I’ll take this opportunity to welcome back Didion of the Feminéma website (you can find this discussion on her blog as well as mine) for our 5th joint discussion/review. I’ve also included a side bar of a pair of mini-reviews from two young adults (teen-agers actually) who discussed the film with me. So without prolonging this prologue any longer – Let the
Games, er, discussion begin:
Didion: I was getting a haircut the other day, and the woman sitting next to me spoke about her reluctance to see The Hunger Games. “I just hate gory movies,” she explained. “And the idea of children eating other children grosses me out.”
“They don’t eat one another!” I objected. “They’re forced to kill one another as part of a state-run reality TV show in a dystopian future!”
Okay, this is kind of a big difference, eating vs. merely killing one another — and for squeamish readers I can assure you that the gore factor is fairly low considering the subject matter. It’s strangely difficult to explain what made the books so compelling. Yet compelling they are: I’m pretty sure my set of books ricocheted amongst 9 different friends over the course of a 4-month period, each time resulting in late-night emails from those friends that said, “OMG The Hunger Games!”
Chalk it up in part to a powerful, driving narrative and a terrific central character in Katniss Everdeen. To quickly sum up the plot, Katniss has grown up in one of the nation’s poorest districts — so poor, in fact, that she and her best friend Gael have taught themselves to poach animals from the off-limits woods near home. Without her skills with a bow and arrow, setting traps, and scavenging for berries and other foods, her family would have starved long ago.
Welcome! … And Happy Hunger Games …
But then the annual Hunger Games begins. Long ago the nation’s 12 districts rebelled against the capital and when the federal government regained control, it instituted these “games.” Two children, a boy and girl, are chosen randomly from each district to compete against each other in a fantasy wilderness arena until only one is left alive. That battle is projected to every TV with the notion that it will somehow bring the nation together as they root for and celebrate the winner. But it also demands that the “tributes” make themselves TV-ready and appealing even as they kill one another or simply fight to survive — because the richest or most charismatic can get special gifts throughout the course of the games from sponsors who might tilt the balance between life and death with a packet of medicine, matches, or food. When Katniss is chosen alongside a baker’s son named Peeta, she is forced out of her “anything to survive” mentality, and must decide how much she’s willing to play the TV game.
Spoilers ahoy as you proceed! Please don’t read much further if you want to be surprised by the film’s plot.
As the blogger JustMeMike and I sat down to discuss the film, my first question to him is, have you read the books? and does the film seem to be the compelling document that I’ve described about the books?
JustMeMike: Thanks for the brief intro and plot outline. I only bought the book this past Thursday (March 22nd) and did my utmost to keep it closed. I brought it with me on my trip to New York, but I should have left it home, as I never opened it on either flight. I will admit to reading the first three pages before I left. So at most, I went in with scant knowledge. So go right ahead, and call me a newb.
Now that I’ve seen the film, I will readily agree that it is compelling, and that I’m 100% certain that I will go through all of the books that follow in the series – asap.
Since you’ve read the book, and I haven’t – can you give me a sense of how the film and book compare?
Didion: That might wind up being the most talked-about subject of the day! And that’s too bad, since I’d theoretically like to think of this solely as a film, but let’s face it: I can’t.
I’d say two main things. First, I walked out feeling impressed that the film had done such a great job of covering a lot of ground in the books — my partner and I were really happy about the film overall. I especially thought Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss was just amazing — and I’d been skeptical, as she’s clearly a curvy 22-year-old, whereas Katniss is a skinny, half-starved 15-year-old.
I do have one criticism comparing the two (and this is my second point). For me, the most moving thing about the books was that Katniss agonized about appealing to TV viewers; she’s spent her whole life feeling defensive and protective of her family, so she *hates* smiling and pretending to like Peeta in order to gain TV fans. I felt the film gave short shrift to that storyline. Yet again, I still feel satisfied with the movie overall.