Tag Archives: The Hunger Games

Happiness is a Nuclear Family in a Dystopia

CA.0802.harry.potter.hallows.2.

Mockingjay Part 2 succeeded as an adaptation in that its ending scene was just as silly as it was in the book. It would have been fantastically poignant and sweet to end on “You love me, real or not real?” “Real” and fade out with hopeful ambiguity that maybe, even after all they’ve been through, our two young heroes are going to be okay, but instead it was deemed more appropriate to have a flash-forward to them picnicking in an idyllic field with their 2.5 children. Which is a strangely pervasive trend and one that, while kind of cute, is outweighed in most cases by the problems with it.

The other obvious big example of this is the Harry Potter epilogue, in which the characters we’ve grown to know and love return as adults to load their beautiful children onto the Hogwarts Express. A lot of people have a lot of problems with this ending, and I can see why, the largest two being that in the scene’s cyclical nature—complete with half the kids seemingly named after past characters—it creates a sense of repetition and almost stagnation. What are Our Brave Wizarding Heroes doing in the future? Oh, they’re dropping their kids off to go to Hogwarts, just like their parents did, and just like their parents did before. What are they doing career-wise? Are dark wizards still on the loose? Have muggle relations improved? How are they coping psychologically with the events they’ve lived through? A lot of the interesting business regarding the state of the world and its inhabitants after the story’s end is effectively shuffled to the side in favour of demonstrating everyone’s family trees. Continue reading

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No Good Guys in Slytherin: YA and Box-Putting

Hogwarts crest

The Sorting Hat has run off with the Scarf of Sexual Preference, so we’re just going to put everyone who looks like a good guy into Gryffindor and everyone who looks like a bad guy into Slytherin.

A Very Potter Musical Act I

I admit it—even though I’m not a self-described Harry Potter fanatic, it did capture my heart when I was younger and yes, I did create a self-indulgent fantastical scenario in my head and a little bit on paper where my friends and I went to study at Hogwarts. Frankly, I wouldn’t have lasted a day among the moving staircases and giant spiders (then again, having lived in Australia, maybe I’d just take such things in stride), but it was still fun. There was, of course, the big, crucial question of what house I’d end up in, as there somehow often is when it comes to fantastical or sci-fi series aimed at young people. I grabbed at straws and decided I was bookish and got good grades so I stuck myself in Ravenclaw.

Thinking about it now, I value my sense of loyalty over my smarts, so I’d be more of a Hufflepuff person, but they always kind of seemed like The Other Ones among the much more majestic houses, even when they did give us the occasional major character. Their emblem is a badger, for heaven’s sake. Lion? Badger? Weigh it up. Hell, even a snake is cooler, and those are the bad guys. Well, technically if you’re in Slytherin all it means is that your dominant trait is your cunning, but that’s the trouble with putting characters into groups, isn’t it? We come to associate them and their ilk with certain connotations.

To be fair, Slytherin also favours pureblooded wizards, so by extension they’re also all a bunch of racists. That can’t be true for every member of the house, though. What if you’re a cunning, self-serving little dude who’s also smart and brave? Would the Sorting Hat freeze up? Surely there have been Divergent style Hogwarts students who haven’t fit neatly into one house because they have more than one outgoing attribute, or students that have wanted to transfer halfway through because their personality changes and develops as they mature into young adults? Shock and horror, YA characters not fitting into boxes. Usually it’s cause for revolution, but not always, but either way it’s an interesting trend to look at in media aimed at young-uns. Continue reading

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Dystopias: Not the End of the World

Divergent movie poster

Are those pants comfy enough to change the world in…?

A dystopian future, a corrupt system of ruling, and a teenager that’s destined to bring it down. Sound familiar? ‘Course it does, my friends. Dystopias are everywhere you look, mostly dominating the YA market. This is not me griping about everyone’s unoriginality, because let’s face it, there are only so many plot frameworks that exist in the world and writing something that isn’t ‘new’ is not a problem if it’s done well. What I am wondering is what exactly this obsession with terrible future governments and the kids that take them apart says about us as writers and consumers.

It’s not as if this is a modern trend—people have been coming up with dystopian stories for as long as there have been governments to satirise or comment on, from totalitarian visions like George Orwell’s 1984 to William Gibson’s brand of cyberpunk. As one of my friends is fond of reminding me, The Hunger Games is in no way revolutionary since the exact same idea is played with in the ‘80s movie Running Man and the Japanese novel Battle Royale. So no, nothing about this love for crappy systems pitting characters against each other is very new.

The fact that it’s emerged so strongly in the young adult section is interesting to me, though. There could be a lot of reasons for that: seeing children affected drives home how horrible things really are in this imagined world, young people have always been associated with revolution and new ideas, and we all have an instinctive fear that teenaged girls have the power to destroy us. Well, fair enough. Continue reading

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If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Adapt It

Paper Towns alternate covers

A Paper Towns movie? Have I heard these digital whispers correctly? It seems I have. Of course, not every movie deal that gets hand-shook ends up seeing the light of day, and we have yet to see how The Fault in Our Stars, another adaptation of a John Green novel produced by the same people reportedly putting together Paper Towns, goes when it hits cinemas in June. Still, my air of dubiousness has been, regret to say, riled up again on the subject of book-to-movie adaptations. Here we go again, friends.

