Over the last three or so years, I have had many middle school students share with me their love and admiration of The Hunger Games. I was not moved to read the first book in the trilogy until my youngest brother raved about the novel to me. In the past, he was a reluctant reader, but over the course of the last few years, aided by the Percy Jackson series, among other books, he is developing into an avid reader. So if he was feeling this book, then I had to check it out. I cannot lie though, I was also swayed by the release of the movie as well.
I read the novel in a couple of days; it is a lightning fast read. The author, Suzanne Collins, ends each chapter with a slight cliff hanger, which results in a page turning fest. One night, I told myself that I would read for thirty minutes before completing other work, and before I knew it two hours had melted off of the clock and I was enthralled, reluctant to put down the novel, wanting to continue my indulgence.
This weekend, I treated myself to see the movie and here are my observations:
- I thought I would have missed the initial hype surrounding the movie, and was pleasantly surprised that the theater was packed on a Sunday afternoon. The movie was released about a month ago, yet it is still raking in the millions.
- Interestingly, there were very few children in the audience. Instead, the theater was teeming with (mostly male) adults older than the perceived teeny bop demographic that has financially fueled the movie. This fact accounts for the ridiculous amounts of money that this movie has made thus far; there is an appeal to male adults, which Twilight, the previous best-seller turned multimillion franchise, did not have. Action+Blood+Death = Testosterone. That’s the right equation, right?
- Like most books to movies, the director takes artistic liberties with the storyline, changing a few things around that readers of the book will notice, but the average moviegoer would not have known.
- Katniss, the female protagonist, is much sexier than I imagined in my mind. Not surprised though because sex sells well.
- There are very few black characters in the movie. Noticeably, the part when black people are prominent on the screen is doing a riot scene, which is not mentioned in the novel. The contrast between the protestors dark skin and the whiteness of the peacekeepers, with their bleached white uniforms, is very pronounced. I understand the logic behind adding that scene as a way to prepare the social discord that the other two novels discuss. Yet, why at this moment? In the novel, this district, home to all the black people it seems, actually sends Katniss a gift to show their support for her after she buried Rue. Staging a violent reaction to Rue’s death changes the emotional tenor of that scene. More importantly, it changes the way that the audience, many of whom have not read the book, understands that district. Aggressive+Violent = Black. That’s the right equation, right?
- Likewise, there has been all kind of backlash over two prominent, loveable characters, Rue and Cinna, being cast as black. The blatantly racist overtones (captured in a blog) scream white supremacy, especially the nasty comments concerning Rue, who saves Katniss a couple of times. There was an outcry over Rue being black even though it is explicitly stated in the novel that she has dark skin. Even one of my colleagues mentioned that she thought Rue had an olive skin complexion. Why couldn’t Rue be black in the minds of millions? Being a loveable hero is not possible if black. Damn you, white supremacy. Similarly, Cinna, the supportive stylist, whose race or color is not stated, is played by Lenny Kravitz. His character also receives some harsh comments from “disappointed
- The cinematography is well done. The early quick pace cameras disorient the audience, while highlighting the poverty and famine from which Katniss arises. The opening scenes are dark, even though they are well lit. The sullen faces marked with the coal soot adds an eerie uncomfortableness that pushes the film through this impoverished portion. Contrastingly, the bright, flashy colors illustrate the overindulgent opulence of the Capitol, the true culprit behind the senseless and degrading murders of the teenagers from across the country.
- Lastly, the absence of music during the beginning of the movie illustrates the barrenness of the poor district. While in the Capitol, music is heard at every turn and whim, which distractingly adds to the extravagance, which ultimately and purposefully tunes the attention away from the corrupted, flawed system.
Overall, the movie served its purpose: I now
need want to read the rest of the novels to figure out what happens, while patiently awaiting the upcoming movies.
Oh, never be fooled; money and consumption drives this
educational entertainment system. And like all other systems in this country, it works…well.