Friday, April 6, 2012

The Hunger Games: Survival of the Smartest

It’s so easy to be cynical. I should know, I revert into cynicism on a daily a basis and call it reason. But The Hunger Games does not deserve the cynicism it gets JUST because it is supposedly of the ‘young adult’ market. I think it’s written in a style that makes it accessible to that market, but its subject matter is fundamentally human. Aimed at humankind. Marketing it as the ‘new Twilight’ wasn’t a great move, because it is a million times more complex, thought provoking and socially and politically relevant. I’m not just taking aim at Twilight for the sake of it, we all know it’s something of a guilty pleasure – a story that has obviously captured the hearts of many but it is in no league like The Hunger Games.

I think the movie actually makes The Hunger Games even better. It has a rational, fierce, independent heroine who cannot afford to depend on anyone and clear political undertone – an elite subduing the masses and punishing them through reality television. Yes, there’s a love story – a potential love triangle but it’s not sentimental in a soppy sense and it does take a backseat to the main drive which I prefer. It’s not so much feminism as here is a rational, intelligent human being who can be self-reliant. Essentially, survival comes first. I like Katniss in the book but actually Jennifer Lawrence made me really respect her because she plays her with such subtlety, you don’t have the inner dialogue that you have in the book which is actually kind of a positive in many respects. She is tough yet simultaneously vulnerable, fierce but loyal, and she’s not so self-righteous like many other heroines. In the film when Peeta talks about retaining his integrity and ‘dying as me’, she simply responds: ‘I can’t afford to think like that’. She doesn’t pretend that she isn’t going to kill anybody when it comes down to it, because she’s realistic.

The movie and book are both uncompromising, children hacking each other to death for sport, made more poignant through characters like Rue, the youngest, who Katniss allies herself with. But this is not meaningless violence, the Capitol manipulates all the action. Starting fires, releasing savage beasts, to control and sustain the show for the viewer’s pleasure. The element of having sponsors highlights how in modern society, it’s all about crowd-pleasing. Katniss must play the game, pretend to have feelings for Peeta – and it’s done so cleverly that you’re never really sure if she does. To give them the best chance they have to be groomed and pimped and play their roles. Survival is so much more than just staying alive. The Games is a perfect means of social control through the media –a commemoration of the Capitol’s victory over the masses – and a form of penance – where each District must offer up a boy and a girl as a Tribute and apology for the previous rebellions. To treat it as an honour – a celebration – the Capitol tries to control reason. But it will rue the day when reason fights back .
Films for this market rarely get considered for Oscars, but the camera-work and editing was sensational – really captured the grittiness, the panic – sheer realism and sensory enhancement. The acting, as I mentioned before was also brilliant and the colours and costumes captured the essence of the book very well.

The book and movie work on so many levels – it ultimately depends on the reader/viewer. Is this society of Panem really so far-fetched? Image – war – social antagonism – poverty – reality television – media manipulation – how monstrous mankind can be to each other- humiliation, suffering – all for show and cheap entertainment. To me, that sounds familiar.

“Happy Hunger Games! And may the odds be ever in your favor!”
-Effie Trinket
"You don't forget the face of the person who was your last hope." - Katniss Everdeen
“Only I keep wishing I could think of a way to…to show the Capitol they don’t own me. That I’m more than just a piece in their Games”
-Peeta Mellark
"And while I was talking, the idea of actually losing Peeta hit me again and I realized how much I don't want him to die. And it's not about the sponsors. And it's not about what will happen when we get home. And it's not just that I don't want to be alone. It's him. I do not want to lose the boy with the bread." 
- Katniss Everdeen
"You know what my mother said to me when she came to say goodbye... she says maybe District Twelve will finally have a winner. Then I realised she didn't mean me - she meant you!" - Peeta Mellark

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