Monday, April 30, 2012

The Hunger Games

I always feel like when I see a movie adapted from a book I've never read, I'll be missing out. Despite overwhelmingly positive reviews from critics and fans of the series (most of whom feel that Gary Ross' take is a fairly faithful adaptation), I felt like not having read the books definitely put me at a disadvantage.

Of course having READ the books often sets the viewer up for disappointment when the characters you have imagined in your mind don't correspond to the representation on screen.

Armed with only a basic outline of the story, I had little in the way of expectations. Although from what I knew at the outset, The Hunger Games seemed problematic--casting issues and directorial choices aside. The story is basically American Idol meets Survivor meets Roman Gladiators: two kids (aged 12-18) from each of twelve districts offered up as tribute each year to participate in a televised fight to the death.

I take it that The Hunger Games is supposed to highlight our ungodly obsession with reality TV, but it stretches the point beyond believability. I mean, Simon Cowell can be cruel and cutting, but seriously? Then again, The Hunger Games was the number one movie for WEEKS so we have millions of people watching a movie about people watching kids killing kids on TV. Wrap your head around that piece of circular logic...

The dystopian society in The Hunger Games is portrayed as impoverished and malnourished--save for the wealthy residents of the Capitol. But The Hunger Games is televised to all Panem residents. Anyone who knows anything about media knows that content is just the pretty wrapping around advertisements--or as a former English professor used to say, "Newspapers exist to sell underwear." (Actually newspapers barely exist these days. I guess underwear is being sold via Victoria's Secret ads embedded in Hulu videos...) So, if the majority of the viewers of The Hunger Games are too poor to even buy food--much less Miller Lite or a brand new Acura--what's the point of the broadcast?

Other nitpicky points that annoyed me: old technology such as coal mining coexisting with such advanced tech (CGI mastiffs that can be turned into the real deal) or if everyone in district 12 is starving, who's buying the pastries from Peeta's dad's store? If you're a player in a game where the object is to kill the other players, how do you get mad at a player who killed someone from your district? Also, knowing that there's only one survivor, why do you "team up" with any of your fellow players?

But my biggest issue with The Hunger Games is that the characters in the movie were probably much less developed than in the book. To be sure, director Gary Ross gives the story his signature visual style as evidenced by his work on Pleasantville. But the grisly aspect of the story of kids killing kids is fairly muted with most of the deaths occurring off screen. The lack of character development means that reaction to the deaths are muted as well. At least they were for me: I shed not one tear--not even for the adorable, plucky Rue.

Ross has bowed out for future installments of The Hunger Games series with Francis Lawson stepping in for Catching Fire.  Lawson, who has been praised for being faithful to source material (ala his direction of Water for Elephants) might be able to infuse some more character development and emotion into the second film.  Will I be back to determine if I'm team Gale or team Peeta (I'm leaning towards the latter...)?


1 comment:

  1. i read the book and saw the movie, it was actually good although some characters got dropped completely, some characters' names were almost never given, and i never even know that the "avox girl" was in the movie until i read the credits.

    but the "deaths occurring off the screen" thing was also in the book, the deaths were ported from the book to the movie pretty well I gotta say.

    overall it was both a good read and a good err ... watch ?