Hunger Games ~ the movie

Last week, after hearing and reading rave reviews from various sources, I finally got the chance to go see the Hunger Games on the big screen. I did enjoy the movie experience (it’s been almost a year since I’ve been to the theatre) but I must say, I didn’t seem to enjoy the movie as much as I thought I would.

I did think the movie was a good visual to the book as far as the characters, sets and costumes go.

The way Panem was interpreted was spot on. However, the highlight of the entire film, to me, was the cinematography. That was not interpreted from a written page but was rather a stylistic and creative choice. The camera was used to tell the story along with the tributes. We saw much of the action from their perspectives or from their proximity. It really felt as thought the movie was shot as a documentary rather than a fictional story. And I think that was a very smart move. The approach really helps the viewer be more a part of the action as opposed to an outsider looking in.

Another creative interpretation of the story was the actual ‘game board’, if you will, that the gamers used to manipulate the playing field. As I recall, there weren’t too many details about how the game master called the shots and made things come to reality. The idea of the players being at the fingertips of those who control them became quite literal at the electronic game board where the illusion of night and day, the announcements of children’s deaths, the fires and unnatural creatures all came to be through the imagination and the simple electronic manipulations of those who controlled the ‘playing’ field.

Granted, movies are never quite as detailed as the book, that’s a given. Although the film lasted about 2.5 hours it still did not carry all the details of the text (obviously). Although I think some details could have been catered for despite the time limit; such as: Butterball (Prim’s cat) is actually long haired ginger, not black and white. Yes, I know it’s a small detail but why change it? Also, the birth of the mockingjay pin which is to become the symbol of the revolution and almost synonymous with Katniss herself is completely altered. Not a bad alteration considering the ‘new story’ but still, it’s quite important. I do understand the need to shave off excess information due to time limits though. If there were to be all the details then 6 movies rather than 3 would be in order to complete the visual trilogy.

As far as characters go, I must say, I was very impressed. The acting out of each of the personalities were extremely accurate and Katniss herself was really great. She really was the heroine that was created in the books. Jennifer Lawrence did an incredible job at bringing out the characteristics of a heroine who has become loved by girls and boys alike. Her attitude, temper, rashness, bravery and her refusal to succumb to the atrocities of the capitol were evident. It was very nice to see such a character come to life as opposed to the stereotypical girly girl of Hollywood whom we have all become accustomed to seeing whether or not we agree with the stereotype.

The added scene at the end of the film where the game master was left in a locked room with the berries was also, I thought, I good call. We are never told how he had been killed in the books; only that he had ‘mysteriously’ disappeared in the second book of the trilogy. His death is left to our interpretation. And I thought the movie’s version was a good one.

One thing that did get on my nerves after a while was the number of times the phrase “May the odds be ever in your favour” was repeated. I just think that was slightly over done to the point where I almost expressed the notion of ‘moving on already’ out loud! Thankfully I wasn’t sitting next to any strangers.

I am however, shocked, at the idea that the movie ended up with a PG rating! Now, as much as I think the story is great I have some serious problems with the idea that it has been categorized as Teen Fiction. Granted, it may be alright for more mature teens. By this I mean 16 and up. But I’ve noticed many 9 yr olds devouring the series. Language wise, it really is an easy read even for a 9 year old who reads well. Its appropriateness, however, certainly isn’t. I just have a very hard time legitimizing why it is ok for such young malleable minds to be exposed to such a sadistically violent story. Yes, some children are extremely mature but I am addressing this more generally. I’m just wondering how much of the bigger picture or message of the story is being absorbed as opposed to the blood and gore. If a young person is to read the book there has got to be several follow up discussions that carry the story beyond the violence. Otherwise, it’s almost another way to desensitize children to extremely aggressive behaviour. Back to my point of the PG rating… I really think some of the more visually disturbing details had been left out in order to gain this rating and reach out to a wider audience. i.e more cash! I worry when I find 8 and 9 year olds in the theatre while this is playing. So, from a concerned teacher’s point of view, I stand by this opinion quite strongly despite my being a fan.

Anyways… back to the movie: I think I may have been expecting more from this visual interpretation. Although there were quite a few creative decisions that were made in terms of character development, settings and cinematography, I still did not feel the ‘Wow!’ factor and the extreme emotion (to the point of very many tears and temper tantrums) as I did while reading. In my opinion, the depth of the story itself cannot be appreciated in its entirety without reading the series first.

