Tuesday, November 26, 2013

From Hunger

I haven't read the novels, but now I've seen both Hunger Games films.  Perhaps things are better explained in the books, but I had problems with the sequel.  (The following will give out spoilers for the movies, and I assume the books.)

The set-up for the whole series isn't bad--any battle royale where young people try to kill each other can't help but be fun.  We're in a dystopia where the government has an iron grip.  The nation is divided into the Capitol and 12 (or 13) districts, each surrounded by electric fences.  Katniss, our protagonist, is from District 12, a poor, coal-mining district.

Every year the Capitol sponsors the Hunger Games, where two teenagers--a male and female--are chosen by lottery from each district to take part in a game where they fight for their lives.  The point is to commemorate the last rebellion many years ago--the Games are both a cautionary tale, and the bread and circuses the public needs to distract them from tyranny and poverty.

The contestants form alliances, and also get sponsors from outside, but in the end it's all against all.  The last one alive wins glory and riches, the rest die.  No one (at least not in District 12) wants to win this lottery, but Katniss volunteers to take the place of her younger sister.

The first movie, and I'd guess the first book, deals with her life in District 12, her selection, her trip to the Capitol to prepare and then the Games.  Sorry to ruin the surprise, but she wins. In the second movie, she should be enjoying her victory, but in addition to feeling miserable about personal things, she's also become an enemy of the state as she's a symbol of defiance.  The President would have her killed if he could, but she's too conspicuous and popular.

So, in the second movie (and book), the leaders decide they'll have a special Games--a "Quarter Quell," since this is the 75th anniversary of the Games, and apparently every 25 years they do something special.  This time, they're going to have only former winners take part.

That's where they lost me.  First, the math is suspect.  There's only one winner a year (usually) so they'd have to go back way beyond the last 25 years to get 2 from every District.  In fact, it's imaginable there'd be some districts without any winners, the same way the Detroit Lions have never won a Super Bowl.  And once you get past 25 years, the contestants are starting to get long in the tooth. (There are some old contestants in the movie, but I still question it, since most would have won because they were swift and strong.)

Worse, this is a tactic by the President and others to bring down Katniss.  To make her look bad and then have her die.  But I don't buy the public would buy it.  If they love these games, then the public would be outraged at what is essentially a revocation of everything they stand for.  The winners are heroes, feted everywhere they go, guaranteed a good life, and others can live through them vicariously.  Now the state is saying victory means nothing, you're all going to die (but one).  It's as if the state started taking back lottery winnings.  If anything, this would make the public more rebellious.

Still, makes more sense than quidditch.

10 Comments:

Blogger ColumbusGuy said...

Okay, that's even better than the paying for health care with chickens line.

1:59 AM, November 26, 2013  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The book explains more of the mechanics but I'm not sure its helpful (because there were enough tributes from all the districts to fill out the dance card, that's why the government chose this type of quarter quell) but [SPOILER] the big reveal at the end of this movie was that there were rebels in the government with the ear of the President encouraging harsher policies with the aim of stirring up the base. Presumably, from years of easy living and casual power, the government fell for the bad though emotionally satisfying, advice.

I was expecting to be bored but was surprised how much more emotionally intense this silly movie was. A pouty soft-curved J-Law doesn't hurt.

Quidditch doesn't have to make sense to muggles.

8:31 AM, November 26, 2013  
Blogger LAGuy said...

Even if the President could be fooled (and is he really that out of it?) the public wouldn't be.

9:03 AM, November 26, 2013  
Blogger ColumbusGuy said...

Pouty, soft-curved. Going to have to check the domain name to make sure we haven't been transferred to one of them Google artificial islands . . .

9:44 AM, November 26, 2013  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As long as we're talking SPOILERS, the whole plot is ridiculous. There are rebels with the ear of the President, who want to stir up the base, but these same rebels almost kill Katniss several times in the Games they design, and don't tell her about the plan, but still count on her being around at the end to help them.

9:48 AM, November 26, 2013  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, since one related topic has been put on the table anyway, I have to admit, there are parts of the Potter series I found ridiculous, too.

10:50 AM, November 26, 2013  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Potter has the same problem as Katniss. There are people whose plan is based on his being around to do certain things, but they nevertheless put him through travails that could get him killed.

11:02 AM, November 26, 2013  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, BIG SPOILER, the whole point of the books is that basically the rebels while different from the government, are very bad people too- they will accept Katniss if she is a survivor (and they do queer the games a bit to give her a leg up)- however they need her to survive against clear peril in order to be an effective symbol and , if she dies in the games, they can probably make some use of the martyr aspect.

The one neat thing about this installment was Philip Seymour Hoffman, despite having a funny name (Plutarch Heavensbee) refused to dress up in the silly outfits the rest of the Capital types wore.

11:07 AM, November 26, 2013  
Anonymous Denver Guy said...

Just saw Catching Fire this weekend (at the Mann's Chinese Theater, b/t/w). I think the comments above lend enough explanation for the films (I too have not read the books). Katnis was going to be a tool of the rebellion one way or another (dead or alive). She's also a terrible actress (I mean her character) so she couldn't know what was going on - and neither could Peta (for the same reason).

The hardest thing to accept is that the Pres. is taken in by the plant. But then, he leads a pretty sheltered life, and is probably surrounded by yes-men, so I can suspend disbelief. I thought the film was pretty good, though my daughter complains they have made Katnis too sympathetic - she's more self-centered and uncaring in the books, I guess.

As for the math, I would agree - they should have had more oldsters (like Mags) who were essentially canon fodder.

9:26 AM, December 02, 2013  
Blogger LAGuy said...

You were in LA?

10:10 AM, December 02, 2013  

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