Tag Archives: action/adventure

Book Review: Adventure, Asexuality, and Fighting the Patriarchy with A Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy

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Click to visit the publisher's page for links to order, summary, excerpts, and reviews.

Spoiler in white.  Highlight the text to reveal it.

I skipped over the first book in this series, The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, (I will almost certainly return to it, especially as this series has just been announced to be continuing with a new book in August 2020) because I discovered that the second in the series, The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy, features a protagonist who is asexual like me. And that excited me. This is the first book that I have ever read about an asexual character. This is the first book that I have read that includes any asexual person. Though no such term existed in British English in the 1700s, and it is never used in the text, Mackenzi Lee confirmed it in answering a question on Goodreads, and it is made clear in the text.

Seeing myself in text—and without the whole story being about asexuality—was so important, so fulfilling to me. Reading a teen novel in which the protagonist isn’t at any point seeking a relationship—is in fact seeking not to be in a relationship—is so refreshing.  Felicity does have to consider whether or not to settle with a man that she doesn’t love in the way that he loves her, and that undercurrent runs throughout the book, but that actually rings fairly true to my experience with asexuality too unfortunately, despite the 300 or so year difference filled with advances in women’s rights and autonomy between Felicity’s story and mine.  (Lee never specifies the year in which her book occurs, but I have determined it to be later than 1726 as that is the year of the founding of the Edinburgh School of Medicine.)

Felicity Montague is living with a Scottish baker when the book opens, and he fumbles a proposal that she flees, going to her brother and his lover in London. She has been turned out of meetings with every hospital board in Edinburgh. She is turned away by another in London, though one of the doctors afterwards suggests that she query her idol, Dr. Alexander Platt, who is currently in Stuttgart about to marry a childhood friend of Felicity’s with whom she had a falling out over their diverging interests. A Muslim sailor offers to fund Felicity’s travels to Stuttgart if Felicity will ask her no questions and will get her inside the Hoffmans’ home. Despite misgivings and her brother’s warnings, Felicity accepts Sim’s help, and the two embark across Europe.

Neither Felicity, Sim, nor Johanna Hoffman are happy with their lot, with the lot of women in the 18th century. Felicity wants to study and practice medicine. SPOILERS Sim wants to inherit the rule of her father’s pirate fleet. Johanna wants to become a biologist. All three seek to enter fields dominated and controlled and policed by men. Felicity writes a note to herself­—“You deserve to be here. You deserve to exist. You deserve to take up space in this world of men.”—words that still bear repeating by women today, taught to keep compliant, subservient, and quiet.  That these thoughts echo Tumblr and seem equally comfortable there as in a book set in the 18th century reflect on the slow pace of progress of women’s power.

The women’s attempts to overcome the obstacles of a patriarchal society were as much fun for me as was the chase across Europe and Africa and the possible fantastical turn that the book takes.

I finished this book in August, and I have put copies in the hands of several customers looking for something different, something fun, something to inspire hope since.  I have not bought myself a copy yet, but I intend to do so, as I am already wanting to read this book again—and I don’t intend to wait until the book is available in paperback.  I’ll look forward to catching up with these characters in August.

*****

Lee, Mackenzi. The Montague Siblings, Book 2: The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy. Katherine Tegen-HarperCollins, 2018.

Intended audience: Ages 13+.

This review is not endorsed by Mackenzi Lee, Katherine Tegen Books, or HarperCollins Publishers. It is an independent, honest review by a reader.

