Friday, March 30, 2012

The Hunger Games

***Lots of spoilers ahead!

Here are a few off the cuff reactions to The Hunger Games:

- I enjoyed it much more when I read in larger chunks rather than a chapter or two here and there. They're better when quickly consumed.

- The first book was clearly the best.

- Collins has a way of not making the story exactly what you think it's going to be. The way she brought us back to the arena in the second book without telling us exactly the same story, allowing us to revisit some of what we loved about the first book but with entirely new plot twists to keep is fresh, especially the way she figured out how to get Katniss and Peeta back in the arena. I thought that was a good move. The way Katniss killed Coin rather than Snow, thus making Snow's death rather anticlimactic. The way Prim died in the end, the very thing Katniss was trying to prevent in the first place. The way it's not really happy ending at all. There are  moves like this along the way that make it feel original.

- However, I feel indifferent to the originality of the story. It's kind of a post-apocalyptic version of Spartacus, except that Katniss is not some great hero calling the shots.

- Also, we've seen the big governmental take down before, so what makes this so compelling? I'm actually asking that because I haven't quite sorted it out. But something about this series has made it a cultural phenomenon.

- I think one thing that makes it so compelling is that it's tragic. There is no happy ending.

- In fact, if you view the story as a kind of parable, the real question become how do we keep from repeating our past, especially seen in Coin's willingness to impose another hunger games on the prisoners from the Capitol. Are we on a crash course for another Roman Coliseum?

- This leads to the use of media. How close are we to this in real life, with out fascinating with reality TV, with the possibility that an entire war could be televised, with the reality of drone strikes, with social media? What would it take for the "culturally elite" to go this far? Think about this in terms of The Mockingjay concept. It offers an interesting way of understanding the place of art and advertising and celebrity in our culture. The way it was all a big game the whole time. Even when the rebellion was is full motion, they were using staged footage of Katniss to instill hope and rebellion into the people of the districts. This made me think of the movie Starship Troopers (you don't need to go watch it) and how the used the war to try and recruit more volunteers into the military. Still, as it relates to art in particular, Cinna's magic turned Katniss into a symbol of rebellion. For it to work it had to be beautiful, compelling, fascinating. Think about the power people have after their YouTube video has gone viral.

- I like that Katniss is never really this great hero. She always seems to be played by someone else in the know. Same with Peeta. In the end they never really get over their lives. They have nightmares and flashbacks.

- Collins does a good job giving us the back story in bits and pieces a long the way. Rarely does she devote long and laborious sections to history. We learn along the way, as if we are inside of Katniss's conscious.

- Along those lines, I think Collins has given us a very creative story-world. I have no problem imagining these characters in her world.

- In the end the problem becomes how to tell your kids what happened in the past, about bringing them into the story no matter what it is. There's something good there. Perhaps the real issues is whether or not the story can be told in such a way so as not to be repeated in the next National fallout.

- I didn't care for the love story too much, although I'm glad this isn't becoming a Team Gale versus Team Peeta thing like we saw in Twilight. But again, it seemed right that she didn't go with Gale, especially after learning this is was one of his bombs that killed Prim, thus damaging any hope for marrigae. And I liked that forgiveness didn't come easy for Katniss who has been so burned.

- Back to difficult reality of forgiveness and reconciliation, this is one of the things I liked about the Johanna Mason character. The Capitol took it all and she is likely to never let anyone too close ever again.

Tell me your reactions? Or elaborate and/or disagree with mine?


Scott Savage said...

I stand correct, thanks to Matthew Price. There is a heated battle going on between team Gale and team Peeta.

Scott Savage said...