The Hunger Games: A Spoiler-Free Recommendation
March 29, 2012
A Recommendation for The Hunger Games film (2012)
“I just keep wishing I could think of a way to show them that they don’t own me. If I’m gonna die, I wanna still be me.”
There’s been a ton of buzz about The Hunger Games movie, which hit theaters last Friday. The film made $152 million in its opening weekend, making it the 3rd biggest box office opening in history. An impressive feat, considering that it came out in March instead of July. With all the hype, people’s perceptions of the Hunger Games phenomenon are ranging from “Battle Royale ripoff,” to “OMG next Harry Potter,” and the face-palm worthy “is this another emo thing like Twilight?”
Let me put your fears to rest. This is not a teen-romance like Twilight. In fact, trying to frame the Hunger Games as ‘the-next-teen-pop-culture-phenomenon’ is doing the series an incredible disservice. This label removes any expectation that Hunger Games will grapple with serious issues and actually have something ‘adult’ to say to its audience.
I’m here to answer two main questions:
1. Should I see the movie?
2. Should I read the book first?
My answer? – Yes.
1. Should I see the movie?
Yes. Without giving anything away, The Hunger Games movie is quite good, especially for a book-to-film adaptation. In fact, its done the impossible in pleasing both newcomers AND fans of the books. It stays faithful to the original story while explaining, though briefly, the dystopian history of Panem and why the Hunger Games take place. It obviously can’t cover everything and those who aren’t listening to the dialog closely (and especially the opening credits) will be confused about some finer points of the story. (More on that in Question 2.)
The Hunger Games film takes on the role of “show” over “tell.” Instead of featuring long conversations about the poverty and oppression in the Districts in comparison to the vast wealth and privilege in The Capitol, the film simply lets us observe the difference. There’s no monologue comparing the Games to the Roman Colosseum, or comments on the animalistic viciousness the teens resort to, it simply unfolds before us and asks us to make intelligent conclusions. Those who haven’t read the books will probably find its lack of comments bizarre and perhaps even a ‘missed opportunity at saying something profound’. But as a fan of the book, I was moved by its silence; the jarring chaos and striking images carry their own weight.
2. Should I read the books first?
Definitely. You should grab a copy and get in on this.
Before I say any more, I don’t want to cast Suzanne Collins‘ The Hunger Games trilogy as some incredible work of art that will be required reading in schools for the next 500 years. Its not perfect. It has flaws, oversights, juvenile moments, and is somewhat derivative of finer dystopian works like 1984, The Giver, Lord of the Flies, etc. But The Hunger Games is definitely worth checking out. It is not a Battle Royale ripoff aimed at preteen girls. The Hunger Games is an honest look at violence, oppression, justice, freedom, PTSD, and the cost of war.
Collins has mastered the page-turner here, and the series is incredibly hard to put down. I know a number of people who finished the first book in a single day, or even the entire series in one weekend. Its a quick read and you’ll enjoy the film ten times more if you’ve read the book first.
A word about spoilers…
Protect yourself from spoilers on this one. Above all, The Hunger Games succeeds by maintaining suspense over long periods of time and keeping you guessing. So obviously, spoilers should be avoided at all costs. Don’t even read the book cover for the second and third books (seriously, you’ll regret it.) – As usual, Shut Up & Watch The Movie is all about enjoying stories and we take care in handling spoilers while writing our reviews.
A full review is coming, I promise. But for those of you who are asking “is this worth getting in on?” – our answer is yes, definitely.