The Hunger Games- Book Review

I posted about this on Facebook the other day (admittedly probably not the appropriate outlet for it) and it created quite the little controversy.

I read the first book of Suzanne Collins’ “The Hunger Games” trilogy and I was left feeling a bit disappointed. The movie came out last night, and I just read THIS which doesn’t surprise me at all.

What I said on Facebook was, I feel that the book will actually translate better to film than it was as a book. Which would be one of those rare cases where the film is better than the source material. I clearly stated that due to my Harry Potter bias, there are precious few young adult (YA) books that will impress me. With Harry Potter, it wasn’t just the story, or the characters, or the plot, or the themes or the writing style, or how J.K. Rowling literally forced the reader to feel what Harry felt at each stage of his development. It was all of those things, and then some.

There is nothing that bothers me more than when someone says “well, it was just meant to be a fun read, it doesn’t have to be good”. I say, if we don’t hold the things we read and watch to some level of standard, then the things that are offered will continue to be worse and worse. Was the story of Hunger Games interesting, if a bit unoriginal, absolutely. Do books like this get young people reading, yes of course. But in my mind, as Harry Potter proved, just because it is written for young people, doesn’t mean it has to be Twilight.

Speaking of Twilight, unlike my issues with that fetid waste of paper, I didn’t take issue with the message or themes. In Twilight, the reader is subjected to what I consider a disgusting abuse of the notion that young women should be strong, independent decision makers who do not rely on men for their self-image. The second Twilight book has Bella literally considering suicide, because without Edward, her life is meaningless. Edward is the drug that keeps her alive, and without him she becomes a pathetic shell of a person who resembles a heroin addict with no access to their drug. That is not a message I want my daughter to be receiving.

Katniss on the other hand is a strong, independent woman who stands up for what she believes in and even goes so far as to use her powers as a woman to influence the men around her to aid her in her mission. Katniss is princess Leia, Bella is Queen Amedala (or Padme, or whatever her name was). So my issue wasn’t with the plot, or the story, or even the main character. My issue was that the book felt “thin”.  There was very little depth to the supporting characters (aside from maybe Peeta) and because the entire narrative is told from Katniss’ perspective, the audience is denied access to many of the most important aspects of the story. Katniss is often thinking about how the viewers at home are perceiving her struggle through the Games, but we never see it. We don’t see what it is like for Gale, or her mother, or the parents and loved ones of the other competitors to have to watch as Katniss and others battle to the death. All of this can and will be shown in the film, and I think it will add tremendous depth to the story.

She states that she is in the Games for about two weeks, but to the reader it feels like 2 or 3 days. Just telling me something took a long time is lazy writing. When Harry, Ron and Hermione are trudging across Great Britain attempting to evade Voldemort’s forces, the reader is brough along on that arduous, often boring journey. That is what life is like, and to just tell the reader “the next few days were tough… etc., etc.” doesn’t force the reader to feel it. I remember getting really frustrated with Harry Potter the character in the beginning of Order of the Phoenix, and thinking he was acting like an idiot. Then it dawned on me that I was feeling exactly what she wanted me to feel. I was feeling like a frustrated 15 year-old. There was none of that in this book. She glazed over the boring or difficult parts so that the reader never experienced it with her.

This to me is the weakness of the book, and the issue I have with the first-person narrative only approach that she chose to use. I didn’t hate the book, but I think the movie will be better. Because of the plot, the emotional high for me was when Katniss volunteered for the Games in place of her sister. It was an emotionally heart-wrenching scene, but it was like the second chapter. When she was in the Games, so much happened so fast there were few moments to really hurt. If the author had let the audience into the minds of the people whose loved ones were fighting for their lives, I think there would have been more of that.

I didn’t mean to offend anyone with what I said on Facebook. For me, just because I am reading something for fun, doesn’t mean it doesn’t have to be well written. I think after everything I heard about this book, I just expected more. I don’t think it is Twilight, but it is most definitely not Harry Potter.

Feedback Appreciated

Ever since I linked this site to Facebook, there has been a dramatic increase in hits to the site.

Unless the same two people are clicking on the link 40 times every time I post something, someone is reading it. It is a scary thing to post something (especially pictures) and have no idea who is looking and what they are thinking.

