Thursday, March 29, 2012

Hungry? Oh, Why Not.

Okay, when I first started this post a week ago, it was a rant.  I am going to try and meld it into something cohesive.  To that end, I have broken this posting up into three parts: the previews for the Hunger Games, the movie itself, and the book series.  Now, let's get along to it.

Okay, let me rant a little.

Stephanie Meyer ruined vampires, teen fiction, and fantasy.  All in one fell swoop.  Or at least, she tried really, really, really hard.  Aside from the fact that I do not understand what all the fuss is about (I mean, there was hardly enough plot in the last Twilight book to make into a book, let alone two movies), and aside from the frightening surge of teenage fanaticism, Stephanie Meyer has made it so that every fantasy book series for young adults gets compared to Twi-hards and their insatiable frenzy.

Thank god I got into Harry Potter beforehand.

Here is my question: how many people are going to pass up something popular because it gets associated with Twilight?  Case in point: The Hunger Games.

Thank god I got into Suzanne Collins beforehand.

If I hadn't, I probably would have really truly put off reading The Hunger Games.  Like forever.  Because seriously, why do I want to read something that's just another Twilight?  When there is basically no shortage of reading material in sight?  And that would truly be a shame.

The way I see it is that Harry Potter is the stuff one bright person saves during the type of rebellion Collins' Panem is created, and hands the rabble-rousing hordes the manuscript of Twilight instead.  Then someone, somewhere, will be a little warmer that night around their fire, and Stephanie Meyer will finally have contributed something meaningful to the existence of humankind.  And, also the way I see it, The Hunger Games falls somewhere in between.  It's like Vilette.  Hardly anybody reads that Bronte novel.  But it's still out there, probably still quality (though I'm not a huge Bronte fan myself), and people do still read it.  Just not as much as they read Wuthering Heights or Jane Eyre.

Initial rant over.  Begin section 1:  previews.  Can I just say the previews before the Hunger Games sucked?  And sucked massively.  There was Snow White & the Huntsmen -- it begs the question, how many interpretations of Snow White can we have in a single year?  There's at least one other coming out and it's definitely not the first in a slew of recent reimaginings of fairy tales.  And let's not even get started on TV shows on the same topic.

Next up is Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.  Despite the fact that one of America's finest leaders is currently doing whirligigs in his grave, do we really need to mess with today's kids' knowledge of history any more than we already have?  I mean, mutants were behind the Cuban Missile Crisis.  This we know.  But do we need to add the weight of mishistory to one of the most important events in the lifetime of our nation?  And let's not forget that very obviously in the preview they link the vampires with the Southerners.  Because obviously Confederates were pure evil and not really human.  I'm sure that will go over really well in Georgia.

Moving right along, we have The Avengers.  Okay, I'll admit it, I enjoy a good superhero movie as much as the next person, but I just don't see the point of this line-up.  You have Captain America, Mr. Goody Two Shoes who has no inner conflict whatsoever.  How boring.  Then you have Thor.  Okay, yeah, he's hunky, and that hammer is awesome, but beside his smolder, what's he good for?  Blacksmithing?  And let's not forget the Hulk -- a temper-tantrum throwing two-year old.  Who happens to be green.  Insert minor characters only die-hards know.  Instantly forgettable.  Throw in a token woman who's nothing more than sex appeal.  Last but not least, possibly the coolest character, Iron Man.  Why?  Maybe because Tony Stark is secretly a genius and he made that creepy heart thing in a freakin' cave in Afghanistan.  I hate to say it, but he may be even cooler than Batman.  Wait, no, Batman wins.

Finally, the crowning achievement of underwhelming previews, Breaking Dawn: Part II.  The preview literally consisted of a monologue of Kristen Stewart talking about how awesome she is, as Bella.  With shots of her hideous engagement ring.


