Certified Nerdified Rants with Melvin Smif – Today’s Topic: The Hunger Games

*Originally posted on the Monkey in the Cage Website on September 26, 2012

A segment where Kevin Smith goes on and on about a subject he seemingly takes way too seriously that no one else likely cares about or has given any consideration. Likely unnecessary but SPOILERS AHEAD!

Today’s Issue: The Hunger Games Trilogy

The Hunger Games is an odd trilogy to me.  When I read the first novel, The Hunger Games, I was impressed.  Sure the concept had been done before in many forms, but ultimately it was well written for a YA book, which is refreshing, and had all the right bits and pieces to form a cohesive plot.  Then I read Catching Fire which seemed to have a lot of the same enjoyable action from the first book but at the expense of introducing some way too convenient plot wrangling to do so.  Then came the final installment, Mockingjay.  Mockingjay did things that seemed so backward to how one would expect its protagonists to act at this point that I was just baffled.  Many would say that this represents growth, or a hardening of the characters but I disagree as I lay out below.

As usual, SPOILERS AHEAD dear reader!

 

 BOOK 1: The Hunger Games:

Loved the book, enjoyed the movie.  The biggest flaw one could really give this book is that its premise is not new.  The concept’s been done with Battle Royale, The Most Dangerous Game, The Running Man, etc.  I’m not really one of those people.  I’ve always been of the mindset that if an idea is good enough please revisit it as many times as you want.  It’s no skin off my back; I’ll ignore your stuff if I don’t like it!

In this book we are even introduced to Stephanie Collin’s rapid fire style of writing, which really works well for the entire series (even when her ideas and story direction didn’t do it for me).  By keeping the pace set on fast forward at all times we are rarely given a chance to feel safe setting the book down, I found I was often reading far beyond the time period I’d allotted myself, and did not lament the excess loss of hours.

So in essence, not much to rant about here but, just for the sake of meta conversation, here is my biggest complaint.  I feel that Katniss was protected by the way Collins shaped the story from ever having to actually take the life of an innocent.  Let’s look at the individuals she played a role in killing –

  • Glimmer and the girl from District 4 – No actual attack but instead as a result of dropping a beehive (or Tracker Jacker) nest on the girls
  • Marvel – Actually kills him with an arrow but only after he kills Rue safely painting him as a villain before Katniss must take action.
  • “Foxface” – The red haired girl who typically stayed out of the way, therefore not a villain.  She was only killed by a berry mishap, and mostly it was Peeta’s doing.
  • Cato – He gets chewed on by some “mutts” so when Katniss kills him she not only kills an outright villainous type, but also gets to play the pity executioner.

It’s my thought that if you intend to paint how horrible these games can be, and how horrible the things you are made to do are, you can’t then protect your protagonist from doing such things unless you wish them to allow their own death as a display of moral fortitude.  Granted this was going to happen with the choice made by Peeta and Katniss to both swallow the berries, in fact I think it would have been a better ending leaving this a one book story.

 BOOK 2: Catching Fire:

This was an odd book, and an example of utter Deus ex Machina.  The first parts of the book are frankly pretty boring, Collins introduces the tired “love triangle” concept en force now and we are subjected to Katniss’ inner pains over it.  Meanwhile she is desperate to fade into the background and out of the spotlight and let people stop their uprisings that were now occurring because of her.  This is typical of her character as she has always seemed to dislike the concept of others being hurt or dying for her sake, keep this idea in mind for later when my biggest issue with the trilogy arises. We all knew at the end of book one that things weren’t over for Katniss but I certainly didn’t see the Quarter Quell concept coming at all.  The book does end in an interesting way though, I had my ideas that the Quarter Quell would end in a different fashion but I was surprised by the reveal.

My biggest issue with the book is actually the laziness in which we see the concept of the Quarter Quell concept introduced purely for the chance to have yet another Katniss and Peeta involved Hunger Games.  Collins had an opportunity to do something truly unique here, she could have instead had Katniss and Peeta join Haymitch in the training and lobbying for a new Tribute.  We could have gotten a glimpse of Katniss trying to learn the political side of things in the Capital but instead we seen Book 1 round 2.  Don’t get me wrong, there are some neat aspects of getting to meet older tributes, but that could have been done in the way I described as well.  Perhaps Peeta and Haymitch enter the fray and Katniss has to assist from beyond the games, I love that idea.

