Wednesday, November 20, 2013

A Review of The Hunger Games Trilogy--Part 1: The Hunger Games

Your theme music--the entire soundtrack for the movie! :D

            I understand that I haven't posted many reviews lately but I had yet to decide on a topic….  And I figured that it's time for yet another book review.  But this one I had to word carefully.  I don't want to seem like an anarchist, a communist, a fascist, a Nazi (I'm only a Grammar Nazi, not the other kind…) or anything else by choosing my words poorly, just to have people take it way out of context.  I've had to even do research for this review.

            But I have to say something about The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, which is the first book in a trilogy that examines a futuristic society that doesn't exactly force absolute perfection, but rather more along the lines of production from the impoverished Districts of Panem that sprouted from the ruins of the United States, whose products only serve the wealthy people in the Capitol.  It has been a mega-hit all over the States as a book, only to explode again as a film.  And seeing that I have two pieces of media that share the same name, I've decided to review them both here.  As for the next two installments, I'll share my expectations for the film adaptations.  I should also issue a SPOILER ALERT for those of you who have yet to either read the book (which should be first) and see the film (which should be second).

            And now, the review:

The Hunger Games: The Book

            There have been many texts throughout recorded history that have forced us to think, to consider, to look at ourselves or our ancestors in a mirror, to see what society can do to mankind, to an outsider…  Hell, I can guesstimate that about one-third of those texts have earned a spot on the Banned Book List.  But it's only recently that The Hunger Games have received such a response, mostly from me.  When I was reading it, I can picture a society that not only advanced towards the future but also held onto the barbarism of ancient history, especially the fights between Gladiators at the Roman Coliseum, where people fight to the death.  I think I should also note that, throughout history, death was also an event, where masses of people would attend an execution by hanging and make a party or picnic out of it.  Idaho State Penitentiary, that once housed many inmates but is now a dwelling for ghosts to haunt, was once such place, where the hangings were held in the courtyard and people would climb the hillside that neighbors the prison just to watch; they would even bring their children.  And speaking of which, the Hunger Games seems to echo that grotesquely gory film Battle Royal (Japanese edition--NSFAWHVAG, Not Safe For Anyone Who Hates Violence And Gore, in addition to NSFW and NSFK--Not Safe for Kids), where kids were forced to fight for their own survival or be killed.

            But anyways…to have that blend really strikes a chord with me; not only do I hate having kids kill other kids, but to force some to kill when they're as young as 12 years old.  12 FUCKING YEARS OLD!  They shouldn't have to face death or take another kid's life like that; but they are forced to, for the entertainment of the Capitol citizens.  Victory promises food, supplies and wealth for the winner's family and District; losing meant certain death.  And the Hunger Games were certainly the most fearful event that the District citizens have to face.  That line, "May the odds be ever in your favor"?  It's interesting: the odds are only in your favor if you are not chosen to be the Tribute, the child warrior forced to fight for survival; if you were chosen, the odds would diminish greatly, as you have 1 in 24 chance of winning, which basically means you have a 4.2%  chance of surviving--a 95.8% guarantee of being slaughtered while your family, friends and District is forced to watch you die; if you train well, it'll decrease enough for you to survive for a significant amount of time, but you'll still wind up dying anyways.

            As soon as I finished reading the book, I can see that Panem does not only exist in this text or off in the future; it's already here.  I can see that all the first-world countries (people with wealth, especially) are represented in the Capitol of Panem, with all the second- and third-world countries being the outlying Districts.  Why should we let those "Districts" suffer?  We're practically hoarding the wealth.  In fact, I may be living well beneath the poverty line here, but I'm still doing quite fine: I've got a roof over my head, clothes, food, running water, electricity, etc.  But why can't the millionaires and billionaires simply downgrade their lives, while keeping security top-notch?  They can afford it, especially after selling all those expensive cars and homes off!  Why not allow people a decent life?  I'm not saying, "FORCE THE ENGLISH LIFESTYLE ONTO THE AMISH!" at all--I'd never say that, especially since it'd go against their religious beliefs!  But why can't we give a part of the life, as in the life we the people in the wealthy Capitol countries have every day, to the ones who need it desperately, like those who don't have medical treatments readily available or food to those who are starving every single day, each day more painful than the last.

