The Hunger Games

April 18, 2012 — Leave a comment

215px-HungerGamesPosterIt may take a while to make the shift, but over the summer you should start seeing more frequent commentary on movies I’ve watched. I’m not sure if I’ll start doing formal reviews or not, but I might. If nothing else, you’ll get me to see me develop applications from my thesis to informal movie watching.

Don’t get your hopes up too high, but bear with me as I start expanding my horizons.

Last night Ali, Ivan and I went to see The Hunger Games. None of us were particular fans of the book series prior to the movie coming out. Ali read all three books just after the opening weekend, mainly because she had so many friends who are big fans of the series and she wanted to see what all the hype was about. Also, she had some concern about the ethical elements of the books, and the fact that many of the books’ target audience wouldn’t really be equipped to navigate through those (i.e. her youngest sister). To better equipped to dialogue then, she took the time to read the books.

I probably won’t read the books, though I understand from a literary point of view they are very well written. I just don’t particularly like dystopian novels, so I decided to pass.

As far as watching the actual movie, for starters, it was cinematically excellent. Ali said that it is probably the best movie adapted from a book she’s ever seen (as far as not messing up the plot, leaving things out, that sort of thing). Because of the camerawork, it is very easy to identify with Katniss Everdeen (the protagonist) and really see things from her point of view (which is easier in the book because of all her internal monologues). I can only imagine the next two will be just as outstanding.

I’m not going to give a plot synopsis since I’m assuming either a) you’ve read the books or seen the movie yourself or b) you know how to use Wikipedia. I’m also going to bypass the other online discussions/reviews since c) you know how to use Google. These are just my unfiltered thoughts about the movie.

First off, it was uncomfortable, to say the least, to imagine what it would be like to live in Panem. Though the books were written long before the whole Occupy Wall Street movement, The Hunger Games depicts what a real 99 to 1 divide would look like. Occupy The Capitol would make total sense. Occupy Wall Street just looks silly at this point. As I watched, I was glad I don’t, and hopefully won’t live to see a world like that (though of course you never know).

Second, it was very thought provoking to grapple with the power of death in the movie. Once the characters are selected as “tributes” to compete in The Hunger Games, there is a very stark juxtaposition between their outlook (of most likely impending death) and the outlook and demeanor of everyone else in the Capitol who lives a carefree life. For the people of the Capitol, death is a spectacle. For the tributes from the outlying Districts in Panem, death is an ever encroaching reality.

Third, I think in this movie at least, the themes of hope and redemption come through well. It is probably not coincidental that Peeta is instrumental in saving Katniss’ life because he loves her so much and ends up mortally wounded and buried in a cave for several days before emerging and becoming victorious. Without spoiling too much for you who’ve only seen the movie, while Katniss’ does voluntarily sacrifice herself to save her sister’s life in the beginning, it is ultimately not a redemptive move, but will instead end in tragedy. Taken as a series then, The Hunger Games trilogy is a tragedy in the classical sense.

In this first movie though, redemption is sought and accomplished. Prim is effectively sentenced to death by being selected as a tribute from District 12 in her first year of eligibility. Katniss volunteers to take her place and in the process not only wins The Hunger Games, but sticks it to The Capitol by forcing them to allow both her and Peeta to be crowned the victors. She uses the power of death to subvert The Capitol’s control over her and Peeta (by effectively threatening suicide in order to say “you can have two victors or no victors”) and at least as this movie ends, she gets away with it.

Overall then, the movie ends as a comedy would (a happy ending) but with ominous overtones that leave you still somewhat unsettled. The world of Panem is grim, as watching teenagers fight to the death for sport bears out. In some ways this parodies our own cultures’ overt fascination with reality TV. However, it is presented as a tragedy itself and is clearly “not the way its supposed to be.” Katniss is trying to rebel and is temporarily successful in overcoming the power of death. As Christians, we can see similarities here with our own quest to overcome the power of death and possess a certain hope. In The Hunger Games, there may be hope, but there is no certain hope, and without any kind of ultimate victor to destroy the regime and its power, all we can really see is tragedy looming on the horizon.

Nate

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I'm an avid reader, musician, and high school Bible teacher living in central Florida. I have many paperback books and our house smells of rich glade air freshners. If you want to know more, then let's connect!

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