It's no wonder our society is falling apart.  From the dawn of human communication, storytelling has been a way of giving ourselves identities, of distinguishing ourselves from our mute surroundings, and of passing down the depth of the human experience throughout the generations.  Communication is more than mere stories -- it is the very fabric of our existence.  Excellent storytelling lifts us out of ourselves, inspires us to do better, be stronger, have hope. . .in short, it shows us our potential and encourages us to reach out and grasp it.  Stephanie Meyer writes self-indulgent, self-aggrandizing fluff.  She is simply helping to lead to a gradual decline in the human condition.

Combine that with Snooki's due date being on the purported day the world will end, and it's time for Apocalypse Now.

Rage at previews subsiding.  Onto section 2: the movie.  All in all, I liked the movie.  I thought Jennifer Lawrence had the right kind of intensity for Katniss, and Josh Hutcherson the right kind of sweetness for Peeta.  Although having said that, the main things I remember that kid in are like Journey to the Center of the Earth and Bridge to Terrabithia.  DAMN he grew up.  I kept finding myself lost in thoughts about how thick his neck was.  Kinda on the creepy side (his neck), but I'm gonna let it slide.  I did perhaps laugh when I found out that Gale was played by Thor's baby brother.  I may still be laughing.  So we know by pedigree he's got the smolder.  I'm just uninterested next to Peeta.  C'est la vie.

Cinematically, I thought they got quite a few things right.  I liked the shaky camera work.  It gave the impression of violence while not actually showing you every gory detail of teenagers literally ripping into each other.  I was kind of relieved.  Next, I loved the sound track.  Not just the music (which was passable, though no John Williams), or the song she sings to Rue (TEARS EVERYWHERE) but the actual sounds of the movie.  I was expecting much louder and over-the-top.  You know, every punch that lands sounds like the guy's fist was made of pure iron.  But no, I thought actually it was wonderfully understated.  Finally.  It still conveyed the feeling of the arena, too.  And maybe the best thing I liked about this movie was that it felt like a movie.  FINALLY a director gets the pacing right for something like that.  I felt like the last, oh, seven Harry Potter movies didn't really feel like movies -- more like jumbles of scenes.  Like I was repeatedly being dropped into a pensieve.  And it wasn't boring as all get out like at least the first two Twilight movies.  There were also some nicely scripted lines.

Anyhow.  The biggie, section #3:  the books.  I broke.  It took me probably a solid year (maybe more) to actually buckle down.  With no small amount of complaining and poo-poohing, I did it.  And did it in a scant number of days, might I add.  I really had no right to turn up my nose.  I love Suzanne Collins.  I do.  She created Gregor.  He's my favorite.  Really truly.  So I should've been more open to this.  I am a not-so-secret snob, and I know this about myself and I don't like this about myself.  And yet, I act snobby time and time again, usually with stuff like this.  What am I, a hipster?  God I hope not.

By and large, I enjoyed them.  Yes, they're not great literature.  I honestly think that realm is reserved for Harry Potter.  I do.  But they're not drivel.  There's actual thought and meaning behind them, and most of the plot is well thought out and executed.  I say most, because I got so mad I could spit in the third book, and I felt it could've been done better.  It did feel like a bit of a let-down to the series, and I would maybe say the first one is my favorite this first time around (although the second was great).  And who am I kidding, I love an epilogue.  Love love love them.  I know it's trite, I know it's cliche, and I get mad at certain books that don't have them.  My best friend and I used to read the Dear America diaries when we were in elementary school, and she would berate me because I would always skip to the epilogue because I had to know how their lives played out.  I wanted to know if two people who fell in love got to stay in love, and if it all worked out for them.

So I may not have cried at all, I may still prefer Gregor, but I thought The Hunger Games was actually worth my time.  I probably will read them again (I read them so fast the first time I think I missed stuff), and I will recommend them to people.  And, for future reference, I will post this blog in order to remind myself that I need to loosen up.  For heaven's sake, just read it.  Who cares what other people think, just give it a chance!

You might be pleasantly surprised.

I was.

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