Book Review: Countdown Is a Childlike Recollection

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I picked up Countdown by Deborah Wiles more for its unique format, which uses photographs, pamphlets, quotes, song lyrics, and other memorabilia of the 60s between chapters to place the reader within the time and to broaden the scope of the book’s plot by showing what is happening outside of the protagonist’s personal story, than for its synopsis.  Definitely it’s outside of the genre that I prefer, being a realistic, wartime novel.  The story follows protagonist Franny Chapman, a young girl living in Camp Springs, Maryland, just outside of Washington D.C., in 1962, during the Cold War, during the Cuban Missile Crisis.  Franny’s father works on the air force base in Camp Springs.  Her grandfather is also a war veteran who lives with the family and suffers from PTSD.  Franny lives in fear: fear of death, fear of humiliation, fear of social isolation.  As much as Wiles shows us the 1960s, she also shows us the typical childhood of a child in the 1960s, of any child of any time, dealing with the frustrations of school, the drama of trying to belong in a peer group, childhood crushes, secrets kept from parents, family drama, etc.

I appreciate Wiles’ rather accurate representation of childhood.  Wiles admits in an author’s note at the novel’s end that she drew greatly from her own childhood recollections, and Countdown does read almost like creative nonfiction, again to her credit.  I appreciate that this is a wartime novel that I didn’t loathe (usually I do), but then again, this is not a typical wartime novel that focuses on soldiers, but it focuses instead on the civilians, whose way of life I am more comfortable sharing.

Wiles touched on many of the aspects of American life and controversy in the 1960s (or as far as my scant knowledge is aware): PTSD, the Cold War, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Bay of Pigs Invasion, the growing awareness of racial inequality….  Franny, being young and mainly unaware of the intricacies of these situations, was not a narrator to give me any great insight into these events; rather Franny’s perspective offered the raw, emotional fear that these events inspired in the average citizen.

And there’s “fear” again.  I guess if I had to, I would say that that was the overarching impression that this book gave me of the 60s: fear paired with a desire for 50s normality (white picket fence, manicured lawn, and 2.5 kids, et al.).  Whether this was the overarching feeling of the 60s or if it was merely Wiles’ adolescent impression of the time, I do not know.

Readers of the book should not look for deep insight into the 60s but a glance, as if flipping quickly through the pages of a newspaper of the time, and should rather look forward to a realistic childhood adventure and drama, which are well-portrayed, mixing the ordinary with the extraordinary, but are not as well-executed as some that I have seen.

***

Wiles, Deborah.  The Sixties Trilogy, Book 1: Countdown.  New York: Scholastic, 2013.

This review is not endorsed by Deborah Wiles or Scholastic, Inc.  It is an independent, honest review by a reader.

Film Review: City of Bones Shatters Illusions It Should Not Have

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Major spoilers for the movie and for the book series.  Do NOT read if you don’t want spoilers.

I have enjoyed even loved some very loosely adapted films (How to Train Your Dragon, Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, even The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian).  In fact, sometimes the looser adaptations make better movies, I’ve come to realize, but sadly, Harald Zwart’s adaptation of Cassandra Clare’s The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones is not one of these instances.

Really, I have two major problems with the adaptation’s plot:

1)   Simon, if you want to have him bitten now, cannot then be okay with sunlight before drinking the blood of a Shadowhunter.

Vampires don’t just become Daylighters, and if you plan on a second movie, I want a thorough explanation of how hanging him in a shaft of sunlight (where was that sunlight coming from since it was still dark outside?) made him into a Daylighter, this being a conscious attempt by the vampires of New York to create such a creature.

Simon’s Daylighting without having drunk Shadowhunter blood I might have been able to rant about and let go (as I do with Chris Columbus’ and Craig Titley’s decision to make Hades the villain of The Lightning Thief), however:

2)   Having Jace recognize Valentine as the man who raised him is what creates the tension in the climax.

The screenwriter, Jessica Postigo, attempted to avoid the lengthy explanation of Valentine assuming Michael Wayland’s identity and then later faking Michael’s death by placing a memory block upon Jace like the one that Magnus creates for Clary and giving Jace one solid memory of his father that he shared with both Clary and the audience prior (though it was not mentioned that this was his only memory of his father, and perhaps it should have been).  She then has Valentine be able to show him that memory through some sort of spell.  I understand wanting to avoid that lengthy dialogue and can even thank her for the attempt, however, that proof was not enough for me to believe that Valentine was Jace’s father, and I was surprised that it was enough for Jace.

