Posts Tagged ‘hunger games’

Extra Credit 3: Hunger Games Review

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

Summary: I cannot recall exactly if it was in the movie, but the oceans moved in on the North American continent (specifically the US) and there was a food/resource shortage. Thirteen districts were created in a new sort of nation. There was a rebellion by the majority of the districts, which was put down. The Powers That Be created the Hunger Games: a yearly battle to the death involving one female and one male member between the ages of 12-18 from each district. The last one alive wins. Katniss, a member of District 12, volunteers when her sister, Prim, is chosen. Taught all her life that her chances are next to nil, Katniss has little hope. Can she survive the games? And what will that survival cost?

For science fiction tropes, the film is supposed to be post-apocalyptic (although this is admittedly not touched on in even a nearly equal amount as in the book) due to global warming. Global warming isn’t science fiction (and the encroaching oceans is actually a real fear) but the events detailed in the movie haven’t happened yet: they’re just a prediction. A sort of hover-train is shown, along with other hovercrafts. The entire environment of the games is controlled remotely, from the sunlight to the animals and other physical conditions. Katniss’s two gowns and Peeta’s matching On Fire suit are also rather extraordinary pieces of technology.

An interesting idea is brought up in the film version: what people are happy and willing to watch. Show a bunch of teenagers fighting each other to the death, and people will gladly sit back, eat popcorn and snore through the slow, dramatic parts where the players come apart psychologically. The story could be a commentary on Reality TV and the disconnect between people and what is considered pop culture. It could also be a commentary on how people will bemoan tragedies on TV and then do nothing about them, something that was brought up a great deal during the War on Terror and in the wake of recent natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina. What does this say about us as people? Not good things.

It also brings up the question of what people will do when driven properly. It is clear that anyone can be driven to kill when survival is at stake, especially when it is the survival of one’s family. Is there a barrier to how far we’re willing to go for our own sakes and that of those we care for? Apparently not, according to the film.

Overall it is a good film. It stays relatively close to the source material, which was the most important thing for me and the fandom. It does what it can to express a lot of first-person detail through film narrative, and is rather creative.

One of my first issues while watching was that it has a little of a Jekyll-Hyde problem. The actor who plays Dr. Jekyll in a performance of the story always gets a lot more into his character than the other actors (if he’s good) since the role is rather demanding, and the character is very high-strung anyway. Jennifer Lawrence’s Katniss Everdeen really has no match in the film. Haymitch and Effie come close at times, but both lack the extra characterization needed to explain their characters and the frequent use of their characters as the brunt of jokes or as fill-in narration plot devices mars these opportunities. In the book, Haymitch is an example of what Katniss could become, should she win the games (someone who would rather go through life drunk than remember all the bad things that happened during his games, and who cannot escape the training and knowledge learned during that time). Effie is an example of what she might have been, had she been born in one of the first districts: a silly, gaudy idiot terrified of her own shadow in rare moments of removing the mask of gaiety she puts on. These were, of course, mostly missing from the film, which hurt me a lot, because Haymitch was my second favorite character after another victor to be introduced in the second book. Prim also does a great job, but a lot of her characterization is also taken out (along with a chunk of necessary District 12 info), and she comes off as an at-risk child angst cliché. Peeta, the secondary protagonist, just doesn’t get enough time in the spotlight, which isn’t helped by the missing knowledge Katniss provides on him in the books, as well as her real feelings behind all her actions surrounding him and his actions towards her. These rather lackluster fellow performances leave Katniss as a little of a bi-polar drama queen… which doesn’t make her all that attractive of a character. Admittedly, bringing to light her mental state as she’s had to deal with all the problems in her life is an important facet of the story. But this isn’t touched on, so she’s just a drama queen for cliché reasons. I only have to recall the moment where she volunteers amidst a sea of silence, and has what appears to be an overdramatic reaction to Prim, whose actress only stares in shock. We are not given the information for WHY this is “overdramatic” and WHY there is a “sea of silence”. It’s just there.

Although it really did a great job of representing the book, I still see the movie through the lens of what it left out. Important details that come to mind include the significance of the Mockingjay pin (the Mockingjay is never explained, Madge, the girl who gives Katniss the pin in the first place, is never introduced, and its purpose comes off as cliché and “we had to cut something somewhere”), a chunk of Katniss and Rue’s relationship, the true horror behind the Muttations (that they are possibly reincarnations of dead tributes meant to horrify), the literal evilness of President Snow, and the psychological effects of winning, which is only barely touched upon in the film. I don’t know if anyone who hadn’t read the books would catch the rather brief (if it actually existed, and I’m not 100% sure on this one) reference to the fact that Haymitch is a former victor of the games. This is an important facet of the movie, which relates the why the games are so terrible. The lack of the bread from District 11 and the shortening of Peeta and Katniss’s interactions was also saddening.

I’m a little concerned that the complexity, amount of detail, and jerky performance of the protagonist would throw off new viewers, but I still recommend the film. I’m glad to see that a sequel is already in the works, and that book three will apparently be split into two, possibly to get all that detail in. I like the attempt, and I hope it does really well at the box office.