My weekly Recap for the week would look a little like: I started the Hunger Games trilogy on Friday morning and finished it this afternoon. On Sunday, I watched the movie. So this review is pretty similar to my normal recaps.
For those of you who haven’t heard, here is a quick plot recap. Katniss Everdeen lives in District 12. It is a harsh life presided over by the dictator in the Capitol. Each year, all twelve districts must offer up to the Capitol two children as tribute for a rebellion that was defeated 74 years ago. This year, Katniss’ sister Prim is chosen as a tribute from their district. Katniss volunteers to take her place. She travels to the Capitol where she sees how their oppressors live and must enter into an arena with 23 of her peers knowing that only one will emerge alive.
The books are very readable. They are easy reads and entertaining. They are aimed at a tween to young teen market although they obviously deal with some mature themes. The overall theme of the books is not immediately obvious and don’t become clear until the end of the final book. The first book in particular can be read primarily as action/adventure.
The movie is a faithful adaptation of the book. All the major moments from the book are present. I think that it is complete in and of itself. You don’t need to sit with someone who has read the books to explain the bits that are missing – like in the Harry Potter films. There are still some simplifications in the presentations which are a little annoying. The only moment I think it really botches is the anti-climax.
Katniss is the central cog in both the books and the movies. They are told from her perspective – strictly in the books and with only a couple small scenes in the movie. Whether you like the series or not depends on how much you like Katniss. She is compassionate, determined and possesses a high degree of bad-assery. But more interesting are her flaws. Her primary motivation is anger. She is completely unable to deal with her own feelings or to even realize she is unable to do so. She distrusts everyone. And most odd, she is completely without hope.
The last one made her hard for me to relate to, but intriguing to follow. Why would someone fight so hard without any hope? Not really of survival or of any improvement in her circumstances. She certainly doesn’t see any hope of improvement in society. Because of these flaws she makes horrible decisions – they are not apparent in book one, but come for the fore slowly over the course of the trilogy. It becomes obvious why the first person viewpoint is required as you start to understand just how lousy Katniss is at evaluating what is going on around her.
Hmm – I don’t want to give away how the book progress. But it is fair to say that as bad as the opening circumstances are for Katniss they go downhill. And her distrust and anger are completely justified throughout the whole length of the series.
Because of the market the books are aimed at there is a mandatory romantic triangle. But it is handled quite well. First it gives Katniss a reason to look outside herself. It keeps the story from being overwhelmingly grim. And it isn’t done as a straight-up cliche. The reason Katniss can’t choose is nt because both people are so dreamy, but because she’s in a war and can’t understand why people want to relate to her in this fashion at this time.
Little of this plays out in the movie or the first book though. Here the focus is mostly on the Hunger Games themselves and the pageant leading up to them. Uncharacteristically, but entertainingly, it also contains the only two people Katniss doesn’t distrust (a third counting her sister). Interesting that neither of these are the romantic leads. Those would be the draws of the first book and the movie: pageantry, action, some on-sides romance and a couple interesting relationships.
Finally Jennifer Lawrence caries the movie on her shoulders. The story depends on how we see Katniss depicted. In the books much of her struggle is internal, but since she is unable to cope with her own emotions everything plays out externally. It makes it a good role to portray on screen and Lawrence does a fine job.