Thursday, March 29, 2012

In Which Maggie Reviews the Hunger Games('s Audience)

The other day, VH1 asked me to do a review of the Hunger Games movie, which I did. Actually, the one that went live yesterday (read it here) is my second version of the review. I had to rewrite it because my first review that I dashed out, on re-read, was about the audience. When I confessed on Facebook that I'd had to throw out that first version, Facebook asked me if I'd post it here. So I will. But be warned, it's sort of bitter and opinionated.

Below are my original, just-seen-the-movie, unedited thoughts:


I’m pleased that everyone in the world now knows what the Hunger Games is about because it spares me that awkward moment of trying to explain that it’s about kids killing kids on national television. Some people just can’t buy into the concept. “It’s too implausible,” they would always say. “Who would watch kids killing kids on TV?”

I want you to hold that thought.

Opening night. The ever-growing line to get in made my teen author heart glad. It was made up of people of every size, shape, color, age, and race. Somehow, this incredibly intelligent YA book, skewering America’s love of voyeurism (reality TV, tabloids, shock bloggers) had managed to speak to all of them. I felt warm in the general direction of all my fellow Americans.

It didn’t take me long to feel warm in the general direction of the movie, either. Yes, the content of the first book was edited to fit into two hours, but it was more cutting than altering, and the spirit of each scene was so vibrantly attuned to the text that it felt as if the director had reached inside my head and placed my thoughts onscreen. Insert deja vu here. About twenty minutes into the film, I realized I hadn’t spent even a second analyzing the film from the point of view of a non-reader.

Get yourself together, Stiefvater! I exhorted myself. You’re supposed to be reviewing this movie for VH1! NOW IS NO TIME FOR RABID FANGIRLING.

But it didn’t work. I can’t separate my experience as a reader from my experience as movie-goer. I can’t even tell you what I thought worked the best about this adaptation. The casting (Stanley Tucci as Caeser Flickerman was genius)? The sets (with the exception of the strangely imagined cornucopia, the poverty of District 12 and the opulence of the Capital were awesomely done)? The acting (I can’t describe how moving it was to see Katniss [Jennifer Lawrence] begin shaking right before entering the arena)?

Basically, this: I cannot imagine a reader being unhappy with this adaptation. It maintains the spirit of the original so well.

That disturbing question lurked, though: “who would watch kids killing kids?” I couldn’t forget, as I sat in that theater, that I was. I told myself it was different for viewers in America versus viewers in Panem. Because in America, in this theater, we knew what this movie was trying to say. 

And then one of the tributes — the kids in the arena — was murdered. Though every kid onscreen was now a killer, this character was responsible for the death of one of the more sympathetic tributes, and she’d even seemed to enjoy it. Anyway, her neck got snapped.

Around me, the theater erupted in applause.


As I sat there with my hands pressed into my thighs, that’s when I realized just how well the film makers had done their job. Like the Gamemaker, they’d carefully monitored audience perception of good and bad, success and failure. Through editing and music and selective storytelling, they made villains and heroes of twenty-four victims. They had exactly proved the scathing point of the book; that we glossy and well-cared for members of the Capital could be made to enjoy watching a teen die.

My verdict? It’s a crazy-good piece of film-making about the insanity of kids killing kids.

Who would watch something like that?

Turns out, I would. But I’m still not going to clap over it.

Since writing this first review, too, I've had several people tell me that the movie just wasn't violent enough. They would've preferred to see more gore in order to enjoy it. I don't think I have to embellish my previous review in order for anyone to know my thoughts on that.


HealthyDanceMom said...

In the theater I was in opening Friday there was no applause and myself and others were actually crying during the opening of the games as kid after kid was murdered.

Christina said...

One of the things that makes HG so believable is the way people react despicably towards horrendous acts in the arena. The Capital claps and cheers, even the districts make bets on who will be killed next or who will win. People may see this dystopian world as not being realistic, the problem is it is too real. They just do not wish to see it. The comments and reactions of the audience in America rather than Panem prove it. I have heard a few people make the observation that we are the Capital and sadly I believe that they may be right.

Mia said...

Vague Spoilers Below

Through editing and music and selective storytelling, they made villains and heroes of twenty-four victims.
This is one of the reasons why I love how they ended things with Cato. He ended up being such a stark reminder that everyone was a victim.

Anonymous said...

Oh my gosh. Completely agree. *spoiler alert* I was in an audience that clapped for Clove's death and it completely infuriated me. I went on a satisfying rant after the movie, though...

Emily Hopkins said...

This is what happens when our society embraces the most violent acts of man. Good dystopian fiction presents fantastical outcomes of present human interaction and achievement, and questions the structure of authority that we create. Irresponsible entertainment strikes the essence of the dystopia genre and makes the horrifying acceptable. Such an audience reaction makes me sad.

Wendy said...

Amazingly astute review, Maggie! I don't think I'll ever see that death scene you talked about the same way again.

Sadly, I wasn't aware of falling into that crowd when I was there, so I was definitely played like a fiddle.

Marla said...

Excellent points, Maggie. I spent some time in the theater pondering what it says about us that we will plop into a seat for 3 hours and embark in an essentially voyeuristic experience. It definitely provided me with new thoughts in regard to the ways in which the book can be compared to everyday life. Both the book and the movie have gone a long way toward shining a spotlight upon the ways in which our own society work. As stated above, the Capitol represents things as they are now, which is a very sobering thought.

Anonymous said...

I loved the movie, I’ve seen it twice already, and plan to see it again. And although I find it incredible that someone could clap at the death of someone, I understand it. Its a movie (so the deaths aren’t real) and the human race is programed to take sides. Once they do, its hard not to feel good when your side triumphs, and angry when they lose (although the only time I actually /clapped/ was when scar died in the lion king. He was so mean……..).
One other thing about the movie that I noticed (this is for the people who want more gore) was that there was plenty of blood and guts, they just sped the whole thing up, so that before we were aware of what was going on, everything was clean. Like when Katniss shot Cato’s hand, at the end, I hardly knew what was going on, and then it was to dark to actually see the Mutts ripping him apart. Also they had to cut out a bunch to keep it pg 13.

PS PLEASEEEEE make the scorpio races into a movie! As a die hard horse addict, I can already imagine Corr, with his gleaming muscles, shoulders glistening in the spray..ethreal.. Please........I'm dying to see it come to life!

Anonymous said...

I almost cried as Clove died.
It's horrible that someone can applaude to that death!
They are kids who must kill each other to survive!
And as Cato said before he died:
He and Clove have been trained their whole life to win the games and bring pride to their District- I understand them in a way.
Imagine you was trimmed your whole life to kill other tributes to survive and to be honoured- wouldn't you do the same thing?
They are all just pieces in the games of the Capitol.
A sign, that none can defeat the Capitol.
And sorry if there are mistakes- I'm from Germany. :)

Info Online said...

Through editing and music and selective storytelling, they made villains and heroes of twenty-four victims.
This is one of the reasons why I love how they ended things with Cato. He ended up being such a stark reminder that everyone was a victim.

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...