If a shared memory is how you want to have Jace come to realize that Valentine is his “father,” rather than having him recognize Valentine on sight, then that memory needs to be shown from two perspectives, or at least needs to be shown from Valentine’s in this later instance, not from a third or omniscient perspective, because as it is filmed the memory seems to be neither of theirs but rather the memory of a third person, watching, and the claim that Valentine is Jace’s father and the man who gave him the falcon is nullified.  (This quibble reminds me of this lesson by rufftoon in storyboarding.)

Also having Hodge suggest that Valentine lie to both Clary and Jace, telling both that he is their father implies that neither are his children when in fact, according to the series, Clary is Valentine’s legitimate daughter and Jace was raised by Valentine, and again, to suggest otherwise destroys the conflict and tension of the story.

One more, broader quibble:  Emphasizing Jace’s ability to play the piano (though I like the Bach as a Shadowhunter idea) only serves to draw a connection between him and Edward Cullen.  The original fans of Cassandre Cla(i)re were not Twihards (fans of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Saga).  The original fans were Potterheads, The Mortal Instruments being an evolution of a Harry Potter fanfiction series.  Twihards and Potterheads are in something of a fandom war.1  By taking our series (I am a Potterhead without being a Twihard) and trying to pander it to the Twihards, you perhaps win the Twihards to your movie but at the expense of a large, invested, and committed group.  Those who were or are Twihards may be ready now to be introduced to The Mortal Instruments, but we, the Potterheads, loved it first.2

Also, it needs to be mentioned—particularly for parents deciding whether to take their children—that the violence in this movie is graphic and realistic.  Imitating a Killing Curse causes no physical hurt; smashing someone’s face with a frying pan or a fridge door can cause some real damage.  I was rather impressed actually by Zwart’s refusal to shy from the violence that surrounds the lives of Shadowhunters if I grew a bit tired of extended battle sequences that were mostly too busy and too fast to follow.

The farther back I step and the more I analyze the adaptation, the more forgiving I become, but I was not a pleased fan at 2:30 AM on August 21, and I really did dislike that the novel’s internal conflict seemed to be shunted aside:

Jace tightened his grip on the angel blade.  “I can–“

“No, you can’t.”  Valentine reached out, through the Portal, and seized Jace’s wrist in his hand, dragging it forward until the tip of the seraph blade touched his chest.  Where Jace’s hand and wrist passed through the Portal, they seemed to shimmer as if they had been cast in water.  “Do it, then,” said Valentine.  “Drive the blade in.  Three inches–maybe four.”  He jerked the blade forward, the dagger’s tip slicing the fabric of his shirt.  A red circle like a poppy bloomed just over his heart.  Jace, with a gasp, yanked his arm free and staggered back.

“As I thought,” said Valentine.  “Too softhearted.” (464)

That is heart-wrenching, tells us a great deal about Jace, proves that Valentine knows Jace very well, and shows us a touch of Valentine’s insanity more so than Valentine battering Jace aside as Jace attempts to get near enough to break his pentagram.

1 There are of course Potterheads who are also Twihards and vice versa.

2 Cassandra Clare is not universally beloved by Potterheads, but she is one of us.  I am unsure whether she is also a Twihard.

**

The Mortal Instruments: The City of Bones.  Dir. Harald Zwart.  Constantin, Don Carmody, Unique Features.  2013.

Clare, Cassandra.  The Mortal Instruments, Book 1: City of Bones.  New York: Margaret K. McElderry-Simon & Schuster, 2007.

This review is not endorsed by Constantin Film Produktion, Don Carmody Productions, Unique Features, Harald Zwart, Jessica Postigo, anyone involved in the making of the film, Cassandra Clare, Simon & Schuster, or Margaret K. McElderry Books.  It is an independent, honest review by a viewer.