My number one gripe about this industry is making movies of books not because they would make good movies, but because the book is popular. The fans are calling wistfully for a moving picture adaptation to bring their beloved vision to life. The Hollywood moguls see a potential project to cash in on. Everyone wants to see a book they enjoyed come to life, but the wall that train of thought runs into is that the movie that it becomes will never be the one you saw in your head while reading it, simply because sometimes the magic of a novel comes from the medium it’s in. A good book does not always make a good movie.

At one end of the spectrum (let’s look to YA, because that’s the big market at the moment it seems) we have The Hunger Games, which made awesome movies that are almost complementary to if not more enjoyable at times than the novels. They worked because of the action-packed nature of the plot (though people in the “why do we have to watch her sitting in a goddamn tree” school of thought will disagree with me there) and the quick, snappy style it’s written in, helped by the fact the novels were structured like a screenplay with a three-act framework Suzanne Collins picked up from being a scriptwriter. A quieter, more introspective novel like Paper Towns that revolves around everyday teenagers is immediately not blockbuster fuel. It’s a good book, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to make a good movie, in fact, in making a movie of that you might lose a good chunk of what exactly makes it good in the first place. Continue reading

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A Wave of YA Book Adaptations (Yay?)

The Fault in Our Stars movie poster

This is not a post musing in a mutter about whether Hollywood is running out of ideas since half the new cinema releases these days are book adaptations, but instead looking at the trend towards the young adult audience within those adaptations. Just this year we’ve had Beautiful Creatures, The Host, City of Bones and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, with many more in the works and peeping over the developmental horizon. It’s a pretty interesting trend considering before a few years ago movies based on teen books, much less books for teen girls, weren’t so much A Thing, but now the genre is practically booming.

Why is this? Well, much as everyone has mercifully stopped talking about Twilight I think it’s worth a mention here—Harry Potter too, for being the first to take on the ambitious project of adapting an entire series of seven books (that turned into eight movies), which was a ridiculous feat when it first came out, but now every other series seems intent on following suit. But Twilight stood out as being the first major adaptation of a YA series geared specifically towards girls (not that guys can’t enjoy the saga too, of course… Bella’s so wonderfully bland that inserting yourself into her shell is really rather gender neutral), going on to draw legions of devoted and new fans, casually ruin Robert Pattinson’s life and make squillions of dollars. And while they were at it, prove that adaptations of YA novels made for and led by teenaged girls can be successful, which opened the doors for a flood of new productions.

Which is pretty awesome, because if there’s one thing this little everyman media critic never turns down it’s mainstream fiction with strong female characters, especially those of the coming of age variety which, classically, is a pretty male-dominated field. It’s also interesting to note that a lot of these adaptations are of urban fantasy series, which makes sense because they contain a lot of visual splendour and action that would translate well to the screen. It’s opening up the field for new talent and injecting imagination into the stream of blockbuster releases. It’s great, but is it entirely a good thing? Well, let me bring out my scales. Continue reading

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Laugh-Sighing at Media Reactions to The Hunger Games

Writing Buddy and I went and saw Catching Fire last week, which was an exercise in film excellence and reignited emotions for the series. It’s been a while since I read the books (just long enough, it turns out, for me to forget about the goddamn mutated monkeys of terror holy cow) so it’s been interesting to get back into the swing of all things horrifyingly dystopian and revolutionary… and find my palm raising towards my face once again over all the interview questions regarding the love triangle.

The love loop in The Hunger Games is one of the more irritating ones in the sphere, I think, since though I liked both ‘love interests’ as people and characters and acknowledged Katniss’ positive dynamics with both of them, it seemed wholly, achingly unnecessary. The relationship with Peeta was the one that got the most development and, well, the one we saw the most of, and it would have been nothing short of a cop-out if our heroine (who was expressedly not interested in romance at all) had ended up with the other guy. From a conservation of detail point of view, it was pretty obvious who Katniss was going to end up with if she was going to end up with anyone, and any touchy-feelyness on Gale’s part seemed like added drama for the sake of added drama.

And, of course, the romantic angle isn’t what the series is about, it’s an element shoved way, way at the back in terms of importance. It’s a story about a sadistic dystopian government that rules by fear, the division between oppressing classes, the power of hope and human endurance and the desire for freedom and revolution. It’s a hard-hitting, violent sci-fi in a terrifyingly believable future, a commentary on the media of our world and our society’s casual bloodlust and voyeurism. It just happens to have a teenaged girl narrating and leading it, who happens to be caught between the affections of two dudes, and naturally and very, very ironically this is what the media latches onto. Continue reading

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Second Book Syndrome

A strange epidemic that rages through the world of media and fiction alongside sequelitis, Second Book Syndrome is a bizarre phenomenon the plagues many a series. Have you ever read a series or trilogy and found that, despite the greatness of the first book and perhaps the third and onwards, the second one was really not that sharp?

The Harry Potter books, for example, are sort of universally agreed to have taken a bit of a dip in The Chamber of Secrets (not that it deterred any fans as the other five books kept coming out and selling like, well, fun fantasy adventures about teenage wizards), discussions with peers and the analytical sharp tongue of Mark have revealed that Catching Fire was a bit of a disappointment after the pull of The Hunger Games, I completely lost the energy to read The Ask and the Answer despite how incredible and gripping its predecessor The Knife of Never Letting Go had been, A Clash of Kings seemed harder to chew through than the radiance of A Game of Thrones and A Storm of Swords

What is going on here?

I’ve been racking my brain for reasons behind this outbreak (which is by no means a new phenomenon, of course, but it is the age wherein it can be pondered on the Intertubes by writers who have little better to do with their spare time than come up with witticisms and shout at fictional characters), and I have thought of some potential causes: Continue reading

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