away from Katniss's POV and shifted more attention to power/tension between Katniss and President Snow.
Without reading the other two novels yet, I had envisioned Panem as an oligarchy much like Nineteen Eighty-four. Several of the "girls" in the audience giggled at the appearance of the Gamemaster, which was annoying, and I still wonder what the hell junior high girls were doing at the 10 PM showing.
I like the Avox in the book. Avox is portmanteau for "No Voice" in Latin, which is symbolic of this whole society's mute population. The Avox remind me of the servants in Dune, who have their eyes, ears, and mouths sewn shut--very horrific.
I've been guessing that "Panem" is shortened for Pan American. I thought at first it was pronounced pan-EM, but as I read, I changed to pan-AM. And in the movie they pronounced it as pan-AM.
The train trip from the districts to the Capitol, Katniss and Peeta's reaction, and the people of the Capitol all reminded me of the scene in Apocalypto when the forest Mayans are taken into the urban Mayan society and we witness the transformation of society with the degradation of human rights and the destruction of nature and society inherent in top-heavy government urban-centered societies. No matter how beautiful the Capitol is (or the Mayan capitol) or the plentifulness it offers, it's built on human suffering, bloodshed, genocide, and destruction of the spiritual creativeness of the god-side of humans.
The ending (book and movie) reminded me of Rollerball, a movie from the early 70s in which the world is kept distracted from the oppressions of the one-world government by a brutal blood sport (not the terrible 2002 remake!), much like the Hate Rallies of 1984. In Rollerball, the best player over comes all odds and becomes a hero to a repressed society and his individuality begins a revolt against the world oligarchy.
Also, the 1964 "Fun and Games" episode of The Outer Limits pits two teenagers on a distant planet to battle to death while the universe watches on television screens back home.
Again, as with Harry Potter, Collins's story is not original, just told in an original way, which is why it's a best seller and the movie is watch-worthy more than once.
Even as I've devloped my own post-apocalypic novel NevЯland over the past two years, I've come to realize all the fine works of literature and film with the same themes and basic plot, and although I was upset when I first realized how these previous tales had "influenced" my own story, I soon learned to embrace those stories as I develope NevЯland into its own unique tale.
I bought Liz a collector's box set of The Hungar Games trilogy, and we will add the films to our collection. I can't remember the last time I have attended an opening day for a movie based on a book, but I will remember The Hunger Games, both in print and on film.