Book and Film Review: Warm Bodies is Deliciously Meaty

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Click to visit the publisher's site for links to order, synopsis, starred rating, and preview.

Beware spoilers.

Reading Isaac Marion’s Warm Bodies, I realized just how many escapist, donuts-for-dinner books I’ve been reading.  After all those donuts, it felt great to sit down to a real meat-and-potatoes dinner, the type of book that begs literary analysis of a classroom level—which Warm Bodies did despite being a zombie romance made recently into a motion picture.

Warm Bodies is a retelling of Romeo and Juliet, but also combines elements of “Beauty and the Beast” and of course the zombie apocalypse/post-apocalypse genre.  I saw the film before I read the book.  The Romeo and Juliet storyline did not fully register—though it did niggle—in my mind in the film till “the balcony scene.”  In the film, the balcony scene was subtly done, with camera angles echoing other, truer Romeo and Juliet adaptations mostly, though Julie echoes Juliet’s “if they do see thee, they will murder thee” (2.2.70) sentiment.  Marion’s book was a bit more blunt about the connection it wanted the reader to draw from this scene, where Julie uses a tape recorder to soliloquize to and wonders aloud what R is, what zombies are: “isn’t ‘zombie’ just a silly name we came up with for a state of being we don’t understand?  What’s in a name, right?” (127).  In this scene, I preferred the film to the book, but I wonder if that would still be the case had I not seen the movie already and already connected the story to Romeo and Juliet.

The film catered to its medium—as it should have done.  The plot was simplified, though it still asked the questions of “what is living?”, “what is death?” and all that must come up when a zombie begins to think about itself and its place in the pre-apocalypse and post-apocalypse world.

Prior to this story, I’d not seen any zombie films or read any zombie fiction, but I know enough about the genre to recognize that Marion has done something different with the zombie concept.  R is a zombie who questions himself and questions the structured zombie society of which he is a part.  Where the Boneys in the film were eaters of everything with a heartbeat, creatures of chaos and destruction, in the book they were priests more than anything else.  In Marion’s book they led the zombie church, preformed weddings, and reminded the undead about the dangers of the Living, a force for structure.

Yet ultimately, the Boneys are the enemy of both mediums.  Unable to return from the undead as R and the Fleshies are, they seek to destroy R and Julie and their hope and love for the threat that they pose to the new world order that the Boneys have created among the zombie hives.

I could not say that either medium presented the better story.  The humor of the film gave the action/adventure/zombie apocalypse a romantic comedy tone.  The mix of the genres was very appealing.  The book asked more of the deeper questions with more force than the film did and was more tragic ultimately than the film, though both ended with hope.  The book ventures more deeply into the effects of a zombpocalypse on humanity and on individuals and more dramatically portrays how the Living can be made dead by fear.

*****

for the book

Marion, Isaac.  Warm Bodies.  New York: Emily Bestler/Atria-Simon & Schuster, 2012.

Warm Bodies.  Dir. Jonathan Levine.  Summit, Make Movies, Mandeville.  2012.

This review is not endorsed by Isaac Marion, Emily Bestler Books, Atria Paperback, or Simon & Schuster, Inc or Summit Entertainment, Make Movies, or Mandeville Films.  It is an independent, honest review by a reader.

Film Review: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (Well Titled, Jackson)

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Click to visit the official site, for soundbites, showtimes, information, videos, stills, games, and more.

Spoilers ahoy!

There’s no one quite like Peter Jackson to portray the melee of battle.  Nor is there anyone quite like Howard Shore to compose catchy themes of great heroic timbre.  (Though I actually think that “The Lonely Mountain” could make a great lullaby—though a lullaby of disaster and vengeance, but those exist and are often sung to infant heroes.)

