February 7, 2012

Let's Talk About: The Hunger Games

You know how it is.

When a form of entertainment (that isn't a film in it's genesis) is praised to high heaven by critics and, more importantly, the general public, it's only a matter of time before said property is given the big screen treatment.

This is where it gets complicated.

Some of my favorite films are based on previous material. Indeed, the best movie I have ever seen is based on a pretty trashy novel. And recently, we have had some great movies that have been adapting books or plays or whatever, ranging from The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, to War Horse, to Harry Potter.

But, there's that one franchise that screws it up for everyone else. That one that is so inexplicably popular given how mediocre it is that it boggles my mind to even comprehend it.


It's ok. You can come out from behind the couch. It won't hurt you.

Stephanie Meyer's vampire/werewolf/mormon love stories are pretty terrible as far as literature go, and the movies have ranged from merely passable to charting whole new levels of awful. But, there is a certain demographic that eats that shit up. Twilight is one of the most successful franchises in recent memory, and the studios are no doubt aware of this, and are, most likely, eager to tap into that vein again.

Which is why I am terrified that they will screw up The Hunger Games!

I just read the first book in Suzanne Collins' trilogy a week ago. And yes, there is some validity to the whole argument that it sort of rips off Battle Royale, or Logan's Run, or whatever, but I don't care. That thing was like literary crack; I read the whole thing in a day and it was all I could do to not immediately buy the next two. It was thrilling, touching, engrossing, and believable. Katniss and Peeta are a much more interesting, honest, and cheer worthy couple than Bella and Edward could ever be on their best day, and the depiction of the post-apocolyptic world feels all too real, and yada yada yada. That's all good, but what sets The Hunger Games apart from it's contemporaries is its violence.

That book is twisted!

The level of no holds barred savagery that Collins portrays is not something you expect to find in a young adult novel. Hell, if this level of violence appeared in a Tom Clancy novel or a Michael Crichton thriller, it'd still be jarring. And this is the thing that makes The Hunger Games so good and so believable. It doesn't kiddie down the stakes at all. Children are going to die, and they are going to in pain, far from home, and at the hands of other children. It's a chilling concept that, yes, has been done before, but rarely this good.

And I just know the movie is not going to take advantage of it! Like it or not, The Hunger Games falls into the same category as Twilight, a mildly fantastical story featuring young adults aimed at young adults. And with that in mind, I have to assume that the studio is going to pare down the violence and menace, and pare up the romance. And that might not be such a bad thing, cuz the romance in The Hunger Games is actually not that bad. It's motivated more by stakes and genuine affection than teen angst. It works, but it's not what makes the book so good.

I know the movie is going to be PG-13; that's inevitable. So we won't get the graphic bloodshed that was so plentiful in the book, but that doesn't mean it can't be harrowing. The Dark Knight was one of the most violent and intense PG-13 movies ever, and it's stupid to compare yet another film to that one, but it's still relevant. The people behind Twilight can't hope to match that, because the people behind Twilight aren't talented. The people behind The Hunger Games are very talented, so there is a chance.

They can make the relationship between Katniss and Peeta as important as they want. But I want more. I want Haymitch's alcoholism to be front and center. I want the totalitarian regime of Capitol to be ever present. I want the scene where Katniss drops a hive of wasps on her opponents to be brutal and intense. I want Cato's sadism to shine through. I want the final confrontation at the Cornucopia to be jarring and scary. I want Rue's death to leave me in tears.

That can be done at a PG-13 level. Easily.

Don't fail me Jennifer! I've put too much faith in you!!!!!!!!


  1. I'm with you on this one. Completely. I read the entire trilogy, and yes, it was completely literature crack. Couldn't stop it if I wanted to. I really don't know how to feel about the movies. The thing is, from the trailers, it LOOKS like I imagined the books to look. Setting-wise, I think it's going to be perfect. Whether they keep the violence and the complex moral issues in times of war in there...well. That's another story.

    Yet, I'm not too worried. One reason: Haymitch was my favorite. So they can fuck up all they want, but they've got Woody Harrelson playing Haymitch. My faith in that man in immense, so I know that no matter what, he will rock on with his badass self.

  2. I'm surprised to say that I agree with you about the Hunger Games book. It was a really easy read and well-done, and I'm looking forward to the movie. However, I am worried that it won't work. I will say that I wasn't such a big fan of the second and especially the third book.