If you have thoughts, or feedback or think I am an idiot, please feel free to say so in the comments section on the blog or on Facebook. I have had this site going for almost five years (I started writing it after Avi was born and she will be five in July). During that time the focus of the blog has transitioned from sports, to politics, to what is clearly at the forefront of my mind currently; working out, diet and P90X2.

I am sure as time goes on this will change again. The title of the blog comes from my all time favorite Harry Potter quote and continues to define what I do with this space, it is literally whatever is on my mind.

And So It Ends…

I am obviously going to have a lot to say about this, as I can basically chart the last 10 years or so of my life based on the release of HP books and movies. To know how I felt about the movie (you are reading this, so lets assume you care) I would start by reading This

I agree with basically everything that is stated in that review, right down to his description of how moving the sound track was. I am typing this through puffy eyes as I spent the better part of the hours of 12am- 3 am in tears last night. The best thing that I think I can say is that the film did not disappoint. If you know how seriously I take my criticism of Harry Potter movies, you know how big of a statement this is.

I have read, and reread the last 4 or five chapters of Hallows over and over the last few weeks. To me, the story from the time of Snape’s death, to the time of Harry’s rebirth is the most crucial period in the entire series. It was my deepest hope for this film that they would not do what they did with so many other key factors in the films (I speak now to you, guy who never mentioned that Harry’s patronus was a stag for a reason in film 3) and blow it.

I can say now, they simply did not. I could literally almost talk along with the characters during the final scenes, because the film makers did such a good job sticking to the source material (FINALLY!!!).

The major themes of the book… love, loss, friendship and self-sacrifice, were all well represented. The key theme to the entire series, that it matters not who we are born to be, but who we chose to be that truly matters, was (DON’T READ THIS IF YOU HAVEN”T SEEN IT) heart-wrenchingly apparent as Severus Snape held the lifeless body of his life-long love, Lilly Evans-Potter.

My biggest criticism of the films to this point has always been, I simply cannot understand why they make the choice to cut what they cut and add what they add (I still have not been given a good explanation as to what the hell Belatrix and Greyback were doing attacking the Burrow if film 6). This time, the changes were almost all for the better. Most of the small changes made no difference to the film, and in many cases, made it a better film (Harry confronting Snape in the great hall before he “does a bunk” was an awesome addition).

There were still a few head-scratchers (how did Luna get into the Room of Requirement before Harry, Ron and Hermione?).

To me, the most important part was, The Princes’ Tale, Into the Forest Again, and Kings Cross were perfect. And for this Harry Potter fanatic, that was all I really needed. Could it have been longer? Yes, of course. Could they have done a bit more with the Dumbledore-Harry-Hallows back story that was largely left out of the films (both 7.1 and 7.2) yes, of course. Could Harry have explained more to a confused and scared Tom Riddle about how and why the Elder Wand did not work for him as it should, yes, again, of course. But for me, finally, I am able to separate the books from the films and enjoy the two individually.

The question has always been, how badly are they going to butcher my books? This time, they simply did not. As a side note, after re-watching Chamber of Secrets with Av yesterday, I have a new respect for films 1 and 2. They were meant for a young audience, and she absolutely loved it. I can now set these films aside in my mind, hold them in a special place, separate and apart from my books and enjoy them for what they are.

“The Last Enemy that Shall Be Conquered is Death”

What are the Deathly Hallows?

The wait (at least half of it) is over. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was released last night. From my perspective, it did not disappoint.

I obviously had my issues with the film, as I have had with each that has come before it. I said after Order of the Phoenix that the team that is been entrusted to recreate this series has finally started to get things right. Occasionally, some of the cuts and or additions that they make are so egregious that I can’t in good conscious overlook them. Of course I am speak of the ridiculous Burrow attack scene that makes absolutely no sense in Half-Blood Prince.

There were very, very few additions to Hallows that I really had a problem with.

**********Spoilers Contained Below*********************

Really, the only thing that they added that made me cringe was having Grindewald tell Voldemort where he could find the Elder Wand. I found it an important aspect of the book that as his dying act, Gridewald stood up to Voldy.