Jackson adds much of the fantastical history and mythology to the first installment, An Unexpected Journey, of his adaptation of J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, giving viewers a greater understanding of the dwarves’ history, and particularly that of Thorin and the line of Durin, and also introducing viewers to Radagast the Brown and the Necromancer.  He draws heavily from appendices material from The Lord of the Rings, material from Tolkien’s The Silmarillion (a weighty and difficult book to read, written with the tone of history tome), and sentences mentioned in passing and as throwaway facts of adventures not shared by Bilbo Baggins.  Yes, Jackson expands the story, but it’s almost entirely canon.

In expanding and adapting the tale, Jackson puts weight and draws connections where Tolkien does not—at least as clearly.  In Tolkien’s The Hobbit, Bilbo saves the dwarves by his cunning and by his stealth but never draws sword to stand up to a great orc king (in fact, no such orc king enters into Bilbo’s tale); he really only ever enters combat in desperate self-defense, and then I can remember him doing it but once.  Bilbo has gone from trickster in Tolkien to late-blooming hero in Jackson’s version.  Further, the dwarves quest in Tolkien reads primarily as one to recover “long-forgotten gold,” but Jackson puts greater emphasis on the return to the homeland (fitting for our time; there are parallels between this and so many cultures in our world that could be drawn, while a gold-lust we think of as primarily a bad thing in this modern era—and in fact, Jackson does highlight the greed of Thror as a sickness and as his doom).  To loyalty and friendship, Jackson adds (towards the end of this first film) to Bilbo’s motivations for remaining one of the company of Thorin Oakenshield shared love of home and hearth and the belief that everyone deserves these basic comforts.  This shifted emphasis will lend the quest more legitimacy and epic proportion.  Certainly it will generate more sympathy for the dwarves.

Jackson is working himself towards a strict divergence of plotlines, and it will be interesting to see how he handles this in later films.  Gandalf eventually leaves the company of Thorin to combat the Necromancer in the south of Mirkwood.  There will be too epic battles at least: that at which the Necromancer is put into remission and the Battle of the Five Armies on the slopes of the Lonely Mountain.

For all these altercations, it’s difficult to say whether reading or rereading the book really prepares you for the tale.  Parents should be advised that the movie is be more harrowing and darker than the book.

As ever, the scenery constructed by Weta Workshop is stunning, the Lonely Mountain carved in the manner of the tomb of Ramses II.

In sum, this is an enjoyable movie that exceeded my somewhat lukewarm expectations and high anticipation.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.  Dir. Peter Jackson.  Warner Bros, New Line, MGM, WingNut, 3Foot7.  2012.

This review is not endorsed by Warner Bros. Pictures, New Line Cinema, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), WingNut Films, 3Foot7, Peter Jackson, anyone in the cast, or anyone involved in making this film.  It is an independent, honest review by a viewer.

Film Review: Red Tails Offers a Thrilling Flight but Misses the True Target

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Red Tails had an amazing trailer, so much so that without having ever heard of the film, from the trailer alone, my Sherlockian friend and I decided to meet at the theater the following week to see the film.  The movie was not entirely what I was expecting.  Knowing little of WWII history, I would have appreciated more of the history being worked somehow into the plot and script of the film.  I think Red Tails assumed a little more era-specific knowledge.  Which, I admit, the majority of the audience, I saw when the lights were turned on, probably had.

My major complaint about the film was this:

For a movie the message of which is that race does not confer greatness or difference, it was horridly black-and-white.  I understand, of course, that WWII fighter pilots, possibly even by necessity, did in fact see the Germans as little more than targets, but I would have appreciated less demonization of the Germans, many of whom were following orders—bad orders, yes—but, too, the Germans in this film were not those who probably ever saw the atrocities of the concentration camps.  It seemed almost as if the African American characters were foisting their own problems onto another group of people; rather than recognizing that prejudice and the demonization of one race by another is bad, the African Americans dehumanized the Germans similarly to how they—the African Americans—had been dehumanized by the Caucasian Americans and Europeans.  I honestly would almost expect more gray from an executive producer whose best-known project has been detailing the fall into darkness and rise from it again of a young Ani.

