Movie: The Hunger Games
Where I found it: I was initially prodded toward The Hunger Game series by my friend Jay, and finally handed the book by my friend Mel. I couldn’t stop reading and I highly recommend them. They are easy reads with deep concepts for adults and teenagers. The movie was a natural extension.
Awards: 85% on Rotten Tomatoes, my go-to site for movie reviews
You’d probably like The Hunger Games if you geek out about: Post apocalyptic stories, The Giver, good stories, violence with a message, tales that make you think.
Why I think its Awesome: If you know me then you know that I’m a midnight showing junkie. Pick any cult blockbuster (except Twilight) and you can bet that you’ll find me in line waiting for 12:01. I love the excitement that comes from a crowd of sleep-deprived fans watching a story they’ve been anticipating for weeks. I have to admit, however, that The Hunger Games were a little different.
First of all I was surprised at how young the crowd was. Reading The Hunger Games I knew that it was written at the fifth grade reading level but because the book has so many brutal, dark themes I guess I never thought that I would be surrounded by crowds of young teens and preteens on opening night. It was kind of eerie looking over the crowd and thinking that in the book it would be these children fighting to the death with me, too old for the ‘reaping’, looking on. Weird feeling.
I’ve heard a lot of people say the movie was rushed, but to me The Hunger Games finally did an accurate and adequate direct adaptation of a hit book into a movie. Of course the movie didn’t have the deep character development of the book, it didn’t have time. Description times in books and movies are flipped: in a book, a single, weighted, relationship building look could (and should) take a whole page to describe whereas an entire action-packed battle scene that would take 20 minutes in a movie eats up only two paragraphs in writing. Because The Hunger Games is a very action-packed book I knew that the movie would be forced to weight their time heavily toward the games and make the relationships pop with a few key scenes. I felt they did this really well.
My top five moments/concepts from the movie are (Don’t worry, no spoilers):
1. Peeta: Josh Hutcherson as Peeta tops my list because in the book I actually did not like Peeta. I felt that Suzanne Collins initially wasn’t sure how to feel about the character and that uncertainty came through in the writing. In the movie I felt the screenwriters put a stake in the ground and make him a just as complex but much more likable character.
2. Action sequences: Because the movie covers such a brutal topic, I was very glad that they dialed down the action sequences and, in doing that, dialed up the emotional level without glorifying brutality. Well done.
3. Portraying Fear: The scene where Katniss is in the tube to be lifted into the Hunger Games was, for me, one of the highlights of the film. I have to give Jennifer Lawrence serious credit. I don’t know if she’s ever been scarred for her life before, but whatever was going through her mind at that time, she was able to connect with memories of fear in the audience and dial it up by 6 million. That scene totally game me goosebumps.
4. Effie Trinket: Elizabeth Banks, you rocked.
5. Plot Development: It’s not often that a movie adaptation actually enhances the plot of the story with added scenes but in this case the added scenes with Seneca Crane and the gamemakers definitely enhanced the plot and made me feel more comfortable about possible sequels (the second two books of the trilogy don’t lend themselves as easily to film as the first two). Good call.
I normally don’t dip into the philosophical in this blog, but I have to admit that The Hunger Games, book and movie, affected me pretty deeply. I’ve always been drawn to post apocalyptic stories. I was think about The Giver for weeks after I read it in junior high and I guess my fascination with human brutality and tendency toward social destruction hasn’t left. The Hunger Games affected me the same way. I hope that this series is not just a pop culture cult but turns into a teachable moment. From Lord of the Flies, The Giver, and now The Hunger Games each generation has a well-written post-apocalyptic novel that reflects the social pressures and trends of the time.
Now that I think about it, it wasn’t the amount of teens and preteens at the showing that weirded me out– it was the lack of parents. This isn’t another Twilight, folks, this is a prime time to get on the same page as your kids and discuss concepts of mass media, bullying, trust, and fear. Stories are powerful things and I believe The Hunger Games has the potential to be powerful in more ways that just a commercial blockbuster, which, in light of the series’ themes, is a little ironic, don’t you think?
See you next week!