Film No 43 (2014) : The Hunger Games – Catching Fire

Hunger Games 2Having been selected at the annual Reaping as the Tribute to compete for District 12 in the 74th Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) came through her first Games. ‘Catching Fire‘ is the second Hunger Games movie and begins with Katniss and her fellow survivor Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), taking part in a Victory Tour of the Districts. Katniss has a part to play but she won’t abide by the rules; she deviates from the prepared scripts and planned appearances, revealing a rebellious streak which soon makes her a symbol of hope for the repressed people of the Districts. As a threat to the Capitol, she must be eliminated in the next Games, the 75th. But Katniss has allies, both within the arena of the Games and beyond. Can her compatriots ensure her survival?

This is a full-on action movie, with thrilling, unexpected plot twists and futuristic special effects. The Tributes crashing through the rainforest to escape an encroaching cloud of poisonous gas, which gains on them with every panicked stride, is the stuff of my nightmares. Vicious mandrills, dehydration and electric shocks all conspire to defeat the young warriors, but from my seat in the living room, I was rooting for Katniss and Peeta at every turn.

There is something at the heart of this dystopian story which terrifies me; the possibility of it all, world politics and corrupt power coupled with money and weapons, dividing us all into factions, haves and have nots. One part of me knows it’s a story, but if I were to believe at least some of what is written and reported from militarized societies in the world today, Suzanne Collins and her imaginative ilk may be more prophetic than we care to acknowledge. Best not to think too deeply, just enjoy the movie!

(Whilst the books form a trilogy, the final instalment has been divided into two films. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 was released on 20 November 2014  in the UK and is still showing in some cinemas.)

 

Book No 37 (2014) : Divergent

divergentDivergent‘ was released on DVD on 5 August 2014 and although I’d heard of it, I’ve neither read it nor seen the film. Having said that, quite a few teenage bookworms have raved about it to me, so I wanted to see what the fuss is about. Typically for me, I decided to read the book!

In a dystopian future, society is divided into five factions, the members of which epitomise Selflessness (Abnegation), Bravery (Dauntless), Intelligence (Erudite), Honesty (Candor) and Peacefulness (Amity). Beatrice Prior has been born and raised in Abnegation but, like all teenagers, there comes a point when she has to decide whether to remain in the faction of her upbringing, or forsake her family and join another. The decision is hers, but she is subjected to an aptitude test to identify her natural inclinations and so guide her choice. Beatrice’s test results are inconclusive. She will not fit neatly into any of the pre-defined boxes. This fact marks her as Divergent – unconventional and uncontrollable. A threat to the faction rulers.

Comparisons with ‘The ‘Hunger Games‘ is inevitable and most agree that Katniss and her contemporaries are more inspiring than Beatrice (Tris) and hers. I am not about to disagree, however that may be because the ‘Hunger Games’ came first? I enjoyed ‘Divergent‘. It is a bit gruesome and violent in places, but Tris is a gutsy heroine; there is a bit of love interest as well as a coming-of-age perspective, conspiracy theories and power struggles.

Once I’d finished the book, I felt compelled to take the online aptitude test to discover the faction to which I would belong. My instincts told me I would be dyed-in-the-wool Amity, but was I surprised by my result….

Film No 27 (2014) : The Hunger Games

Hunger GamesOne-to-one time with a teenage son is a rare opportunity, so I jumped at his suggestion that we watch the first ‘Hunger Games’ film on Netflix. I’ve read the book (by Suzanne Collins) so knew the story.

In a nutshell, 24 young people are set against each other in a battle of survival. The Hunger Games are played out in an outdoor, enclosed arena, which covers woodland, rivers and open spaces. The Games are televised for the entertainment of the outside world; the competitors (known as Tributes) can attract sponsors who send in essential equipment and aids, such as medicine. The action centres upon Katniss Everdeen, who volunteers to take part in the Games in place of her sister. There can only be one winner of the Games. The winner is the one who is left once all the others have been eliminated. By death.

I’m sure the ‘Hunger Games’ intended audience is probably teenagers, (it’s rated 12A in the UK) but I was totally transfixed all the way through. Jennifer Lawrence is a wonderfully expressive Katniss, displaying both immense bravery, empathy and vulnerability. Her reluctance to ‘play the game’ to try to endear her to the audience, adds to her strength of character as a young woman guided by a strong moral compass.

But for me the appeal of the film was not just about what was on the screen, it was the whole examination of modern day life. The viewers are obsessed with physical attractiveness, appearances are carefully controlled by the programme makers who manipulate both the screenings of the Hunger Games as well as the competition arena. Young people trying to eliminate one another, watched by millions who are glued to their screens, choose their favourites, take bets – isn’t that what ‘I’m A Celebrity, Get Me out of Here!’, ‘Big Brother’ and countless other reality TV shows are all about? Scary as it may seem, a real Hunger Games really doesn’t feel all that far removed from where we are now.