My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I don’t think I can see The Hunger Games movie. Not because I didn’t like the book or because I don’t think it’ll translate well. No, I just don’t think I can see such an uncomfortable story rendered on-screen.
And make no mistake: The Hunger Games is very uncomfortable. It takes its Survivor-On-Steroids plot – twenty-four children pitted against each other in a game that only ends when all but one are dead – seriously.
It’s the story of Katniss, a teenage girl trying to survive in a dark future where the capitol of the shattered remnants of North America keeps its satellite districts in line by forcing them to give up one boy and one girl every year to participate in the Hunger Games – and then forcing them to watch as their children kill each other.
There’s no escape into gonzo exaggeration, there’s no “hey, we were just kidding” or deus-ex-machina ending. Just our most vulnerable being sacrificed on the altar of totalitarian authority.
That, however, is probably the novel’s biggest strength, what makes it so un-put-downable: The tension might wane some, but it never, ever goes away. Even before the Hunger Games proper start, you’re dreading what’s to come… what Katniss might have to do… how even for all her calculations and mistrust, she might get horribly hurt anyway.
But the one thing I really like about it is that it takes a trope normally found in spy fiction – that of trying to figure out who you are when your survival depends on playing to someone else’s expectations – and puts it in a very different space, as Katniss discovers that putting on a good show for the audience can earn her care packages from the outside.
But when doing so means developing a romance “plotline” with Peeta, the chosen boy from her district, how does Katniss know whether his responses to her are genuine, when every move could be calculated to ensure he’s the only one who survives? Worse – how does Katniss know whether she feels something genuine toward Peeta, especially when she’s starting to realise she might also feel something for her best friend Gale – who’s probably watching as she performs (or not?) with Peeta so she can stay alive?
The Hunger Games keeps to its premise so well that there’s little chance of a truly happy ending, and while the book ends with a lot of issues unresolved, there’s really nowhere else the plot could have gone. It simply needs at least one more book to tell.
So I’m just going to have to track #2 down some time soon…
But What About You?
So what did you think of The Hunger Games? How did it surprise you?
Did the movie managed to carry the book’s plot well?