Musings On the Hunger Games: The Books And The First Three Movies

When The Hunger Games was pretty new in the cinema, I was treated to go and see it. My sister-in-law took my wife and me. I knew next to nothing about it.

I enjoyed it. Then I went and enjoyed all three books.

Watching a movie before reading the book is one thing, watching the movie after reading the book is another.

Seeing Catching Fire, then, was a different experience. It fairly faithfully depicted the events of the book, point-by-point, but the movie was stuffed to bursting with these things, and there wasn’t really the space to flesh things out that needed fleshing out, or to enrich the environments or the story. I was a bit disappointed that it didn’t really seem to bring anything new to the table.

Of course, it already had the odds stacked against it in that regard, as the story of Catching Fire isn’t terribly different from the book/movie before it.

Ultimately, it wsn’t a bad film, let’s say it achieved a rating of Adequate rather than Great.

Last night, I finally got around to watching Mockingjay, Part 1. Saw the Hunger Games at the cinema, and Catching fire on DVD (ex-rental). I put the DVD/Blu-Ray combo of Mockingjay Part 1 on hold at the library a few months ago, but I guess the queue’s moving really slowly on that one, it hasn’t come through yet. It’s been on sale a couple of times on Amazon, but I haven’t bit the mullet and bought it yet (usually saving up for birthdays and Christmas). Who knows, Black Friday is soon and we usually pick up some DVDs cheap that day.

Mockingjay 1 has been free on Amazon Prime streaming, and so my wife and I watched it last night, during the eternal wait for Youngest to go to sleep. Who knows when it will disappear, I fairly often hear of things disappearing from Netflix.

Again, I enjoyed it. The movie was well-paced, it didn’t drag. This one had room to breathe. It’s been a long time since reading the book, and so there were things I remembered, things that were familiar, and things that weren’t. I don’t know that this means they added anything, but I felt a lot better about this movie than the previous one.

I liked some of the music in this one. The tune of The Hanging Tree starts a bit before Jennifer Lawrence sings it, and it’s introduced as a violin piece that to me was reminiscent of “One Will Fall By The Way”, a tune from the miniseries of the Stand. As originally broadcast, the violin kicks in at the end of The Stand Part 3, as the four heroes leave on their walk to Vegas.

There’s still rather a lot that needs to fit into Part 2, so I hope they manage to maintain the pacing, and the space needed for the story.

A big theme running through the stories, is Agenda.

The Capitol’s agenda for enslaving the Districts, and living a pampered lifestyle off the backs of their productivity.

The Capitol’s agendas for oppression and entertainment, putting the Districts’ children in the lottery for The Hunger Games.

Getting more personal to Katniss, who has been affected by all of the above impersonally until her sister was selected, and she volunteered in her place, Katniss becomes subject to the agendas of the production staff, particularly Effie, who want to put on a good show.

In the arena, first time round, Katniss is largely free from the pressure to act a certain way (she’s a bit busy fighting for her life), but she does still get some notes.

As a Victor, there’s a public face she is compelled to put on. Peeta’s quick thinking forced her into a certain role, President Snow makes threats for what might happen if she doesn’t comply, and of course the production staff like Effie are still trying to put on a good show.

By this time, Katniss is thoroughly allergic to being subject to other peoples’ whims. Her friends forge alliances for her, to help her, and the others, to survive. She’s likely to resist the plan if they just explain it to her, so they try to break it to her gently. and, naturally, she doesn’t appreciate being manipulated.

And she’s none too happy when she finds out why she was saved: her friends and supporters want her to be the face of the rebellion against the Capitol, be the symbolic mockingjay that will galvanise people to the cause. Her attempts at the scripted promos betray her dislike of being manipulated, even when she’s consented to it.

Haymitch is very astute when he asks which Katniss moments made the others in the room feel something, and the answers reveal it’s when she’s free, undirected.

Assuming the next film follows the book, there’s some more we see of how Katniss reacts to being subject to someone else’s agenda, and what she does when she’s finally able to go her own way.

President Snow is also very astute, and though he sucks at trying to control her, he knows very well how to get under her skin. He asks if she can trust the people she’s working for, and it’s clear she doesn’t really.

I heard a talk a while ago about youth work, and among other things it mentioned the popularity of The Hunger Games series. It resonates so well with kids and teens, because they similarly feel subject to the agendas of so many other people.

That talk is downloadable and streamable here.

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