Book and Movie Review: The Hunger Games

The book The Hunger Games was left in my cabin by a previous occupant. Stricken with curiosity and boredom I picked it up for the second time, and this time managed to actually read it. I attempted to read it last summer after one of the campers in my cabin finished it. However, I was appalled by the horrible awkward writing and put it down. However, I had recently seen the movie this time and was curious about the relationship between the text and the adaptation. I had heard a great deal about viewers who were surprised when some of the characters were played by black actors. I was curious how the book described those characters.

In response to the question of characters’ races, I am inclined to forgive a certain amount of surprise. When I was younger I read the Harry Potter books very quickly and didn’t notice physical descriptions of some characters, resulting in some confusion when they were played by black actors. That being said, I didn’t tweet incredibly racist things about this; I simply decided to read more closely and to remember that the UK is not as homogenous as I originally thought. Anyway, in The Hunger Games, the characters of Rue and Thresh were definitely described as “dark” so there was no reason to expect them to be white. Nevertheless, I suspect I know the source of this confusion.

The astonishing thing about the book The Hunger Games  is how atrociously bad the writing is. The plot is good. The setting is complex and clearly thought has gone into constructing the world. But the personalities of the characters, dialogue, and description all come out as flat and one-dimensional. There was a period when I wondered if the awkward writing was meant to capture the awkward uncertain experience of being a teenager. However, that would only make sense if the writing ever broke free from this model to do something different, more elegant. It does not. The horribly awkward awkward attempts at flirting dialogue were accurately described, but appear to have been written by the awkward teenager.

However, despite the excruciating writing, there’s a lot going on in the book. On some level, its about reality TV and sports entertainment taken to the logical extreme. While much has been made of the book’s similarity to Battle Royale, I believe the author that there is no connection. Children or teenagers fighting to the death for entertainment is an easy thing to come up with independently. I’m surprised no one has pointed out the connection to Gladiator, which also makes a great deal out of performance in violence. Certainly historical gladiators were an inspiration for both The Hunger Games and Battle Royale. 

The setting is also much more complex than the writing. the Hunger Games actually work in the universe. Even though I haven’t read the rest of the series, I can see it setting up for the eventual revolution, though I suspect the plot will start to break down. Revolutions are really hard to write.

As for the quality of the movie adaptation. It was good. The issue of hunger was toned down a lot. Much as characters in The Grey inexplicably go for four days without food and seem fine, Katniss never really mentions that she’s hungry or cold. But it was a movie and hunger’s really a long term kind of theme.

I’m not going to subject myself to any more of those terrible books, but I will watch the rest of the movies.


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