The moment you hear the line: "May the Odds Be Ever in Your Favor," this Birdie had chills running down her spine. Of course I saw The Hunger Games the day it opened. And to get to the point: Yes, it was Awesomesauce. I rarely look forward to movies these days, it's like saying, "Here's ten bucks, entertain me at a mediocre level and fill me with regret over not spending the cash on a cheeseburger." I saw previews for another reboot of the Spiderman franchise, Titanic re-relased in another dimension of seeing Leo go down with the ship, and a cheesy 70's parody of Dark Shadows. But that one's by Tim Burton and I kind of admit I'm intrigued, as I loved that goofy show. The Twilight preview made me giggle, as I feel like The Hunger Games is like the antithesis of teenage vampire-werewolves in heat. But at long last, after most of my illicit smuggled-in snacks were eaten, the real show began...
Oh, and what a show it was! I admit, I'm biased because I love-love-loved Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games book series. It's not flawless, and neither is the movie, but for something with the Scholastic Press publishing label slapped on it, the story is satisfyingly mature. A lot of people were commenting on Facebook how they didn't know what the big deal was and they were maybe a little timid about giving a "young adult" book series a try. I blame toe-gazer Twilight for making people suspicious about giving books like this a read. No one batted an eye about sharing the same book as your second grader about the boy-wizard named Harry, so there's no reason to assume The Hunger Games will feel like kiddie fare or being trapped too long on the Isle of Emo-Teens.
The movie adaptation of The Hunger Games compliments the book nicely. Yes, certain details are left out, but themes of the story remain true: sacrifice, resilience, and defiance. There is as much meaty material for adults as there is for teenagers. There are lessons hashed out in a fictional dystopia that can be applied to the things you see on the news today: teenagers being shot and killed by fearful authorities, protestors demanding economic revolution, class warfare reaching a flash point. Children and young adults are dying in our present-day, sacrificed on an altar of nightly news and political agenda -- this "tween" book series perfectly frames our current reality in a manner that asks the real question: how do we begin to heal what is broken?
I'm not going to spoil anything, because I think you should see/read it for yourself, but for fans of the book, seeing the movie bring to life the words that described "The Girl on Fire," made me want to cheer, and Amandla Stenberg, who plays Rue, could not have been more heartbreakingly perfect. Jennifer Lawrence does a fantastic job as Katniss Everdeen. She embodies the stubborn, emotionally self-contained heroine. She doesn't choose to be a champion for a deranged society, but accepts it because it's a means to an end to keep her family safe. Life isn't perfect; cowboy-up. The scene where she's seconds from being released into the arena for battle, the subtle tremors of fear causing stray tendrils of her hair to quiver so slightly, will make you want to hold a loved one extra-tight. The movie perfectly illustrates a population stuck in a rift of economic disparity where the poor are weakened to near starvation and the rich bask in ridiculous, offensive frivolity. The only thing more offensive than the rich is their Roman gladatorial-styled Hunger Games, pitting selected youth against one another until a lone survivor remains, and the winning home district is awarded with additional supplies. The young characters carry this storyline, and a twisted ideal of hope upon their shoulders. When they are abandoned to savagery in the arena, it's intentionally disturbing, a reminder to never let times become so desperate. The intrusive media influence, capturing every emotion and interplay is meant to be a jab at our own obsession with reality TV. Our current reality may not be this severe, but enough elements exist to make the story relatable, uncomfortable, and with an uncertainty that leaves you wondering what's to come.
Jaunty Fine Print: illustration by Denise Sakaki, inspired by The Hunger Games