Monday, April 2, 2012

The Hunger Games

thoughts on the film, Catching FireMockingjay, and the phenomenon in general.

For those of you who read my last post about The Hunger Games, if you were enraged by my flippancy, now you will receive justice. However, let's take things one at a time.

Item One: The Film

I had the uncanny good fortune of being able to see The Hunger Games movie at Cinetopia. Sadly the livingroom theatre was sold out for that day, but any of the auditoriums are preferable to the cramped and scummy stadium seats of your typical moviehouse. I could therefore cite the quality of the picture, the hugeness of the sound, but when it came down to it, The Hunger Games is, quite simply, a good movie.

First of all, the cast was excellent. All of the principles were aptly chosen. Jennifer Lawrence, by now a veteran huntress with Winter's Bone behind her, was Katniss Everdeen through and through. She was serious, intense, and internal - just like her counterpart Katniss from the book. Josh Hutcherson  as Peeta Mellark was likewise perfect. His expertise was in his delivery, expressions...pretty much in everything. We didn't see much of Liam Hemsworth as Gale Hawthorne, other than him brooding, so he's had yet to impress me. I guess that he's Thor's little brother has to count for something, though. Lenny Kravitz was the perfect Cinna, and, fun fact, it helped that he and Jennifer Lawrence were already friends, seeing as she worked with his daughter on X-Men: First Class. Wes Bentley cut an excellent Seneca Crane, Elizabeth Banks was the spitting image of Effie Trinket, and Donald Sutherland was an aptly venomous President Snow.

But the brilliance wasn't just in the cast. The cinematography of this film also exceeded my expectations. The scene which comes to mind is when Katniss and Peeta, having been chosen as tributes, stumble onto the train headed for the capitol. Something about the looks on their faces combined with the way the camera moved to show the opulence of the train car highlighted the pointlessness of that opulence, of how very wrong it was to plunge these two children into so many changes and in such a succession.

Likewise, the score is brilliant. Written by James Newton Howard, the orchestrated moments in the movie are potentially the most powerful. Then again, with most of M. Night Shamalan's films under his belt, I'm not surprised. (Whatever you think of Mr. M. Night Shamalamadingdong, as he is sometimes called around here, you have to admit that his movies are beautifully scored.)

In all, I went to this film with a bit of an attitude. Was I ever wrong. Hindsight 20/20 all around with this series.

For more information on the film, visit the official movie page and IMDb.

Item Two: Catching Fire

The strange thing about this series for me is that I stopped dead in the middle. After finishing The Hunger Games I downloaded book two, Catching Fire, for the kindle and began reading immediately. Sadly, I couldn't quite finish two books in a day, and I had to depart for my dearly beloved college town the next. I stopped directly in the middle. After that I couldn't quite find the will to keep reading.

And then I watched the movie.

Seeing it on the screen brought the story back to life for me, which is saying something. (I don't want to give the plot of the second book away entirely, but the first half seems a little innocuous in comparison to the end of the first book: it has its own merits, of course, but it's hard to keep up something as engaging as the conclusion to the 74th annual Hunger Games.) After watching Jennifer Lawrence's Katniss live through that arena, I had to know more. I had to know what happened, and I stayed up way too late finishing book two and most of book three.

The plot twist in book two also impressed me. At first glance I thought it was something that even Suzanne Collins could pull off with little success, but she made it work for her. The Quarter Quell was very different than the year which preceded it, and I salute her for making it work.

Item Three: Mockingjay

The thing about Mockingjay is that I have heard more complaints about it than with the other two books combined. I'm not sure what it is that makes some Hunger Games fans unhappy about this third and final volume, because I honestly thought it was brilliant. The discontent could stem from the fact that it comes off as much more real, and therefore much more hopeless, than the other two books, but something in that appealed to me as a reader.

***Not even going to try to be non-spoilery in the next part, fair warning***

Mockingjay has a lot to say about the dynamics of revolution. That the story depends so wholly on Katniss as a figurehead, and a televised one at that, speaks a lot to the concept of the funded cause. The only way that the revolution in Panem could have kept going was by the aid of Capitol money and therefore Capitol sedition: it is only the causes picked by members of the dominant regime which get the backing and the momentum to continue and, ultimately, succeed. That, I think, is some serious food for thought.

In Other News...

The Hunger Games as a phenomenon has exploded. Hot Topic is carrying Hunger Games memorabilia, including the Mockingjay pin, there's a game for the iPhone called Hunger Games: Girl on Fire, there is a facebook page devoted to becoming a Capitol citizen where you can get a free physical Panem ID card, and there's a Hunger Games adventure game, also on facebook. There are t-shirts, journals, several spoofs, even a book of philosophy. The Hunger Games is the next big thing, just like I thought it would be when I initially felt resistance to the growing fad. Only this time, I think I'm okay with a little bit of fanaticism.

Later today I will be attending a lecture on the fashion of the capitol and what it has to say, socially and politically, and how these choices control the people of the capitol. For a blog on that, please see Hyperbole's sister blog: tangential!

If you're interested in how Philosophy relates to all this, please consider Amazon. After all, the lecturer I'm hearing is published in this book. Cheers!