Mockingjay Pumpkin, carved by a fan. Photo credit: Apocaknits http://www.flickr.com/photos/apocaknits/6296665677/
The buzz is continuing to build around The Hunger Games film, which hits UK cinemas on 23 March. But is it going to live up to all the hype? Will fans of the books be satisfied by the adaptation? And what does it say about our teens that they are lapping up this dystopian, bloody fiction?
Social media is awash with excited Hunger Games chatter. Over 3 Million have already ‘Liked’ it on Facebook and there are at least six other ways to follow the Hunger Games on social media, according to Mashable. Two Methodist pastors, a father/daughter team, have even created a Bible Study centered around Collins’ novels called “The Gospel According to ‘The Hunger Games’ Trilogy.
A visual feast. Critics have generally praised The Hunger Games. Xan Brooks in the Guardian called it “harsh and satisfying; a candy-coated entertainment with a chip of ice at the center.” Olly Richards in Empire pronounced it “as thrilling and smart as it is terrifying” while Matthew Leyland of Total Film was pleasantly surprised by “the lack of cheese.”
“What’s remarkable is the lack of cheese. Tacky effects, corny dialog and creaky performances are all shown the door. We repeat: not the new Twilight,” praised Matthew Leyland at Total Film
Love story not so delicious. Justin Chang in Variety complained that “the central drama, pivoting on the nature of Katniss’ and Peeta’s relationship, never sparks to life.” Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter also felt the film falls short in this “crucial area,” with the “gradations of her ambivalence and acceptance” that are conveyed so well in the book being “smoothed over to the point of blandness.” Matthew Leyland in Total Film wasn’t so concerned – her commented that “if the chemistry between Lawrence and the brooding Hutcherson isn’t quite sizzling yet, then there are three more films for it to catch fire.”
How accomplished an adaptation? For Xan Brooks in the Guardian, the film is “ably filleted from the Suzanne Collins bestseller.” Indeed, it was never going to be anything but an “amply faithful adaptation” said Todd McCarthy in the Hollywood Reporter with “Collins on board as both a co-screenwriter and executive producer.” Justin Chang of Variety was less bowled over by the page-to-screen adaptation: “the film clings to Collins’ text as if it were itself a survival guide.”
Jennifer Lawrence: New pop-lit heroine on the block. In Jennifer Lawrence, we have a “hardscrabble heroine” said Xan Brooks in the Guardian. Justin Chang Variety described her as “a spunky protagonist who can hold her own alongside Bella Swan and Lisbeth Salander in the pantheon of pop-lit heroines.”
What does it say about our teens? Lucy Mangan in the Guardian saw The Hunger Games as the latest in a series of dystopian stories aimed at young adults in the last few years, such as the Uglies, Chaos Walking and Gone series, and novels such as Lauren Oliver’s Delirium and Blood Red Road by Moira Young. Set in “worlds full of cowed populations, tyrannical governments, post-nuclear, pollution-devastated, war-torn landscapes, corrupt elites, weaponised viruses and other assorted horrors” these tales “ask how we would function in extremis and test what it means to be human.” Do they “articulate the modern teenage experience (albeit an extreme version) of living with a wide and perpetual unease?” wondered Mangan. She argued that these “apocalyptic but coherent, resolvable narratives are handbooks for mental survival.” Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite in the Washington Post On Faith blog suggested parents should pay attention to why their kids would be so attracted to these stories. She believed that young people fear for their future and “think they’re on their own in fighting for a better world.” She asked: “Can we tell them they’re wrong? Why would they believe us?”
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