Friday, May 4, 2012

Hungry For More Movies

Spoiler Alert: The Hunger Games books are discussed here, as well as crucial parts of the film.


For my birthday, Steph gave me the Hunger Games trilogy, and in about a week, I had read all three.  My take on the books seemed to fluctuate throughout my reading: some days, I loved what Collins was doing and was thoroughly entertained; other days, I was disappointed and frustrated.  The second book in the series, Catching Fire, was the best, I thought, and gave me high hopes for the overall story.  It seemed the author was setting us all up for--in spite of the brutality and coldness found in the Games themselves--a beautiful tale of redemption and grace.  Sadly, Mockingjay, the last book, broke my heart.  I felt cheated, and not because I think all stories should end perfectly with no death or loss.  Some of my favorite stories of all time don't have the "happily-ever-after" ending.  No, I felt cheated because Collins threw away an opportunity to reveal truth, mainly that although this world is imperfect and people do terrible things, there is always hope.  There are things worth fighting for, and, as the Harry Potter series points out (and Kelly loves to quote), there are things worse than death.

Nonetheless, I was excited to see the film, and it didn't disappoint.  Except for the shaky filming during the first ten minutes or so, which made me feel a bit sea-sick, I thought it was what Hunger Games should have been.  It stayed close to the main plot, but there were two major changes that made the film, in my opinion, better than the book:

1.  Katniss is painted as much more noble and selfless in the movie than she is in the book.  One of the hardest parts about reading the first book is the fact that Katniss isn't your typical hero.  Although she does sacrifice herself for her sister and takes Prim's place in the Hunger Games, her constant internal monologue shows that she is pretty darn self-centered and cynical.  (This is why I had higher hopes for Catching Fire--you see glimpses of her growth in sacrifice and love, something that is dashed in the last book.)  In the book, Peeta is lightyears ahead of Katniss in terms of maturity and character.  In the film, he still stands out one who is truly good and noble--which was important to keep--but Katniss also has good qualities.

One of the key scenes for this is toward the end when Katniss and Peeta hear from the Gamemakers that their amendment to the rule--that two people may win instead of one if from the same District--was false.

In the book, Katniss--in spite of all she and Peeta have been through--still points an arrow at him as soon as the Gamemaker finishes his announcement:

"If you think about it, it's not that surprising," he [Peeta] says softly.  I watch as he painfully makes it to his feet.  Then he's moving toward me, as if in slow motion, his hand is pulling the knife from his belt--
Before I am even aware of my actions, my bow is loaded with the arrow pointed straight at his heart.  Peeta raises his eyebrows and I see the knife has already left his hand on its way to the lake where it splashes in the water.  I drop my weapons and take a step back, my face burning what can only be shame.

This does not happen in the movie because at this point, Katniss had already grown in love and trust.  Her instinct isn't to defend herself; it is to stand up for what is right. Instead of Katniss showing her true colors once again, she and Peeta mutually refuse to kill each other.

Furthermore, the movie doesn't much highlight the fact that Katniss is faking her love toward Peeta just to survive.  The only hint of this in the movie is when Katniss tells Peeta that all they can do is try to forget what happened, and Peeta replies that he doesn't want to.  In the book, it is heartbreaking when Peeta realizes that their "relationship" was a fraud.

2.  The whole Capitol-versus-Katniss conflict that arises at the end of Hunger Games seems a lot less contrived in the movie than it does in the book.  In the book, it is the set-up for Catching Fire, but it does seem to come out of nowhere mainly because we are seeing things through Katniss's perspective, and she knows nothing of the conflict.  One second she is getting ready to have the reunion interview with Peeta; the next Haymitch is telling her she's in big trouble.  Because a movie isn't limited to a first-person point of view, we see glimpses of this throughout the film.  President Snow already shows that he's a controlling nut-job with his creepy conversations with the Gamemaker.  It is no surprise to us as the viewers--although it is to Katniss--that Snow and the Capitol are peeved about the near double suicide.

That's the challenge of writing a story from first-person point of view, I suppose.  We will be limited with what we see.  Rowling wrote Harry Potter in third person, so she avoided this problem, and Meyer wrote Twilight in first-person from Bella's perspective, but throws in a first-person from Jacob's perspective in the last book.  (Plus, the Midnight Sun leak gave us a view from Edward Cullens himself.)  Not only does Collins keep the whole story first-person from Katniss's point-of-view, but she also writes in present tense, so we are even that much more limited in knowing what's going on outside of Katniss's mind.

The film also was great with the other characters: Haymitch, Caesar, and Effie Trinket are really entertaining; Cinna was not quite what I expected, but still good; the Gamemakers were just calloused enough to make what they were doing believable; and the people of the Capitol with their crazy outfits and make-up made the perfect juxtaposition between the Capitol and the Districts.

I look forward to the next movie with some hesitation because of the change of director, but mostly with hope...because there always should be hope, right?

2 comments:

  1. Well done, well done, my friend! I think you have eliminated my need to write about the movie ;-)

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  2. I know that Harry Potty has some weird names in it, e.g. Hufflepuff; but, the character names in this story leave something to be desired!

    Great insight on this story! Thank you for reading it, digesting it, viewing it and analyzing it so I don't have to.

    My best to you and Rob :-)

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