Is this to say that I will not be seeing the full series as it is released? Certainly not! But my advice to those who still have not read the books is: READ them! It is the only way you will be able to understand the several messages and depth of what the author is trying to convey.

~Previous post: A few thoughts about the first book of the series… click here~

The Hunger Games – Who’s the bully now?

The Hunger GamesFor those of you who are not aware of the content of this book, I thought I would write a very brief summary before putting my thoughts out there. Before I go on though, I must say that I will go into a few details of the book that may give away some of the content. So, if you are the kind of reader who does not appreciate knowing a few details before reading them yourself (as I am)… be warned! If this applies to you, go read the book, then report back and share your thoughts.

So – In summary, “The Hunger Games” is the first of 3 books in a series. The story revolves around several characters with Katniss and Peeta as the protagonists. Basically, the book is set in the future at which point North America does not exist, due to an unsuccessful uprising/revolution. It is replaced by a nation called Panem, comprised of one Capitol overseeing 12 Districts. Each district serves the Capitol and specializes in one industry or another. The people of these districts are ruled under the Capitol’s dictatorship and have no means of contact between one other. The people of each district live in isolation of the realities of every other District around them. Panem has been divided and conquered.

The Hunger Games is a completely televised “show”/”competition” where one boy and one girl, aged 12 through 18, of each of the Districts are randomly chosen to participate. The “tributes” are made “celebrities” and are placed in a man-made arena that replicates any given natural habitat. Tributes are expected to survive and fight one another. The winner is the sole survivor. This takes place on a yearly basis as a reminder of the atrocities of the uprising to all the people of Panem, to stop any ideas of people uprising again.

“The Hunger Games” is one of those books that had my thinking process in constant flux. Not only was the story unfolding like a rollercoaster ride but so were the implications of each of the twists and turns throughout the story.

That aside though, the reoccurring message that is presented to the reader in so many different approaches on so many different levels is the idea of obsessive control and the incessant need to be at the very top of the hierarchy. Of course, I am referring to the Capitol.

The Games are a weapon of mass control used to keep the people sucked into the frame of mind of being forced into helpless submission. It’s a way of brainwashing the people into their way of life. They are not convinced that it is right but they are convinced that they are unable to do anything about it. Katniss refers to District 12 as a place “where you can starve to death in safety.” A bit of an oxymoron but one that is reality.

It gets more interesting. Katniss, with her hate of the system, and knowing the power of media, learns to manipulate the system through the media. She adds drama to her “performance” in the arena to win the hearts of her viewers. She is very aware of the power of media and sees how the people of the Capitol are taken by it. This other, even more powerful, weapon of mass control, has seriously desensitized the masses especially in the Capitol (as their children are not in danger of becoming tributes). The fact that children are turned into killing machines and are being murdered through those “games” is completely irrelevant, “everything is about them, not the dying boys and girls in the arena.”

After winning the hearts of many by watching her every move in the arena to send the right messages to the outside world, Katniss goes ahead and has the “audacity” to insult the Capitol on two very pivotal occasions: 1) Showing all of Panem the love and care she had for Rue by draping her in flowers and singing to her after she had been killed knowing that the cameras were on her through the entire process; in turn insulting the games and what the Capitol stands for; and 2) Instigating the threat of a double suicide with Peeta during the very last moments of the games. She knew full well that the Capitol could not end the game with no winner. The one thing that was now in her control was her choice of living or dying. She took the chance of ending her life! She shocked the entire nation by playing the Capitol’s game by her own rules succeeding in bending the system. She mastered the weapon of mass control and controlled it herself.

I truly admire Katniss’s strength to standing up to such a power greater than her own. The only problem is that, to the outside, she stands alone. She managed to reverse the roles of bully and victim. So… who’s the bully and who is being bullied?

Alone, anyone is vulnerable, especially when fighting a battle. Her rebellion is extremely threatening. She needs to build an army of followers for her to be safer. The first step has been taken and there is no turning back.

This book ends with the reader being aware that Katniss’s efforts are supported by the few that know her. However, they are not ready to make this public. As far as the Capitol is concerned, she still stands alone. I wonder what the second book of the series will reveal.

For the time being though, my questions to you are: Do the Capitol’s ways ring any bells at all? Do you think our media is just as controlling of us? Are we aware of the control or not? Do we choose to ignore the implications and bend to the rules of the media?