I know I’m probably late to the party as far as Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy is concerned, since I started reading the first book last week and just finished Mockingjay two days ago. The speed with which I read the books should be a big hint about how quickly they sucked me in, and how much I thought they rocked. I’ll admit that at first I was skeptical– “Isn’t this just The Running Man with teenagers?” I thought– but given the amount of fan hysteria on the web, and the fact that The Running Man‘s author himself, Stephen King, found the books engaging, I figured I’d give them a try, and I am glad I did.
First and foremost, the trilogy is character-driven, and the character we are riding shotgun with, Katniss Everdeen, takes us on a harrowing ride. She feels like a real sixteen-year-old, shaped by a harsh life and an even harsher situation: thrown into an arena for a live, televised, government-run fight to the death with twenty-three other kids, called “tributes”, between the ages of twelve and eighteen. How Katniss manages to survive the arena, becoming an unwitting symbol of a revolution and therefore Public Enemy Number One, makes for some edge-of-the-seat reading. Our heroine’s mind is occasionally a scary place to be, as we see the entire story unfold through her eyes and sometimes clouded perceptions. And of course, there is a love triangle– isn’t there always?– involving her fellow tribute, Peeta Mellark, and her best friend/hunting partner, Gale Hawthorne. Fluffy resides firmly on Team Peeta; however, if you haven’t read the books, you will get no spoilers from me. Just to clarify my position, despite her previous attachment to Gale before becoming a tribute in the Games, I never felt her having anything remotely in common with Gale other than background afterward. There were times I was honestly angry with her for her treatment of Peeta, especially on the train at the end of the first book. Peeta, a kindhearted boy with not a mean bone in his body, truly loves Katniss in spite of– maybe even because of– her faults, and though Gale is a nice guy and all, I just don’t see how Katniss can even relate to someone who hasn’t experienced the same horrors she has. Gale goes through some awful things himself, but the pain he endures is nothing like what Katniss and Peeta experience together, and so I can’t really get on board with Katniss and Gale as a viable couple.
A lot of heated debate is going on right now about the upcoming film version of The Hunger Games. Most of it is about the casting choices for the three main roles: Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss, Josh Hutcherson as Peeta and Liam Hemsworth as Gale. I am willing to give the actors the benefit of the doubt. Lawrence is twenty, which some feel makes her too old to be a credible Katniss, and she is also blonde, while Katniss is described in the books as having long dark hair (when it isn’t getting singed off her head). However, Clairol can easily take care of the hair color, and last time I checked, most of the kids on Glee are over twenty and no one is complaining about that. The girl was even nominated for an Oscar (and I talked smack about her dress in a previous post), so she has to have the chops. Hutcherson is NOT blonde, which is how Peeta was described, but again, Clairol. Hemsworth, it is argued, not only looks nothing like Gale but also cannot act. I am of the opinion that the Hemsworth hate stems more from the fact that he dates Miley Cyrus than any lack of ability, and while I have only seen him in a forgettable movie with said girlfriend and wasn’t that impressed, one has to remember that it was a Nicholas Sparks adaptation. Of course the movie was drivel! The BOOK it was based on was drivel! Sparks has produced exactly ONE story (The Notebook) that was in any way as emotionally affecting as it pretended to be, and while there’s a certain audience that eats that stuff up, I just find it manipulative and cheap. Okay, I’m getting off my anti-Sparks soapbox now. My point is that the jury is still out, and these actors just might be perfect for their parts. Suzanne Collins herself sat in on the auditions and I am sure had some input, so I will trust the decisions made until I see the finished product. (On a side note, I really don’t CARE who plays Gale, since as a card-carrying member of Team Peeta I can’t help but view his character as a prop. He could be portrayed by a larch tree and I probably wouldn’t care.)
All that said, who’s with me in being completely stoked for this movie? I know it’s about a year before it actually comes out, but I can’t wait! Bring on The Hunger Games, and may the odds be EVER in your favor!