Aside from that, the only thing that rubbed me the wrong was how chatty Dobby was throughout the film. I know many people were pleased to see him back, but I didn’t think he needed to hold a full conversation with Bellatrix prior to departing from Malfoy Mannor.

The number one issue that I have had with the film versions has been what they have chosen to remove from them. For instance, how do you leave out of Prizoner of Azkaban that Harry’s father was one of the creators of the map, and that Harry’s patronus was a stag? The entire theme of the book was Harry coming to terms with his parents and their existence.

A few of the things that they have chosen to leave out of previous films came back to bite them in Hallows. I was never a fan of the ending scene in the H-BP film, where the Death Eaters were not forced to fight their way out of the school. Had they stuck to the book, Bill Weasley could have been introduced and attacked by Greyback. Throwing him into the opening scene was awkward.

I wish they had done more with Dumbledore’s past. They didn’t address much of the history that fills the pages of the Life and Lies of Albus Dumbledore. I think that stuff is important in that it creates tension between Harry and Dumbledore, which is a key theme of the book. Harry has to learn that his former head master was a human being, capable of the same mistakes we all make.

I would have like to see Voldemort arrive in Godric’s Hallow, by showing up he sees the picture of Grindewald and is able to connect the dots between Gregorovitch’s memory and the Elder Wand’s location. In the film, he shows up at Nurmenguard with no explanation of how he knew to go there.

What has always bothered me about the things that they cut from the films, is that it would not add time to the film (which I have always assumed is the only good reason to cut such key elements). You can easily put this stuff in, and I think it creates a fuller, richer story.

The scene with Hermione and Harry dancing was added, and I thought it was perfect.

I don’t want to sound like I didn’t enjoy the film. I did, I actually loved it. I loved the mood they created. The action scenes were exciting and placed perfectly to keep the film moving.

I think they did a great job with where the film ended. Dobby’s death is the logical split in the films. It is at that point in the book where Harry stops following the bread crumbs left for him by his dead friend, and makes a choices that will ultimately impact his survival.

I don’t care what non-fans think of the film. I loved it and can’t wait for July.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

So we are edging closer and closer to the reported release date and the excitement is building, at least in this house.

The EW article answers some of the questions that have been floating around 159 South Ave for months.

The biggest mystery has been (aside from how badly they will butcher my favorite of the 7 books) where will they split the film. From the time they announced that the final film would be two full length films, we have wondered (and debated) where is the best place for the split, and more importantly, where would the director choose to split it.

We now have an answer.

Part one will end when Voldemort robs Dumbledore’s grave of the Elder wand, the Death Stick, the Wand of Destiny. All of which Harry sees in his head on the banks of the lake that Harry, Ron and Hermione jumped into following their escape from Gringotts.

I was surprised to hear this because it seems to fall so late in the book. This means that Part 2 will consist of basically the battle for Hogwarts.

Part 1 will have to include parts of the Wedding, the Escape, the assault on the Ministry, all that Camping, Godric’s Hollow, Ron’s return, Malfoy Mannor, and Gringotts. Needless to say, there is going to be a lot going on in Part 1.

I have said before that the logical break would be just after Dobby’s death, Harry having just made the choice to pursue Horcruxes, not Hallows. I would have ended part one just after Harry spoke with Olivander and Griphook, and started part 2 with Harry sitting on the cliffs at Shell Cottage looking out over the ocean. But hey, what do they care what I think .

Because of where they have chosen to split the film, there will be ample time to give a full treatment to the battle for Hogwarts, the Pensive, Back into the Forrest, Kings Cross and the Flaw on the Plan.

Trying to temper my expectations is not working well.

The Deathly Hallows

Just put Avi to bed, settled onto the couch and was flipping looking for something to watch. Stopped on Harry Potter and the Prizoner of Azkaban for lack of anything better to watch.

During the first commercial break, these scenes came up as part of ABC Family’s Harry Potter Weekend.

Fool me once with bad Harry Potter movies, shame on me, fool me twice, shame on me again. Fool me three times, and I must really loves this series of books.

I love that it looks like they got the Shell Cottage scene correct. There is no more important moment in any of the books than when Harry makes the decision while digging Dobby’s grave, Horcruxes, not Hallows.