Red Tails shone in the scenes between the aerial battles.  It did not represent army life as always one of rigidity and marching.  The scenes of guitar-playing, card games, football, mess hall, and celebrating victories made the characters seem more human than they would have without these scenes.  I can’t say I’ve ever been in a situation I could relate to aerial warfare, but I can relate to time spent hanging out with friends.

The camaraderie of army life (which I’d like to believe exists though, again, I don’t know first hand) was nicely illustrated in the interactions between the characters and even among extras.

There were some really pretty fantastic action sequences in this film and the filming and special effects are quite impressive, though I might be remembering the effects as better than they were.  The opening credits seemed so retro that I suspected a low-budget film, but Red Tails was actually made with $100 million of George Lucas’ fortune according to Entertainment Weekly.

I think I would have preferred fewer aerial battles—or at least more scenes between.  I wanted to linger with the characters and instead was thrust into dogfights where it was possible to glean something of the characters, but not perhaps as much as I was able to gain from their grounded scenes.

Overall, I wish the film had been more slowly paced.  I wish it had shown the African American fighter pilots as more sympathetic to the Germans, though I realize this historically might be impossible.  Red Tails is more of an action than a perception-altering film—enjoyable but not as important as it could have been.

Red Tails.  Dir. Anthony Hemingway.  Exec. Prod. George Lucas.  Twentieth Century Fox Films & LucasFilms.  2012.

This review is not endorsed by Twentieth Century Fox Films, LucasFilms, George Lucas, Anthony Hemingway, anyone in the cast, or anyone involved in making this film.  It is an independent, honest review by a viewer.

Film Review: A Game of Shadows of the Canon

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I am not a Sherlockian, but I have read some of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories about the Great Detective, and one of my dear friends is surely a Sherlockian.  Seeing the movie the first time, I squeed in the theater to recognize lines from the stories in the script of Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows.  These lines made the film seem to me to be a good adaptation of Conan Doyle’s stories, though (I’ve checked with my Sherlockian friend) the film’s plot has nothing to do with anything that Conan Doyle ever conceived.  The film’s is certainly an exciting plot, but outside of the realm of Conan Doyle’s original works, where, yes, Sherlock is an internationally renowned detective and a drug-addict and boxer as this film series has portrayed, [SPOILER] but not perhaps the bullet-dodging hero who delayed World War I, any more perhaps than Moriarty is an international arms dealer. [END SPOILER]  Perhaps one of the greatest differences between Conan Doyle’s original characters and Ritchie’s interpretations of them is that in Conan Doyle’s stories Holmes and Moriarty are playing a game, the goal of which is to outwit the other, while in Ritchie’s movie, [SPOILER] Moriarty is motivated by desire for power and wealth, and Holmes is motivated to save the world from Moriarty and avert world war; he does not as is said at his funeral “play the game for the game’s sake.” [END SPOILER]

I saw the 2009 Sherlock Holmes film but once and that last year, but to my remembrance, this sequel focuses more on the characters and their relationships to one another than did the first film, which was more focused on the mystery to be solved.  The “bromance” of Holmes and Watson, which, believe it or not, is canon, is greatly played up in A Game of Shadows.  The enmity and similarities between Holmes and Moriarty are fantastically rendered on film and in the script.  Holmes, Watson, and Moriarty are all interesting by themselves, but to see them all together on film is fascinating.

Tension is kept reasonably high through the film, with exciting exploits, gun battles, daring escapes, and a cross-countries race against time.

Because Holmes knows his opponent, which is not unheard of in Conan Doyle’s original stories, there seems to be less mystery in A Game of Shadows, but the mystery to be solved—what is Moriarty’s plot—is still the driving force of the movie’s plot.  The film gives you all of the puzzle pieces and then lets you tag along as Sherlock puts all of those pieces together.

