The Odds are Ever in Favor of ‘The Hunger Games’

Lady Saika: So The Hunger Games made its big-screen debut this weekend, and as I am the only member of this blog who’s both read the trilogy and seen the movie, MadameAce has conscripted me into doing a review with her. This breakaway hit story about children brutally murdering each other in an arena translated well to the screen. (PS—Spoilers abound.)

MadameAce: Well, everything she just said isn’t entirely true. I have read the books, or you know, the first two pages of them… Yeah, I wanted someone who knew what was going on to talk about this with me. I personally cannot really comment on how well the translation was, but as an outsider to the fandom until now, I thought the movie did a really good job, and I wasn’t confused by what was happening.

Lady Saika: I’m always worried going into movies about books I liked, because, well, you never know what they’ll change, how true they’ll stay to the story, or how well the actors and the sets and what-have-you represent the images you have made in your head. Case in point: the Percy Jackson movie, the Eragon movie, need I go on? But I was honestly thrilled with the movie adaptation. So much of the stuff in the books happens in Katniss’s head, but the film translated that into actual scenes (for example, we actually see Haymitch talking up the sponsors, or Caesar explaining the Tracker Jackers to the audience).

MadameAce: Being completely new to the story, the presentation of everything Saika just mentioned and more allowed me to both follow the story and get involved in it. Had Caesar not been shown explaining the Tracker Jackers I would have been left wondering how the hell a bee sting can cause hallucinations and swelling that quickly unless everyone in the future is just that allergic. The only other option to this would be to have Katniss do a voice-over, and I’m really glad that didn’t happen. Unlike books, movies cannot be told from one person’s perspective—I’m talking to you, Twilight—and whenever they try to do that it doesn’t feel right. It’s very much a third person omniscient setting. We, the audience, and especially us newer to the story, needed all the scenes with Caesar and everyone else away from Katniss to understand what was happening. I can’t help but compare this to the Prisoner of Azkaban movie, where I sat there grateful the whole time that I had read the books, because otherwise I’d have had no idea what was going on or why I should care about any of it.

Lady Saika: I was personally grateful for Jennifer Lawrence. She really just nailed Katniss. The character of Katniss was one I loved in the books—she’s badass, she’s pragmatic toa fault, she stands up for what she believes in, and she doesn’t really give two shits about relationship drama. She’s a breath of fresh air in the fiction that’s popular among teens, and I was thrilled with her portrayal of the character.

MadameAce: In a world dominated by male protagonists, Katniss really is a perfect example of a strong female character. All too often I see female protagonists having no qualities outside being female, and yeah, the authors, writers, directors, etc. will try to make them badass, while missing the mark. Yes, Katniss is capable, she can take care of herself, she looks out for others, and she can sure as hell loose an arrow and hit a target, but that’s not what makes her a strong character.

Katniss doesn’t lose sight of the big picture. When Haymitch tells her to play up the romance, yes, a certain part of her grows to like Peeta, but she doesn’t give into it in light of everything that’s happening. She sets her goals and then she goes toward them. What I love most about her is that she doesn’t give into the game and she finds a way to beat the system. After watching her go through all of this, I couldn’t help but wonder how things would have changed if Rue lived, because knowing Katniss, she’d save her too if she could.

Lady Saika: Speaking of Rue, her backstory was one of the few things they left out that I was sad about. Although her character is still certainly relatable and likeable in the movie, the book’s glimpse into her former life in agricultural District 11 helped you sympathize more with her as a well-rounded character who dies (rather than just being the cute kid who dies). However, just as in the books, Rue serves as the most constant and poignant reminder that the Hunger Games are a barbaric, unfair, brutal, and cruel institution.

MadameAce: The world at large seems to have a very mixed view on the Hunger Games themselves. Katniss needed to be from a poorer district in order for the audience to sympathize with her. We don’t like the idea of children being forced to fight to the death—or at least I don’t, and I hope most of you agree with me—and it’s the people from the poorer backgrounds that truly see and fear what the Games are. They struggle to survive, and one of the ways they can do that is by putting their names into the draw more times in exchange for food. And when they’re called as tributes, it’s a death sentence. The looks on everyone’s face just lets you know that they don’t expect the tributes to come back alive.

The Capitol itself seems all but oblivious to the woes of the districts. Yes, some districts, like 1 and 2, train their children to fight and don’t have to worry about having their names put into the lottery numerous time due to their wealth, but the people in the Capitol don’t even view the tributes as people. They treat it very much like a show for entertainment, because to them, that’s exactly what the Hunger Games are. At one scene, when Katniss first enters the Capitol, she sees two little children playing with swords, and it’s all fun and games to them. The really hideous woman whose name I cannot remember tells both Katniss and Peeta to be happy because they get dessert and the other tributes don’t. Very few people seem to realize just how cruel and barbaric this practice is, and the ones who do are either survivors from previous years or their personal trainers who have to watch their students die over and over again.

And the people at the Capitol say numerous times that this is to remind the districts of their failed uprising and stop it from happening again. But in actuality, it’s been so long, the Hunger Games probably do more harm than good to the country’s unity.

LadySaika: MadameAce is spot-on. Katniss’s respectful treatment of Rue’s body shows the Games’ viewers that she thinks of her opponents as people worth mourning rather than targets. The Capitol refuses to re-air that scene in reruns because it does incite the viewers in the districts to greater discontent (although it’s not like they were excited about the Games anyway) and as far as full-out rebellion (particularly in Rue’s home, District 11).

Furthermore, although the Capitol uses the Games as a trump card over the districts, guaranteeing their loyalty, after nearly seventy-five years of Games they are out of touch with their victims. The movie also did a good job of showing the brutality of the kids killing each other without it becoming too horrifically gory, but in a way that still shows the disconnect between the rulers and the ruled and forces the viewer to feel objectively uncomfortable (I’m reminded of Katniss watching old Game footage on the train and Caesar’s voiceover saying “Here’s that magical moment when a Tribute becomes a Victor”—as a boy finishes braining another kid with a brick.)

The districts as they stood after the original rebellion had no choice but to let the Capitol take their children; however, their resentment towards the Capitol has grown stronger just as they have recovered their strength over the years. By the end of the movie they stand strong enough to rise up against the Capitol. All they need is a spark—and now they have the Girl on Fire, who spit in the face of the Capitol and refused to play its Game. The ending of the movie is final (the film could definitely stand alone if the producers were to decide, perhaps because they hate money, to discontinue the series) but it is also uncertain—even Peeta and Katniss don’t know what will happen when they get home, and the adults are certainly on edge, because nothing like Katniss’s victory has ever happened before.

The next installment in the trilogy, Catching Fire, doesn’t start filming for a while yet. But they’ve done a tremendous job adapting the first movie, and I now trust them enough to say I look forward to seeing what they do with the next two books.