Wednesday, April 18, 2012

I like The Hunger Games. Maybe more than I should.

I went to see The Hunger Games for my birthday on opening weekend. Those of you keeping up with Geektress know that I write and talk about the same three things all the time: Red Lantern/Dex Starr, The Hunger Games, RuPaul's Drag Race, and Game of Thrones (zomg Peter Dinklage!). Murderous cats, murderous teens, murderous wolves, and murderous drag queens - such is my life.
If you tell me this isn't sexy, I say you lie. Good day, sir. I say good day.

 I really enjoyed The Hunger Games movie - enough that I will probably go see it again multiple times. I haven't gotten this worked up about a movie since I was 12 and Jurassic Park came out. Most would think I liked it for the dinosaurs, but no. I had a weird thing for Jeff Goldblum. I found chaos mathematics sexy when I was 12.
But something I usually don't find sexy are movie adaptations. I usually hate them. I can count on one hand how many of them I can say I loved (and none of the Harry Potter movies are on that list). After seeing The Hunger Games, I have to move on to my other hand. The fact that Suzanne Collins took part in writing the screenplay helped a ton. A few changes were made some of them significant and others small, but with each one, I could tell what was behind the decision to make the change, and I felt all of the decisions were sound.
This movie adaptation makes me want to set a baby on fire.
 Warning: Massive spoilers ahead. I am going to spoil the hell out of this movie and book. If you read after this point and get all butthurt over spoilers, it's your own damn fault.
So, The Hunger Games was a good movie, but a great adaptation. Fans of the book have been pissy about some of the changes and portrayals of beloved characters. Here are several points for thought and one demand for them to shut their racist face holes:
1. Katniss gets the mockingjay pin from the hob - not from Madge.
 In the books, Madge is a throwaway character. Katniss tells us Madge is the only girl in District 12 she considers a friend, but only kind of. Katniss doesn't think about her that much. Madge makes a brief appearance in Catching Fire, but we assume she died in the Capitol's attack on District 12. That's all there is to Madge. Considering that we're not in Katniss' head in the movie, Madge is a superfluous character (and she is in the books even though we are in Katniss' head). In the movie, Katniss purchases the pin in the Hob and gives it to her beloved sister, Primm. Katniss tells Primm that the pin will protect her at the reaping. That assertion backfires as Primm's name is called. Katniss takes Primm's place and Primm returns the pin to Katniss (who has better luck with the pin's "protection" in the arena). This change serves two purposes. First, it cements the bond between these two sisters. This relationship drives Katniss through the entire series. Second, it shows that despite everything Katniss does to protect her sister, there is no protection from the Capitol.
2. OMG - Gale is hardly in the movie!
I don't give two craps about Gale. So, here's a picture of Peeta.
 Gale is hardly in the book. Once again, we're not privvy to Katniss' thoughts in the movie. In the book, Katniss does a lot of thinking about Gale, but his character is not present through 90% of the narrative. Gale really isn't a major presence until Mockingjay.
3. Haymitch isn't at the reaping.
Woody Harrelson need to be covered in vomit more often.
 This actually made me sad. My only problem with the film was that I didn't feel Woody Harrelson played Haymitch mean enough or drunk enough. Haymitch is an asshole. The first part of the movie (life in District 12, and the journey to the Capitol) felt rushed, so we didn't get a lot of Haymitch and his winning personality. In the book, he is at the reaping and he's famous in Panem as the drunkest Hunger Games victor. He arrives, throws up on Effie's shoes, and falls into the audience. This is used as comic relief at the Capitol - showing that Haymitch is nothing more than a joke, his past victory a fluke. Haymitch's condition is also indicative of why no one from District 12 ever wins the Hunger Games - the only person they have to help them win is a lazy, mean, disinterested drunk. At one point in the book (which was cut from the movie) Peeta begs Haymitch for advice. He drunkenly replies, "Stay alive." Katniss and Peeta laugh, prompting a rare moment of outward anger from Effie. She reminds them that this really isn't funny since Haymitch is their only contact to the outside world once they're in the arena. I felt that this was a defining character moment for all parties involved, and missed it in the movie.
4. There are some Avoxes - wtf is an Avox?
This stuff might make it into an extended cut. Avoxes are rebels against the Capitol who have been punished instead of killed. They've had their tongues removed and work to serve the Capitol. While this is a fascinating bit of world building, the Avoxes don't play a major part in the trilogy as a whole. So, in the movie, we don't get the whole sub story where a number of years ago, Katniss witnessed a refugee get captured and finds that same refugee as her own personal Avox in the Capitol. Interesting, but not essential.
5. The Mutts in the movie aren't like the Mutts in the book.
I liked this part a lot. I had no idea how they would pull off the Mutts as described in the book. In the book, the Muttation dogs that show up toward the end are all based on the tributes who had previously died in the arena. They all have tribute eyes. I found this terrifying. However, other fans of the book felt that it came out of nowhere. There is no previous indication that the Capitol has this technology. As the series goes on, we understand that the Capitol has the technology to mess with a person's brain as opposed to their physical world, but still. The Mutts in the movie are toned down from horrific dead tributes in dog form, to just horrific mutant dogs. Those were scary enough. In general, I liked all of the scenes that cut to Seneca Crane and his show running. Those scenes highlighted just how far removed everyone was from the actual deaths occurring in the arena. Creating vicious killer dogs and walls of fire are easy when you aren't faced with the real consequences.
6. President Snow is all over this movie - foreshadowing!
President Snow spends less time in the book than Gale does. Again, Katniss does a lot of thinking about President Snow. There are times when the scenes with President Snow felt like the movie was spelling out the more difficult themes. But all things considered, I thought those scenes were handled well. Plus, Donald Sutherland. You can't hire a name that big just to have him show up for 30 seconds.
7. You mean... Rue's black?
If racism were an issue in Panem, all the tributes would be black.
 Last week, a number of twitter users got up in arms over Rue, the adorable girl from District 11 being cast as black. These people proceeded to complain about Cinna also being cast as black. io9 ran an article on all the hate. As far as Rue goes, I read her as black. Others I've talked to read Rue as Indian. Collins describes her as having dark skin. I can see where one could read Rue as white - Katniss compares her to Primm often (but says "with the exception of skin color"). If you're reading quickly, that part might be easy to miss. However, the idea that Rue's death is any less tragic because of her skin color is sickening. Within the narrative of The Hunger Games, Collins takes pains to avoid use of terms such as Black, Asian, Indian, Native American, etc. Skin colors are simply described in terms of actual color. The people of Panem have such a nebulous sense of their own nation - the idea that there may also be other countries and continents is beyond them. Rue would never identify with the label African American, because wtf is Africa? Skin color is skin color. Dystopian governments have a lot of problems (hence the term dystopia) and they work to divide people in a million different ways, but in The Hunger Games, race is not one of them. Outside of the narrative of either the movie or the book, it's okay to have your own vision of a character that might conflict with what the author intended. But within The Hunger Games, a little girl dies horribly and her skin color shouldn't matter. I know I cried like a little bitch through that whole section of the movie, and I would have cried no matter what color Rue was.
So, those are my thoughts. I am unabashedly in love with both the trilogy and the movie.Go ahead and judge. I do what I want.

1 comment:

  1. I havent seen it yet, and this makes me want to see it more. And, no one can deny that 80s and 90s Goldblum was just sex. There, I said it.