Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Hunger Games - Books, Movies, The Whole Magilla

Months ago, at the insistence of my manicurist, I downloaded The Hunger Games trilogy from Amazon.  I started reading the first book on my Kindle, but the premise truly bothered me, so I didn't get beyond the first chapter.  I just did not like the idea of children being forced to fight to the death for the entertainment of their voyeuristic countrymen who followed every moment on live television.
It goes against every rebellious bone in my body...Almost ALL of my bones are rebellious, well except for my right pinkie, but that's another story.

So I forgot about the books and went on reading other things and writing.  But at my last nail appointment, I rhapsodized (yep, it's really a word) to my manicurist about the Divergent Trilogy.  After I finished gushing and she promised to read it, she asked me if I had read the Hunger Games.  So I told her I tried, but couldn't get into it.  She told me she thought I would really like the story once I got into it. While I stared thoughtfully at my dark blue fingernails, I promised her I would read the Hunger Games.

She was right.  Once I got into the story, it grabbed my attention.  I read it nightly, finishing The Hunger Games, and going right into Catching Fire, and then into Mockingjay.

After I finished the first book, I watched The Hunger Games movie.  Then when I finished Catching Fire, I watched that movie.  If the Mockingjay movie was out, I'd watch that, too.

I finished Mockingjay last night.  The trilogy is an incredible adventure.  Like the Divergent Trilogy, it is a realistic story at its base with logical outcomes to the events.  Oh sure, the world in which they live is only somewhat familiar to us in its appearance and the outer trappings of its society.  But at the core of the story, those people are clearly recognizable.  In other words, we can relate to them.  We understand their feelings.

Like Divergent, this one has relevance for our world, our time, our place.  You only have to watch or read to find it.  The message is clear.

Suzanne Collins, author of The Hunger Games Trilogy, has done a masterful job showing us vivid characters reacting in a world gone mad, whirling them away from all that is familiar, into nightmare scenarios.

Not all of the characters make it through all three books, some die unexpectedly, others fade away to lesser status.  But the characters are memorable, providing vivid looks into the eerie world in which they live.

As to the movies, Hollywood has done justice to the colorful story with a perfect cast and settings.  Phillip Seymour Hoffman played an important role in Catching Fire.  The character continues in Mockingjay.  I don't know if the film has already been shot or not.  If they have to recast it will be difficult to find someone to take over the role of Plutarch.

Jennifer Lawrence shines as Katniss Everdeen, the star of the story.  The rest of the cast is excellent, in both films.  Woody Harrelson is particularly good in the role of Haymitch the mentor for Katniss and Peeta, her partner from District 12.  Harrelson's Haymitch is not too likeable, but then he shouldn't be.  Josh Hutcherson plays Peeta.  There are real sparks between Peeta and Katniss.  Also notable in the fine cast is Amandla Stenberg, a beautiful young actress who plays the pivotal character of Rue.  She previously played the young Cataleya in the film Columbiana. And in the role of Gale, Katniss' childhood friend/love interest (sorta) is Ian Hemsworth, younger brother of Chris (aka Thor.)  That's a handsome family...

For the characters in The Capitol, Donald Sutherland plays President Snow, a seemingly benign true monster, who shows his true self to anyone who crosses him - like Katniss.  Elizabeth Banks plays Effie, the District 12 chaperon for the tributes.  Ms. Banks plays a woman typical of the Capitol, painted like an eighteenth century lady of the French court, filled with banal chatter, and true confusion that the tributes don't see the honor of fighting to the death.  "Let them eat cake..."

Lenny Kravitz does a wonderful job as Cinne, Katniss' stylist, perhaps the most "real" character of all the people we meet in The Capitol. Oh, interesting bit of trivia - his daughter plays Christina, Tris' friend in the movie version of Divergent.  (I didn't know he had a grown daughter! Time does get away from us...)

Whether you read the book(s) or just see the film(s), the Hunger Games is truly entertainment with a message.

In a recent review I read of the film Divergent, the reviewer (a man) said he liked Divergent much more than the Hunger Games because Shailene Woodley is so much more attractive than Jennifer Lawrence who is "tall" and "rangy."  (What does that latter word even mean?)  He also went on to decry the fact that so many of the popular films today are geared toward teens and young adults with fantasy worlds and stories that are not real. He said they aren't making these films for adults.

My words to him are as follows:  Listen, Bubba, I'm a senior citizen, not a teen-ager.  I like the Hunger Games and Divergent because I am not so set in my ways that I cannot remember the passions of youth.  Some of which I never lost.  You show me a book or movie in which people fight for their freedom, the betterment of their fellow men, and/or against injustice - you will always get my vote.

The Hunger Games Trilogy made me weep in places, both the books and the movies. It is a fine, colorful saga that tells of the ultimate inhumanity as well as the ultimate inequality.  Unfortunately, both of those sins are perpetrated in our world on a daily basis. 

If you, like the film critic I mentioned, only look on the surface of this great story, you won't get it.  If you look deeper and see the parallels of both historic worlds and our current one, you'll like it.

Far from being an epic of self-centered teen-age angst like some popular series, this one, like Divergent, is thought-provoking allegory.

If that interests you, check it out.  You won't be disappointed...Now just the thought of the Mockingjay makes me reach for a tissue...

Until next time, take care.

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