Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Hunger Games: Obvious Answers

So you might have heard that The Hunger Games: The Movie is out now. And it broke a bunch of records.

And now everyone and their mother has an opinion about the movie, and how it’s doing, and wondering why it’s so popular…

Originally, I was going to link to a bunch of other blog posts and articles and try to answer these questions, but that would drag you away from here on a merry chase of reading what other people think about the series, and why, with lots and lots of repetition from article to article.

Instead, I’m going to state and summarize the various questions, and answer them the best I can, because I have one foot in the novel world and the other, however infrequently these days, in the movie world, and I had a third in the high school world, which is super-important in this instance.

You’ll see why in a second.

1. How did THG make 155 million dollars over a weekend?

I swear to you, I have no idea why people are asking this question. Everyone ready?

Teenage girls. Teenage girls love what they love with the burning heat of a 1000 suns, and they loved The Hunger Games.

In my time teaching, I had 15 students, total. Four of them (all girls) had read and loved the entire series. I had one former student go to a midnight showing of the movie, and then go back to the theater on Friday night, less than 24 hours later, to watch it again. She also bought the soundtrack at midnight, the very second it was available on iTunes, before seeing the movie.

This is how Twilight made its money. This is now Harry Potter made a LOT of its money. This is how Titanic made a billion dollars at a time when no movie made a billion dollars.

Remember Titanic, folks? When it came out on video, teenage girls were buying THREE copies. One to keep, one to loan out, and one to give as a gift. Women were getting together and listening to the soundtrack, and crying. This was an actual thing.

Of course, with The Hunger Games, everyone is trying to blab about other demographics, “Oh, boys are going too!” Sure they’re going, too. Their girlfriends and wives are dragging them, and some are even going willingly because it sounds like actual science fiction, as opposed to Twilight, which sounds like torture.

This movie is likely going to make 300 million dollars. Because of teenage girls. For the love of all that is good, Hollywood, MAKE MORE MOVIES FOR THEM. Stop making so many movies for boys. Take a lesson from this.


In conclusion: Teenage girls. They are awesome fans, and if you make a movie for them, they will watch the unholy poop out of it.

(Also: Dear Teenage Girls. You are an awesome force to be reckoned with. Please try my YA series, Blood Calling. I would like to put my daughter through college one day.)

2. Why do people like this movie? It’s so sad/nihilistic/dark/a horror film about kids killing other kids. None of those people who showed up the first weekend will want to see it again.



First, it’s not a horror film. If it were a horror film, there would be a remote possibility that the hero could die. The entire marketing campaign and all the news outlets have happily informed us that this is going to be a four-movie series. You know what happens in a four-movie series? The hero DOESN’T DIE.

Is it sad? That depends on your point of view. Don’t get me wrong, the book/movie throws some heart-wrenching stuff in there, but (for the first book/movie anyway) it draws a circle around certain people and says, “These guys will be just fine for now. Don’t worry about them.”

In an actual horror movie, there is no circle.

Is the movie dark? Sure. Grim? Yep.

But I guess no one noticed that the other movies that beat The Hunger Games for most money made in a weekend were Harry Potter, and Batman, which are… what’s that you say? Dark and grim?

And of course there’s Titanic, which has that happy ending where… what? One of the leads DIES?

My goodness, how will people ever handle the pain of watching The Hunger Games a second (or fifth?) time?

Look, folks, the world of The Hunger Games is about as realistic as the one portrayed in Harry Potter, down to the zany costumes. The book tries to give the story gravitas by taking one of the victims and really building them up (I’m trying to avoid spoilers through use of careful pronouns) and then killing them.

But you know what? That character is an Ewok, as far as this story is concerned. Remember how, in Return of the Jedi, hundreds of people are killed? Thousands, probably. And yet the movie tries to get us to really see the horror of the situation by killing off one Ewok, and showing another Ewok grieving over that Ewok.

This is that all over again.

In this story, Katniss is Luke Skywalker, and Luke doesn’t die. He just becomes more and more and more awesome.

Don’t get me wrong. You could write a real downer of a book about a District whose kids go into the games and are summarily slaughtered. That’d be a bummer. But this story isn’t about the losers, it’s about the winners.

3. This movie is really slow.

So is the book. I think people forget that, but I didn’t, because I was reading a book called The Hunger Games. So what I really wanted was for the kids to get into the games and to see how they were going to survive.

(Here’s where I have to admit that I hate knocking another author’s book. This is mostly because I fear that one day, Suzanne Collins will read one of my books, and call her agent and tell them to get me a book deal and also a movie deal, and then the agent will Google me and find out I said something less than awesome about Ms. Collins’ books, and I will never get rich and famous and it will be my own fault.)

Instead, I got about 300 pages of Katniss being sad, and doing some training, and a lot of stuff about fashion and boys. And then they finally got to the games for maybe 100 pages. And then it was over.

(My numbers are off, because the book is 374 pages long. But that’s how I remember it.)

Now, fundamentally of course, I understand why things were this way. This was a sort of parody of reality TV, wherein they show you really long backstories like they do for everyone on American Idol, even though it’s a “singing competition. It is there to make you care about the characters.

But I find all the backstory on Idol to go on much, much, much too long as well. And the Hunger Games books have sold 24 million copies (that was the last number I read, anyway) so my opinion on this counts for naught.

My point, however, is that this is one of those recent adaptations like Twilight or the early Potter movies, wherein the screenwriter is allowed to cut almost nothing, because if you take the book and preserve it almost exactly as it was on screen, your fans (teenage girls) will go to see it over and over and over, and making a lot of money always trumps making a great (as opposed to good or very good) movie.

4. So The Hunger Games is basically Battle Royale, right?

Nope. I mean, yes, they both have kids killing kids, and it’s kind of a reality TV thing.

But The Hunger Games is ancient Rome with some reality TV thrown in, and then set “in the far future.”

Battle Royale takes place in the “near” future, and it takes a bunch of kids who know each other (a high school class) and sets them on each other. It’s not exactly sci-fi so much as it is all the things you hated about high school writ large.

And unlike The Hunger Games, which has a “hero” you can root for, Battle Royale, in novel form at least, is written in the third person, which means that anyone can die. That’s the horror film, if you’re looking for one.

That is, I think, all I have to say about that.

And that, I think, covers all my ranting about The Hunger Games.

1 comment:

  1. Well I read the books too and of course took my niece to see the movie on opening day. The book purists are all howling over the details kept out of the movie, but I thought the movie stands up by itself very well for those who haven't read the books. Personally I watched the movie for its amazing casting. I was mesmerized by Stanley Tucci. I actually saw very few groups of tween girls on the audience. You are very right about the target audience, but this movie is drawing in all types now. It's kind of a phenomenon.