Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Hunger Games, The Book

I have been trying to get to the movies to see The Hunger Games, but life is complicated right now.  So, while doing the grocery shopping at (gasp) Wal-mart, I saw that they had the book very cheap so I picked it up, thinking I would pass it on to a friend who teaches reading.  I read most of it last weekend but had little time for it during the week, so I finished it last night.

It is, of course, a great read, not a dull minute, imaginative, and extremely thought-provoking.  The problem with the discussion on Christian talk radio about the movie (and the book) is one of interpretation and audience.  The book is clearly for sixteen-year-olds--not six-year-olds.  Any parent who doesn't have the good sense to read reviews before taking an elementary school child to see the movie deserves to pay all the psychiatric bills they will have to for their scarred and traumatized child. 

Beyond the violence, a child under fifteen or sixteen simply would not understand the moral, spiritual, and political viewpoints in the book. I found it a deeply spiritual book, probably because I had read a review of the movie on Christianity Today.  Peeta is a Christ-figure, so much that one appreciates the real Christ after reading the book.  Katniss only kills one person, in revenge (or belated protection) for her surrogate sister, Rue.  I don't count the tracker jacker nest.  Peeta kills no one, but is willing to die himself.  The political insights, and those about our media obsessed culture, are a whole different subject.  The cruelty the Capitol is putting the subject districts through for their rebellion eight decades before is, well, hard to describe.  Shocking, realistic, devastating, horrific, and yet banal.  It's not just that the descendants of the rebels are being punished, indefinitely, it is that the whole populace of the Capitol exists for the watching of the games, the preparation for the games, and the gambling on the games.

I told a friend it was Lord of the Flies meets Gladiator meets Survivor.

The two criticisms I would have is first that it is so clearly written for high school students that it feels like it was written, at times, for educational purposes.  All those Roman names--ok, lady, I get it.  It's like ancient Rome.  We knew that before the Caesars and the Claudiuses and the Flavias.  And Katniss and Peeta are like Romeo and Juliet.  The other thing that bugged me, although probably shouldn't, is the muttations at the end.  We are told the Capitol likes to create cross breeds.  But how could they have created hybrid humans/wolves from the dead tributes?  That crossed the line for me and took out some of the buy-in.

Will I go see the movie?  It's a time thing for me.  I am starting grad school again and this time will not blow it and will not allow all kinds of secondary concerns to get in my way, and that includes movies.  However, it took me a lot longer to read the book than see the movie, but I prefer reading, and I read for craft as well as plot and entertainment.  I can see Jennifer Lawrence in the part, and all the other actors, so I probably can let it live in my head and forgo the gruesome killings of children.  Jennifer Lawrence was so good in Winter's Bone, this is almost Winter's Bone one hundred years from now.


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