Saturday, April 21, 2012

Reader's Diary #821- Suzanne Collins: The Hunger Games

Just as the movie came out about five weeks ago, I noticed Debbie reading the Hunger Games. Then co-workers. Then a cashier at a local liquor store. I'd known the Hunger Games was popular with the pre-teen/teen crowd, but suddenly it seemed to be this giant phenomenon, and somehow, once again, I was late to the party. Then, when it went into its fourth week at the local theatre, the Hunger Games started to look like it wasn't going to go away unless I broke down and saw it; and of course, like all self-respecting readers, I had to first read the book and so I spent a weekend devouring it, following it up with the movie the following Tuesday.

What's to be said of the Hunger Games that hasn't already been said? Nothing really, but I would like to acknowledge that I did quite enjoy it, despite my skepticism. On the surface there didn't appear to be much in the way of originality. Certainly its anti-capitalist, abuse of government power, post-apocalyptic survival themes have all been done before. Even the reality show angle has been done before-- by no less than Stephen King (The Running Man), long before the term "Reality TV" even existed. But when you consider that all of these ideas are now combined and aimed at teenage readers, with a female protagonist that even young male readers are interested in (which almost never seems to happen, though the opposite is often true), it's sufficient enough to make The Hunger Games stand on its own. It helps that the writing is great-- fast but still insightful, well-developed and likeable characters, imaginative but grounded.

As for the movie, yes, I also thought it was a faithful, excellent adaptation, though I enjoyed the book somewhat more. Some book parts were very cleverly incorporated into the movie. I thought the description of the "tracker jackers," for instance, was worked in masterfully. My one and tiny beef with the movie was the part of Katniss's younger sister. She was portrayed way too young for her 12 years. I teach that age group, and they certainly don't seem as immature as Primrose was being  portrayed here. This character acted more like my 8 year old daughter, and the other characters seemed to treat her as such. There's a particularly annoying scene near the end showing her on the shoulders of her sister's friend Gale. Other than that the casting selections and character portrayals were quite enjoyable.

As for the sequels? Despite my appreciation of this first book, I'm in no rush to read them. As long as it's before the movies, I'm fine.


Sarah M said...

I admit that I was late to the Hunger Games party too. I enjoyed the book, and haven't seen the movie yet, although I intend to. I'm not in a hurry to read the other 2 books in the trilogy either. I thought the first was fine on its own.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Okay, now that I am officially the last person in the world who has not read The Hunger Games, I guess I should put it on the tbr list. I do enjoy a good post-apocalypse!

Loni said...

So glad you liked it. I really enjoyed the whole trilogy.

John Mutford said...

Sarah: Talking to my wife Debbie, who just finished the 2nd book, she feels that Collins could have simply written 2 books, and made the 2nd longer-- apparently it doesn't stand on its own like the first one.

Barbara: I like post-apocalyptic books, but I have to put a space between them, otherwise I get too down.

Loni: I'm hoping I enjoy the others as much.

Allison said...

I went with a friend to see the movie, as she really wanted to see it, being a huge fan of the books.

There is not enough room here for me to get into my long rant.

I was not a fan. In fact, I strongly disliked it. I have no desire to read the books.

My biggest gripe? I'd love to see a female character not dependant on a male character to succeed. Or have anything to do with a love story. Ugh.

John Mutford said...

Allison: Wow, it's like we saw 2 different movies. Then, maybe as I had the book context, I didn't see how it could be viewed that way. If anything, in this case the male is more dependant on the female to succeed. As for the love story, I liked that there wasn't much of one. It was Peeta who was interested in Katniss, but she really wasn't there at all. Maybe she became confused somewhat about her feelings towards the end, but really just going through the motions to give the (fictional) audience what they wanted. I can see that point being lost in the movie, as you miss her thoughts while, for instance, she decides to kiss him. For a story about teenagers, I thought the romance was actually downplayed.

Allison said...

I definitely think the book probably gave a better context to her thoughts - perhaps they should have thought about a voice over for the movie.

Still, Peeta is the one that saves her from the others when she's up the tree (along with the other girl, whose name I can't recall), even before the love story starts to play itself out.

I guess I was expecting a bit more.

As an aside, I was completely shocked it got a PG rating. Didin't Harry Potter end up being rated PG-13? I thought Hunger Games was definitely more violent.