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Tomas Gallucci

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Hunger Games Leaves Me Hungry for Answers to Philosophical Questions [Mar. 25th, 2012|08:34 pm]
Tomas Gallucci
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Narrator

Given a long enough time line, everyone's survival rate goes to zero.







My initial contact with the The Hunger Games was on reality_hammer's blog. He had several books listed in the right-hand column of his blog. What specifically caught my eye was the cover to Mocking Jay, the third and final book in The Hunger Games series. I saw the cover on his blog many times and ignored it until one day curiosity got the better of me. I looked up the title on Amazon, and I discovered that the book was the third in a trilogy.

Then I read the description of the first book: youths picked at random from their local areas in a last man standing fight-to-the-death. I didn't know how I felt about this on multiple levels. On the one hand, going only off of the cover of Mocking Jay, I thought this would be yet another fantasy story that I would want to avoid; on the other hand, I had a morbid curiosity about the piece.

It was available for the Kindle for $5. I thought that Suzanne Collins must be some kind of independent writer that was selling her wares through the Kindle store and that this was some kind of cult following book that wouldn't amount to much. Either way, I figured I could add another book to my collection for cheap and if I didn't like it, I could always stop reading it.




My brother's birthday is in the middle of the year. Being ten years younger than I and not having an older brother to show him the ropes, I thought I would get him a copy of the book so he could start grappling with the concepts, kind of a rite of passage thing. I still hadn't read the book myself, but I had asked mrs_dragon for her take on the trilogy as she had mentioned reading it. I was specifically curious about the violence in the books and how the author dealt with the concept of being forced to face a violent death. I presumed that mrs_dragon's opinion on subjects such as war, violence and death were opposite of mine. When she told me–carefully and thoughtfully so as to not reveal any spoilers–that she enjoyed the books overall and that while death and violence were dealt with, they were dealt with tastefully, I calmed down about the series.

But knowing that I was raised by the same people that my brother is being raised by (for the record, he is not my biological brother and as I was not adopted nor am I related by blood, the term step-brother doesn't correctly apply here either) I didn't know what they would have to say about the book. I figured Dad wouldn't care either way and that since Star Wars was disallowed when I was growing up but now they let my younger brother not only watch the films but have the action figures, play the video games, etc., I didn't think there would be a problem with the book.

I texted my brother one day to follow up with him after his birthday and see how he was enjoying his presents. He said that Mom had looked over the book and decided it was too violent for him despite the fact that he had just turned sixteen.

My heart sank for him.




Some time ago, I came across news that The Hunger Games was being turned into a film. Interesting I thought quietly to myself. Another thought I had, I should read the book before the film hits the theater.

Then life happened. I struggled through the fall semester (which I didn't blog about) and as I dragged myself to the end of that torture, I focused intensely on learning iOS development, something I had wanted to do ever since you could develop for the iPhone, but something I had attempted to actually learn since the winter break of 2010.

This semester hasn't been any better. I won't go into it here as it's not topical; suffice it to say that once again life got in the way. And the truth is, even if I had the time to read the book, I would have chosen something else to read from my voluminous collection of books in my To Read pile.

So I feel that I do you, the reader, great injustice. I'm not going to be able to talk about how well the film was adapted and to borrow a concept from ehowton, I'll need to see the film a few more times before I can really talk intelligently on it. Instead, what follows are the thoughts that came to mind while I was watching the film.



The film set up nicely to deal with the subject of being forced to face your death. Unfortunately, I didn't feel like there was the follow through that the topic deserved.

Watching The Hunger Games is like watching Schindler's List or some other WW II film about the Holocaust: you get that sick feeling in your stomach because you put yourself in the Jews' place, but about halfway through you know that these Jews are going to make it, so you can relax and enjoy the work as art or entertainment instead of a warning of humanity repeating the same mistakes.

With the Hunger Games, even if you haven't read the book, you go in knowing that there's a high probability that the main characters won't get killed off. You have someone to root for, but unlike with Secret Window you know who the bad guy is and you don't wind up rooting for him.

