Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Hunger Games: Should I See It?

1. Did you love the book?

a) No - Go for it.
b) Yes - Watch it once, but try to pretend the book was like normal teen fiction, devoid of symbolic objects, backstory, or psychological mind games.

*Light SPOILERS follow*

I'll try to be as non-specific as possible, but you've been warned.

It was going to be incredibly difficult to adapt a movie from source material written in the first person present tense, with an unreliable narrator. In asking for movies with decent first-person narration, I was pointed to Fight Club and Good Fellas, both past-tense. Present tense narration is just inner monologue and it doesn't really work, like characters in children's programming stating their thoughts out loud because there isn't another character present. In fact, that's exactly what it is.

Hunger Games pulled it off, though. Just a few glances here and there, and a lot of the "we're thinking things we're not saying" moments worked out. As Gizmodo already reported, most of the movie flows from Katnis' perspective, even when she's unconscious or hallucinating. However a few key shots, Haymitch wooing sponsors, Caesar Flickerman and a co-announcer supplying in-universe commentary on the Games, and clips of spectators or Game Makers reacting to events manage to make up for a sizable fraction of the information which Katnis, in the book, expressed as common knowledge.

Still, a lot of important details got left by the wayside. Many of the psychological elements of the Capitol's traps are lost. The significance of the mockingjay, both as a pin and as the animal symbol of district resistance, also gone. Katnis' unspoken communication with Haymitch is entirely missing.

Final Verdict:
Go see it, go enjoy it as a cool, teenage, post-apocalyptic Battle Royale, just with mostly white kids. Don't go expecting a perfectly faithful adaptation of the book. That might have worked if this had been a miniseries or a three-season show on Sci-Fi or another C-list cable channel.

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