The love triangle is of course a trying thing, it would have been better to have gone against our predispositions and have either Katniss lose interest in one of the boys or to have one of them lose interest in her altogether, I loath the “Team” concept.  Collins did surprise me a bit (until I remembered Katniss’ attitude regarding not wanting to ever cause pain to beloved others) in having Katniss inwardly choose that she would rather live alone, without having to choose Gale or Peeta.  It was an indicator of a thinking individual, if maybe a slightly masochistic one, that is rarely seen in a YA novel these days.

Still enjoyable though for all its faults, if I hadn’t liked it I would have never moved on to Mockingjay.

 BOOK 3: Mockingjay

By far the weakest in the series, slow in the beginning and the entire concept of Katniss as a figurehead for the rebellion just didn’t work for me.  Her character changed so much in this book I had whiplash.  She fought against everyone, often times for no discernable reason, and suddenly became selfish in a way that has never been displayed before.  Sure her demands to rescue Peeta and the other tributes had merit, but could she not see how that would put so many other loved ones in danger?  Peeta being brainwashed was kind of a tiring affair but it worked for the book, and had a smack of A Clockwork Orange to it me droogs, so I went with it.  Finally though we reach the last quarter of the novel where Katniss just becomes unrecognizable to me and loses any sense of redeemable qualities as far as I’m concerned.

I’m just going to jump right into it.  There comes a point in this book where Katniss and a group of her fellow Tributes are in the Capital with a group commander, namely as a token “hero” group.  They are in what is deemed a “Safe Zone” when things go wrong and the commander of the group is killed.  At this point Katniss makes the decision to pretend she received orders to take his mantle of command and through this she puts her many friends in the group in danger in order to satisfy her own selfish bloodlust of being the one to kill President Snow.

Many of her friends die because of this decision, and though she is obviously saddened by this it never seems to dawn on her that had she forgone her own selfish desires, they might still be alive.  There was no merit to her decision, she wasn’t making a tough choice to put her and her friends in danger for some noble cause, and it was for revenge pure and simple.  President Snow would have been killed; it was fairly obvious at that point that the rebels were winning the day.  It is here that I did a double take and tried to figure out when Katniss lost the one quality that had remained constant throughout the trilogy, her desire to protect her loved ones.  Needless to say I was baffled.

Lastly I found the ending rushed and very unsatisfying.  Katniss agrees to the Hunger Games penalty for the children of the most powerful people in the capital, being the deciding vote.  Presumably to make a show of playing along with President Coin, but I still found it distasteful.  Then she kills President Coin instead of President Snow because of the fact that she finally realized that President Coin ordered the bombing that claimed her sister’s life, not Snow.  That was a good moment for Katniss, I will admit.  Once that happens though we are treated to Katniss being jailed for a chapter while a trial is apparently held, an entirely interesting storyline I think would have been a great item to be included, and then a fast forward to Katniss choosing Peeta and then straight into an epilogue where we discover she is still damaged by the events though she has a family I guess.

Not the happiest of endings but that would have been fine if I had a reason anymore to care whether she was happy or not.  She is unrecognizable to me by this point, not from a slow change over the books but by a sudden, jolting change that occurs 3/4 of the way through the last book!  I get the impression that Collins was trying to say that War is Hell and it changes and damages us, but she just too heavy handed in my opinion.

Over all I enjoyed the series, despite the let down I felt by how it ended.  I know I skimmed over a lot here but I was mainly wanting to zone in on my trouble spots.  Unlike The Twilight Saga I would recommend The Hunger Games to others, though I’m fully up front that I didn’t care too much for the last book.  Suzanne Collins has a way of grabbing someone’s attention with her writing that I haven’t been exposed to a lot.  It can be simplistic at times but that’s the point of it, no-nonsense, little fluff, just straight to the meat of what’s going on.  So if you’ve for some reason read this spoiler laced review and not the books, give them a go.  You probably don’t analyze things as deeply as I do and will enjoy them even more than I did.

-Melvs

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