            To be honest, I enjoyed reading it; to see the insane future we face if capitalism went out of control (aristocracy, bitches!) through the eyes of someone forced into this "entertainment", read "annual televised execution of innocent children that reminds people who is in control."  Suzanne Collins really did well with writing, using the best descriptions that I can only dream of using.  Her depiction of Bush-era America may be a little extreme, but I like it because it's the kind of reality check people need, in order to see how evil and shitty our society can become.  I hope that it doesn't get banned; if it does, it should be a badge of honor because it really shakes people, rather become than a mark of shame made out of the denial that certain people prefer to drown themselves in instead of feeling the emotional shock that comes with being bitchslapped by a significant dystopian novel, the only kind of novel whose film counterpart broke box office records that weekend.

The Hunger Games--The Feature Film

            If anyone can take a book from inside a population's head, make it one uniformed visual experience, and put it onto a screen JUST to have people say, "THAT'S what it looks like, for sure!", it's Gary Ross.  He made the book into a film that I consider to be unlike any other.  He transformed the novel into what seems to be a fraternal twin to the novel, similar yet still different.  For one, certain scenes were omitted, probably for time constraints and because too many details will make the overall plot convoluted and laggy.  But they made the point of not having a voice-over of Katniss' internal dialogue; it really is good for a first-person point of view novel, but not for a movie that fits into multiple genres: it's a dystopian-action-war-gladiator flick!  Not to mention that Ross just went and made the film less dependent on the book, with its cutaway scenes to the Games control rooms, its ways of conveying messages of "it might be dramatic violence, but it's still a contest, with people abhorrently betting on the lives of minors," and "people are emotionally invested in surviving, not just physically," and "the Capitol is the real villain here, not the contestants."

            I'd like to praise Gary Ross' decision to omit sound during that first fight scene when all the Tributes started slaughtering each other; I agree that it's mostly visual, that it has a major emotional impact, that there's some sort of detachment in that moment, etc, but I'd like to add more praise from the view of people who have certain disabilities.  I believe that if there were sounds added to that fight scene, it'd be overwhelming, far too overwhelming for people who suffer from sensory overload from time to time (I'm not exempt from this Autistic Spectrum Disorder trait; I mostly blame my smartass hearing aids who actually amplify the loudest sound there is at the time--meaning sirens and smoke alarm beepings and things like that, and it winds up being all that I hear, so it frightens and overwhelms me, to the point where I now remove my hearing aids and cover my ears until it all passes; similarly, when someone whistles near me, I give them looks that should punch them in the face and shout, "STOP WHISTLING!"… *slaps self for squirreling too much on the one topic*  Sorry, guys, train of thought took a longer detour…) so it'd be far too much for us peeps with ASDs to deal with.  And what about people who have Post Traumatic Stress Disorders?  They'll suffer from the audio + video double whammy combo and flip out, and if they can't handle the video, they can just close their eyes.  So, yeah, it benefits multiple people.

            The book really fed interest into the movie, and vice versa, which I've never really heard of; normally, it's films just based on the book, like it's the foundation of the film--an issue you can see with the Harry Potter movies and the Twilight saga.  But to have it stand as a reflection of the novel really just piqued a lot of interest.

            I especially love the design of the set, the atmosphere, some of the Capitol-style clothing.  If there are any real-life versions of these costumes, I'd love to have them!  And no, please, no cheap knock-offs and cheap takes on certain outfits (like what I saw at Party City--I mean, really!  Take pride in your work, not make a design that allows you to mass-manufacture it!), because these garments cannot simply be faint shadows of the costume itself.  I'd rather feel I am a less-than flamboyant resident of the Capitol, rather than a cheap copycat.  And who the HELL made the furniture in the training tower suite?!  They just have to be my interior designers!  It really conveyed the whole idea of "This is Panem, these are the Districts, this is the Capitol, this is the Arena."  Really well done, guys!  I'd give the design and aesthetic an A+!

            As a for warning those of you people who have yet to see the film but already read the book:  It's definitely different, so don't expect the crew to have it done exactly the same as the novel.  There are going to be scenes missing and items that are different, so try not to nitpick.  Rather, let the interpretation guide you through a similar path of the story, one where you can still experience Katniss' terror, yet  be able to look at what's happening in the background.

            All in all, the book is a must-read, and the film is a must-see. 8.7 stars out of 10!

            P.S. HOLY SHIT!  I didn't expect Cinna to look like an alternate reality version of LENNY MASTER-BATING KRAVITZ!  *FLAILS*