And then there's the whole concept of as human beings, we care about specifics, not the aggregate i.e. if one person dies and we know at least a bit of their story, it's a tragedy. But if a whole bunch of people that we don't know die, it's not as shocking to us. We don't get that gnawing feeling in the pit of our stomach as we do when we feel we are in imminent danger.

As such, I expect that the anti-war group will cling to The Hunger Games and either try to make analogies between President Snow and President George W. Bush. I'll make a weak preemptive strike against said analogies by issuing this statement: the United State's armed services is an all volunteer service; no one was drafted under Bush and Bush wasn't a puppeteer hiding out in some control room bringing each and every solider to their death. However, Charlie Rangle–a Democrat–who's party is seen as the party of Doves has repeatedly attempted to conscript every American. And the current President agrees.

Other random thoughts:

  • The film went on and on about the tributes needing the help of sponsors in the games, but then sponsors never really didn't play into the games. I'm guessing that this was compressed from the book.


  • It's amazing how there appears to be no modern technology in District 11–including electricity–but yet they get live, instantaneous video broadcasts from the capital and use projectors to watch these broadcasts. Also missing were the speakers to provide audio for the broadcast.


  • I wasn't impressed with how, during the games, the manipulators could make real things–such as animals and trees–appear from digital representations in the control room and yet the story didn't go the route of "it's all virtual, even if it's real to the person perceiving it." That's an amazing suspension of disbelief.


  • Equally curious is how no cameras appeared all over the battleground and yet any angle they could be used for broadcasting the games...and that angle be photogenic.


  • I didn't like how the guy from District 12 just died off screen. It felt like the move was rushed in order to keep the runtime of the film down, but as he chose not to kill Katniss when he had the chance, it's only proper that we see how he died, else there's no reason for that moment of humanity.


  • On the flip side, while Katniss was shown in the beginning of the film to be handy with a bow an arrow, the film didn't make her out to have some kind of superpower. I think psychologically the balance will always be tipped in her favor because she's the main character, but she was shown to have weaknesses.


  • At several points during the film, I thought that Katniss would pull a John Galt, telling the entire audience what a sham the Hunger Games are and that all the people need do to make them go away is not participate. Perhaps the books deal with this per mrs_dragon's comment.


  • The love story is kinda-cute and perhaps the books or future films will deal with "If you can't be with the one you love, love the one you're with" that the film seemed to be playing with.



Overall, The Hunger Games clocked in about where I thought it would given its PG-13 rating. I'd be curious to know what an unrated cut would look like, especially if the same filmmakers could make that film and not worry about maintaining a rating for the target demographic.

I see The Hunger Games as the flavor of the year, just like Twilight before it and Harry Potter before that and Left Behind before that. It won't shock me at all to see kids that, instead of taking this film as a warning try to emulate it: boys and girls playing up being tribute and thinking that they have the smarts and the ability to survive. It may even turn into some kind of love thing that all the kids get into, much like Twilight. But what I hope this film does is start conversations about "What is the meaning of life?" and "Why am I here?" "What difference can I make?" and "I will die one day."

But that's wishful thinking.
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: darkest_writer
2012-03-25 09:58 pm (UTC)
Now I want to read the book and then watch the movie. They never really caught my attention. Now I think I might give them a try.

I'm still waiting on that personal post! :P
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: schpydurx
2012-03-25 10:01 pm (UTC)
I'm writing it in my head as we speak. Looking ahead to my schedule, I'm not sure that I will be able to get to it any time soon, but I'll do my level best.
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[User Picture]From: gradumacated
2012-03-27 04:12 pm (UTC)

Hungry!

The more I hear about this series, the more I'm intrigued and want to find out more about it.

Do you think it would be best to read the book(s) first, or watch the film?

Even Texas is intrigued, so I foresee a potential movie date in the near future...
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: schpydurx
2012-03-27 11:49 pm (UTC)

Re: Hungry!

Do you think it would be best to read the book(s) first, or watch the film?
I didn't read the book.

movie date
YES!!! Chicks dig movie dates!
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)