“One’s real reaction to a book, when one has a reaction at all, is usually ‘I like this book’ or ‘I don’t like it’, and what follows is a rationalisation.” – G. Orwell 1948
In fact, I did not read the book. I watched the film in the company of my son (9) and wife (undisclosed). Both of them have read the novel, about which my son had a running commentary the entire length of the film highlighting differences between the book (what is real) and film (what is cobbled together for Hollywood.
The film was ‘The Hunger Games’, based on the book of the same name that was so well received several years ago as a rider upon the coat-tails of the Harry Potter stories. If you remember, every youth novel for several years had a quote that it was ‘the next Harry Potter’ on its back cover.
My answer to Orwell’s question is, “I liked it.” More than I thought I would, actually. As we watched it, I was thinking about just what it was that gave me this feeling and I think it is the use of the media by a weak government in order to maintain control of a restless population. It’s a common theme for dystopian films, some calamity has left the world in a shambles and a new government has arisen from the ashes to seize control. However, there is an enormous amount of instability in these new governments, so measures are taken to pacify a restless populace.
Previous incarnations of this sort of idea come from:
1. 1984 (Orwell)
2. The Running Man and The Long Walk (King)
3. Brave New World (Huxley)
4. Fahrenheit 451 (Bradbury)
5. Logan’s Run (Nolan and Johnson)
6. The Matrix (The Wachowski Brothers)
It’s easy to think that the government can be fearsome, but perhaps we should remember that governments reflect the people they are made up of. And, often times, it is not the government. Of course, this never happens in the States. We would never put up with that, right?
So, let’s just say that,
#1: We’ve certainly gotten a fair warning of what we get when society gets out of control and a small group of people take it upon themselves to run the show for us.
#2: This can be done by the state, by powerful business interests, etc. (i.e. anyone in control enjoys exerting that control in order to protect it)
#3: We really don’t care.
#4 Except when it’s a novel of film, then we get up in arms about how our protagonists are treated
#5 Then we go about our merry lives.
What I liked about the hunger games
Choice of lead. Jennifer Lawrence plays a hardened youth with strength and courage effortlessly. She makes a believable character of Katniss, who could easily have been overdone by too aggressive an actress forcing action when there should be only tension.
Choice of support. Woody Harrelson had me nervous. The moment he walked into his first scene, I was suddenly aware of the actor, but as he developed, I found him believable as well and really began to like his character’s perception of himself and his world.
What I didn’t like
Josh Hutcherson as Peeta. He just didn’t work for me and I simply don’t know if I don’t like Hutcherson or perhaps I just don’t like Peeta.
Backstory. I also don’t quite know how the hunger games actually began. I think the book might have helped a lot in explaining this – I just don’t know.
There’s not a lot I have to put in this column.