Sunday, March 25, 2012

'Hunger' Satisfies

I apologize for not writing in the blog for a while. I published my collection of short stories, and now I’m in the process of promotion. Plus, I’m now working four jobs. So I’m busy.
But I took time out to see “The Hunger Games.” I’d not read the book, but I was excited about the movie. I haven’t been this excited about a film in decades. I flew out of work the Sunday of opening weekend like a bat out of hell and made it to the theater in a matter of minutes. I called a friend of mine, and she said she’d make it for the 4:30 p.m. showing. I’d never seen a movie theater that had seven screens devoted to just ONE film.
Was it worth the hype? Yeah, I think so. There were parallels between the movie and modern society: reality shows captivate the nation, we are obsessed with food, and we welcome a distraction from politicians fucking everything up, and chipping away at our rights year after year. Poor people have been dying in battles instigated by the rich since time began. I can totally see a scenario like “The Hunger Games” happening in the not so distant future.
In case you’ve been living in a cave, here’s a synopsis: in Panem, formerly North America, there is a yearly reaping, where children aged 12-18 are chosen to participate in The Hunger Games. Think of it as a draft with no opportunity to dodge it. A boy and a girl are chosen from each of the twelve districts. Twenty four competitors who fight to the death. Only one can win.
Except in these particular games, the evil game masters change the rules midway through. This enables Katniss Everdeen, a compassionate girl who cares deeply for her mother and younger sister, to form an alliance with Peeta, a baker’s son who reveals his crush on Katniss during a talk show which introduces each of the tributes to the nation. At the very last minute, when the two of them are left, the rules change again, and the masters expect one victor. However, despite the unleashing of mutant creatures into the area, and the elimination of the third-to-last competitor, Katniss figures a way out for both of them. Bear in mind this is a trilogy, so I won’t reveal what happens at the end, but it is satisfying, romantic, and ironic.
Women are getting a bad rap these days, but Katniss could be the poster girl for the feminist movement. She is sympathetic, compassionate, and cares deeply about her mother and sister. She forms a temporary alliance with a young competitor, whom she probably sees as someone like her sister. When the young competitor is killed, she places flowers in her hands. Katniss would rather not kill, but if she has to do it, she will. She has mad survival skills, yet defies the Capitol and ends up winning support from the nation by just being herself. She tips a salute to a hidden camera after the District 11 tribute dies, and as a result, some of the citizens there revolt. Katniss risks her life to get medicinal ointment to heal Peeta’s wounds. He begged her not to, but she does so, and returns. Thankfully, they don’t put Katniss in skimpy outfits.
Stanley Tucci plays a flamboyant Games host, and he’s in his element. Woody Harrelson plays a sort of coach/mentor who drinks a lot. Whatever Harrelson is doing, he looked, as a friend of mine said, “beautiful.” I don’t really go for blonds, but Woody looked yummy, as did Wes Bentley, who was in charge of the games. I’ve been fascinated by him ever since he played the creepy, calm, but sympathetic next-door-neighbor in “American Beauty.” He’s what I would describe as psychotically beautiful.
The costuming and makeup were way out there--think 1980s clothing and wacky eye shadow on steroids AND cocaine. Incidentally, only the wealthy people who live in the Capitol have the over-the-top clothes and accessories.
For all the technology in the movie, the tributes in District 12 are chosen by pulling names out of a fishbowl. I thought this was a little odd, but whatever. About the only real complaint I have about the movie was all the hand-held camera work. It made the movie literally difficult to watch. I suppose it gave the movie a “you are here” kind of feel, but it was distracting.
I didn’t read the book before seeing the movie. I easily could have, but I wanted to avoid a possible “Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason” fiasco. I read the book before seeing that movie, and it left me wondering just what book they based that movie on. There were so many changes, it ruined the movie. Had I not read the book ahead of time, I might have thought it was a cute movie, but changing Jude and Vile Richard’s wedding for a renewal of Bridget’s parents’ wedding vows was just WRONG. Also, instead of playing up the relationship between Mark Darcy and Rebecca, Rebecca just ends up having a crush on Bridget. But it’s a safe bet to say I will be buying a copy of “The Hunger Games” soon, if not also buying the other media tie-ins as well.
The movie also didn’t descend into sappy romance or make Katniss appear helpless. I wasn’t into “Twilight” or “Harry Potter,” but I’m excited and happy that at last, there is a movie series that I can enjoy and talk about. Post apocalyptic young adult fiction gets me going. Katniss is scared, but she fights the good fight. “The Hunger Games” could be a metaphor for life itself: no one gets out alive, but there are certain ways of playing the game, certain behaviors and skills to help you keep alive as long as possible. Aside from the deeper issues the movie brings up, it’s a hell of a ride. If nothing else, I expect a huge spike in the number of people interested in archery. Katniss’ image seems to be everywhere; the string of her bow a shadow across her cheek. It’s both romantic and noble, and despite the cruelty of this movie and the unsettling scenes, fighting the good fight and not descending to the level of animals, even though the people in charge would love nothing more for you to do just that, is the overriding theme of this movie. This is a lesson that all of us, not just teenagers, can learn from.