Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Hunger Games

I don't normally do this.  Usually when I seen something, I read or watch it, and then sit on it for a while, letting it sink into my head.  Not this time.  I've just come back from watching The Hunger Games, the film adaptation of Suzanne Collins' novel. 

I was going to review the entire book trilogy, and then the movies, but I don't think I'm going to do that.  For one thing, it'll be too much time between reviews, and leaves out the excellent chance to do a brief comparison.  I usually don't do comparisons between books and film adaptations, but for this, I'll make an exception. 

First off, the book.  I read the book at the urging of my friends, and I normally don't read too many teen/young adult books.  I tend to find the themes and stories of self-discovery rather bland and unable to relate to me, even when I was a teen.

Somehow, I find it very unlikely that most teenagers reading The Hunger Games will be able to completely relate to Katniss Everdeen.  How many of us live in a futuristic dystopia, struggling to survive against governmental forced starvation, and then volunteer to participate in a battle royale death match for the spectacle of the ruling class, just to save your little sister?*
Yeah, not too many of us.

At the same time, this is a story that is about survival and the emotions of dealing with tremendous amounts of stress with a dash of relationship and self-discovery added in there.  And I do say a dash.  There is nothing terribly romantic, but it is very honest and bleak.    While there is a sense that the book is a sort of memoir and that Katniss survives, it exists subconsciously in the first person narrative.  The rest of the time, it is never certain whether she will make it, and if she does, what the cost will be.  I wouldn't call it gritty or dark, but it is emotional, heart-wrenching, breath-holding story of survival.

Strangely enough, I find this a refreshing change.

As for the movie...  okay, film makers, pay attention.  This is how you make an adaptation for a book.  Yeah, you can't follow the internal thoughts and emotions, so show them.  Show them, don't tell them.  And yes, there are a few changes and deviations from the book; it's reasonably needed in order for film format.  The changes were made to keep the important details in the story and worked with the story, added original parts presented the audience with information needed, and the parts taken out did not distract from the overall narration.

And in the end, it produced the same effect as the original.  I laughed, cheered and wept at all the same spots as in the book.  I walked out of the theatre feeling the same way I did when I put down The Hunger Games the first time.  It is one of the best adaptations I have ever seen, and an incredible film on its own. 

While I highly recommend both the book and film for readers and audiences looking for, well, everything I said above, I do have to put in a warning.   Both the book and film(s) may not be appropriate for people who are triggered from trauma and/or have a history of mental health issues.  The series does address these issues in its narrative, and due to the very emotional nature of the series, it kinda hits hard at times.  So be aware and stay safe, especially with young viewers.  This one earns its rating. 

Otherwise, enjoy!

*yes, it can be argued that there is sociology-economic-political commentary there, but those aren't my areas of expertise, so I'm not going to address it.  I'll leave that for the people who are better versed in such matters.