Now, I’ve said a lot without actually giving any opinion.  I thoroughly enjoyed the film.  It was exciting.  The unexpected lines, delivery, and actions made it humorous.  It was at times touching in the way that only “bromances” really can be.  The film was intellectually stimulating while still satisfying that desire (that is not purely masculine) for explosions, high-speed chases, and adrenaline.

What I most disliked was the feeling that I was missing several years of Holmes’ and Watson’s relationship.  I ought to rewatch the 2009 film because my Sherlockian friend tells me that I’ve forgotten the romantic subplot between Watson and Mary, and remembering that, I might have felt less of a gap and enjoyed it still more.

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows.  Dir. Guy Ritchie.  Warner Bros. Pictures.  2011.

This review is not endorsed by Warner Bros., Guy Ritchie, anyone in the cast, or anyone involved in making this film, nor anyone connected with the estate of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. It is an independent, honest review by a viewer.

Film Review: The Hunger Games: “Thank you for your consideration”

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Minor series spoilers.

I’ve just returned from seeing the much-touted cinematic adaptation of Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games, which was highly influenced by Suzanne Collins herself in her roles as co-screenwriter and co-producer (I applaud her victory on that count).  You might remember that I wasn’t a huge fan of the book itself.  I suppose it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, then, that I wasn’t head-over-heels for the film either.

The film cleared up Katniss’ gender easily (reading the book, her first person voice was masculine enough to greatly confuse me, really, till I turned to the back and saw that she was given the feminine pronoun), and I enjoyed its insight into life outside the arena, in the Game room, President Snow’s garden, Districts 12 and 11….  These insights deepen the plot by showing the causes and effects of Katniss’ actions in the arena, about which Katniss might speculate in the book but of which she knows nothing for certain.  As someone who I think ships the (I believe, but remember I haven’t read the second or third books yet) star-crossed pairing of Katniss/Gale, the scenes of Gale’s reactions to Katniss and Peeta’s budding though potentially pretended relationship were particularly heart-rending.

Almost all around, this is a well-acted film.  The characters were easy to feel for (or hate as appropriate), and little interaction was required to express their feelings for one another.  Especially skilled were Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss, Josh Hutcherson as Peeta, Liam Hemsworth as Gale, and Amandla Stenberg as Rue.

What this movie failed to express—or failed to express as clearly as the book does was Katniss’ and Peeta’s reactions to being pawns in the Hunger Games.  The focus seemed to be on the excitement and peril of the Games and less on the problem with the government that the Games exposes.  This, I think, is mostly the fault of the medium.  Katniss’ voice is a close one in the novel.  Her inner monologue is absent from the movie.  Peeta’s anti-government feelings, though, might have been played up more on film.

Much, really, overall might have been better explained, such as mockingjays’ and tracker jackers’ historical importance and the symbolism of three upheld fingers.

I’d be interested to hear opinions from those who haven’t read the books.  Was the story clear?  What did you or didn’t you understand?

I can see though where fans of the books would come away quite satisfied.  The movie’s plot adheres quite closely to the book’s (so far as I recall), so fans of the series will grumble about errors more quietly than, say, Tolkienites or Potter-heads tended to after seeing their films.

I almost think though, for all this and all my previous grumbles, that I prefer the book to the movie because it more strongly comes across as a political struggle, and I enjoy a strong focus on politics in my plots.

It maybe should be mentioned that, while I haven’t read Catching Fire or Mockingjay, I’ve read a few spoilers.  I’m not actually sure that I felt that The Hunger Games book did emphasize political struggle as strongly as I’d have liked; I think I’ve imposed a stronger emphasis on those stirrings of political dissent post-spoiler than I originally read in Katniss’ grumbles.

My film rating?

***

The Hunger Games.  Dir. Gary Ross.  Lionsgate.  2012.

This review is not endorsed by Lionsgate, Gary Ross, anyone in the cast, or anyone involved in making this film, nor Suzanne Collins or Scholastic. It is an independent, honest review by a viewer.