“More inhumanity to man has been done by man himself than any other of nature’s causes.” — Samuel von Pufendorf
In the future world of Panem, there is a yearly contest between the twelve districts. One boy and one girl from each district are selected to fight in the Hunger Games. It is an event that is celebrated by the citizens in the capitol and an event that is feared by the people of the districts. The contestants range in age from 12 to 18 and, of these 24 children, the contest can only have one winner. Welcome to the Hunger Games, an event where children fight to the death until only one remains.
Ladies and Gentlemen it is now time for this month’s main event. The Hunger Games is in a fight to the death with itself in March’s main event.
Two stories enter, one story leaves when The Hunger Games steps into the Storydome.
The ContendersThe Book Title: The Hunger Games Author: Suzanne Collins Published: 2008 Pages: 374 The Movie Title: The Hunger Games Director: Gary Ross Released: 2012 Length: 142 Minutes Starring: Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen Josh Hutcherson as Peeta Mellark Woody Harrelson as Haymitch Abernathy
It should go without saying. There are SPOILERS ahead.
In the twelfth district of Panem, Katniss Everdeen is trying to get her daily hunting done before the afternoon’s ceremony. The Reaping is an event were the tributes from each district are selected for the annual Hunger Games. At 16 years old, this is nothing all that new for Katniss. She will be marched into the town square, along with all the other children in the district, and await the selection of the district’s tributes. However, there is something different about this year. Katniss’s twelve year old sister, Primrose, will also be in the lottery this year. Katniss tries to reassure her sister that since this is her first year, it is very unlikely that Prim will be selected. Despite the odds against it, Prim’s name is called and in an attempt to save her sister, Katniss volunteers to take her place. Katniss becomes the twelfth district’s girl tribute, while Peeta Mellark – a blonde haired boy who is the same age as Katniss – is the district’s boy tribute. They are carted off to Panem’s capitol, where they will be put in a fight to the death against the tributes from the other districts.
Alright, so this is probably as current a main event as there could be. I initially had something else lined up for this month, but with how incredibly popular The Hunger Games is right now it seemed the most appropriate way to close out the month of March.
Typically, I am not a big fan of young adult novels, but I have to admit that the idea of kids in a death match appealed to me somewhat. That may sound a little perverse, but I enjoy the original idea. Original in that this concept of children killing other children was written basically for children.
Beyond the premise, the novel does feel like a young adult novel. But the premise is a HUGE part of the story, so that counts for a lot. Collins’ story does lean more towards the adult side of young adult — this isn’t something a 7-year-old should be reading – but you still get the impression that she is writing for a younger demographic.
The novel’s standouts are its originality and its protagonist. Collins has created a future dystopia where a strong central government oppresses its weaker district states. The primary form of this oppression is the annual death match the districts’ children have to compete in. Yes, there have been stories where children have to fight to the death before The Hunger Games, but none of those stories were made for children. Like I said, the novel does still read like a young adult novel, but I think Collins credits that demographic with a lot more intelligence than some other young adult authors do. Collins doesn’t dumb it down for kids — well, not really.
Sure, some of the language she uses is simpler than what you might find in a novel written for adults, but her characters aren’t the stock lovelorn teenagers always needing to be rescued – you know who I’m talking about. Case in point: the novel’s protagonist. Katniss is strong, self-sufficient, and a survivor. She is everything that the hero of a story needs to be, but what is different is that Katniss is a girl. Quite often the strong hero-type characters are portrayed as men, and the women are the ones in need of saving. Katniss is a character that successfully breaks that mold.
I was admittedly hesitant about the book, but I was even more so about the movie. Simply going off the recent history of movies based off of young adult novels, I was not excited about seeing this movie. Hell, I was slightly embarrassed to be seen buying a ticket for the movie. Those feelings changed soon enough. The movie starts off with a simple backstory intro that sets up the world. And I mean simple — it’s just white text over a black screen. Nothing fancy, and the info isn’t too detailed either. It simply establishes a bit of the history of how this world got this way.
What I liked was that there wasn’t any over-explanation; the filmmakers instead said, here this is the story — either you buy into or you don’t. That seems to be the most common pitfall of the book to movie conversion: because the book gives so much history and backstory, the movie makers feel inclined to do the same thing. There is plenty of backstory in The Hunger Games that could have been introduced, but it would have slowed down the story. Instead, the filmmakers relied on cinematic storytelling to create a world that was believable enough that the audience is capable of buying into it without over-explanation.
A real bright point of the movie is the cast. I think they (casting director, producers, etc.) did an excellent job in assembling the cast, and the cast gave some pretty genuine performances. Elizabeth Banks was bizarre and kind of creepy, which was fitting for her character. Woody Harrelson’s character spent much of the time drinking and being a bit of an ass. So, pretty much, Woody was Woody. A bit of a side note: anyone else think he looked like a forty-something Kurt Cobain?
But the standout was Jennifer Lawrence. To me she seemed like this generation’s Ripley – for anyone who doesn’t know who I mean, check out Sigourney Weaver’s performance in the original Alien. She wasn’t the damsel in distress, she was a heroic teenage badass. But at the time she was still believable and she didn’t do too much. By which I mean, she didn’t bust in guns blazing and take out everyone single-handedly, a la Arnold Schwarzenegger. She was human and vulnerable while still being a heroic character.
Stylistically, the movie was different than I expected. I was picturing something more in line with the Harry Potter movies, where it feels fantastical, artificial, and expensive. On the contrary, Hunger Games feels gritty and real. Though there are times where some people might think they went too far, such as the scenes where it looks like the cameraman went to the Blair Witch School of the Shaky Cam. Personally the shaky cam didn’t bother me, it was pretty sparse, and when it was used I think it was appropriate.
Winner of Storydome: The movie, via decision.
What this fight came down to was a simple question — which would I rather do again, read the book, or watch the movie? A decision that was validated for me when I found out the movie was 2 ½ hours long. I didn’t know that before I saw it, and I didn’t realize it while I was watching it.
I didn’t really want to include any spoilers in this Storydome because of the fact that it just came out and not everyone has had a chance to see the movie or read the book.
One last thing, do yourself a favor and arrive late enough that you miss the trailers. All of the trailers I saw were for Kristen Stewart movies, and that’s something no one needs to subject themselves to.
Disagree with my assessment? Let me know about it in the comments section.
I’ll be back next week, as a new story steps into the ring.
— Tim Fitzpatrick, Editor
Editor’s Note: Tim Fitzpatrick is an English major at Lewis University with a focus on creative writing. Tim is 26 and is only just now starting college. He has always enjoyed telling a good story, and he is at Lewis to learn to do that better.