Oh, this is gonna make me popular.
Not too long ago, there was an episode of The Simpsons that took a few jabs at The Hunger Games -- in typical fashion, highlighting some of the franchise’s…shall we say, conceits while simultaneously being eerily honest. For a guy like me with no real attachment to the tales of Katniss Everdeen and the rest of the Monster Buster Club (that’s what they’re called, right?), it was just the sort of thing I could laugh at and shrug off. For others? I wonder if it was something like an affront to all of the deities.
It came at just about the right time, though. I’ve been thinking about The Hunger Games more than I should, for one reason or another. It probably has something to do with web series like CinemaSins and Honest Trailers laying into them in their own distinct yet biting (but always hilarious) ways. Sure, those two manage to succeed precisely because they play up faults and nitpicking, but sometimes the line between joke and complaint starts to blur. And there’s no doubt that even more jokes will flare up, given that the last book is not only getting split into two movies, but the first of them, Mockingjay: Part 1 is due out fairly soon. Ergo, this post.
So I think it’s time I open the floor for some input. Though preferably, not arrows to the skull.
I should probably mention up-front that my only real experience with the franchise is with the first movie. My thoughts? It was…okay, I guess. I named it fifth out of the seven movies I saw that year (above Prometheus, with Cloud Atlas taking bottom honors), which is strange, because I would have thought it would do a lot better in the end. But as time passed -- especially present-day me -- I couldn’t shake the feeling that the original movie didn’t offer up much else besides being “a thing to watch.”
It didn’t tick me off as other movies could -- o hai Oblivion -- but it didn’t turn me into a fan of Katniss, her story, or the franchise at large. That’s a problem for what should be the “hook”, of sorts. It felt like I got everything I needed to from that one movie -- like I had my fill, and didn’t want (or wouldn’t take) any more. Little wonder, then, that both my brother and I agreed to skip out on the second movie. Second verse, same as the first…and the first wasn’t anything special in the first place.
I suspect that -- as usual -- my problems with the franchise, or at least that one movie, started and ended with its leading lady. Speaking solely from memory, Katniss didn’t strike me as a remarkable character, and at times she was actually kind of bad. At her basest she was bland -- or “generically tough”, if that makes any sense -- but dipped even lower when she would lash out at others (like Peeta, to the point where she’d ram him into a wall by the neck) or just kind of be…there when she could have been cool.
But what really got to me about her in the movie was that the universe kind of bent itself to make her come out looking good. She’s the famous “Girl on Fire” because she lucked out and got the best fashion designer ever. She got out of killing most of the Tributes based on technicalities and their precipitous drop in IQ points. She struggles, but throughout the whole movie it felt like she had guardian angels keeping her from struggling too much. And I called bullshit when it was declared that she was the first tribute in 74 years of Games to offer herself up as Tribute -- and continued calling bullshit when the movie started painting her as the symbol of rebellion, or some sort of champion. You don’t get to be a savior by holding up your fingers for the camera or camping out in a tree.
I guess I wasn’t the only one that felt that way, though. One denizen of the net after another has taken their shot at THG and made some legitimate complaints -- some of them being the same, or more biting, than mine. Is Katniss really the icon that some would think she is, or is she just liked because a (seemingly) tough customer who can shoot a bow pretty well? Is her world of Panem a brutal, fully-realized dystopia that’s either our future or our present, or is it a bunch of contradictory fluff set to funnel an audience toward drama, angst, and hunky boys? Is the franchise at large legitimate, or merely succeeded by stumbling into an untapped niche and mashing that Pander button?
I’m not about to give the franchise my blessings, but I am willing to give it the benefit of the doubt. It’s very possible -- probable, even -- that the heat THG has gotten comes from its popularity, much like Twilight. But even if the former has its problems, I would think that its world and its plot and its leading lady are roughly infinity times more preferable to Bella Swan and crew. I want to believe that THG is the force that it is for a reason. Even if it does have faults, I’m more willing to accept it because it at least tries to be something more. And it’s become something more for a lot of people. Is it deserved? Is it honest? Is it justifiable? I can’t say for sure, but I want to believe that the franchise has done something right. If not for me, then for droves of girls eager to take archery lessons.
But that’s enough out of me. Once again, it’s time for me to step aside and let you guys weigh in. The question’s simple: how good is The Hunger Games, really? Do you like it? Does it deserve praise, or scorn? Why is it so popular? What’s it secret -- its strengths, or its weaknesses?
You know what to do. Ready? Set? Comment…while I go do other stuff, I guess. Should probably get around to doing that Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze post one of these days. So yeah, be prepared to read like a million billion more words.
Voltech is a dick to your eyeballs. *ding*