Saturday, March 24, 2012

"The Hunger Games"

[Suzanne] Collins is an efficient no-nonsense prose stylist with a pleasantly dry sense of humor. Reading The Hunger Games is as addictive (and as violently simple) as playing one of those shoot-it-if-it-moves videogames in the lobby of the local eightplex; you know it's not real, but you keep plugging in quarters anyway. Balancing off the efficiency are displays of authorial laziness that kids will accept more readily than adults. When Katniss needs burn cream or medicine for Peeta, whom she more or less babysits during the second half of the book, the stuff floats down from the sky on silver parachutes. And although the bloody action in the arena is televised by multiple cameras, Collins never mentions Katniss seeing one. Also, readers of Battle Royale (by Koushun Takami), The Running Man, or The Long Walk (those latter two by some guy named Bachman) will quickly realize they have visited these TV badlands before.

-excerpt from a faint-praise review by Stephen King of Suzanne Collins's dystopian novel The Hunger Games

Stephen King is justifiably displeased about The Hunger Games, a story that is an obvious rip-off of his 1982 Richard Bachman novel, The Running Man. This review of the newly released film got me chuckling:

"The Hunger Games" may be derivative, but it is engrossing and at times exciting. Implicitly, it argues that "The Truman Show" might have been improved by Ed Harris lobbing fireballs at Jim Carrey, and it's now clear what "American Idol" was missing all those years: a crossbow for Simon Cowell.

I have no desire to see the film, which has already broken box office records. Let the younger set enjoy this retread, which doesn't seem to offer anything more innovative than the boilerplate dystopia and a heroine who may, in the end, bring the system down.

Roger Ebert's perceptive review is here.



John from Daejeon said...

If anything, King ripped-off two episodes of "Star Trek" for his inferior book when compared to "The Hunger Games" trilogy.

From The original series episode, "Bread and Circuses" in 1968: "Spock and McCoy must face off against Flavius and another gladiator, Achilles, under a set of studio lights, television cameras, and an obviously fake backdrop of a Roman combat arena. The whole scene looks more like a violent game show. The battle begins as Spock quickly overpowers his opponent, and when McCoy is in trouble, Spock nerve-pinches his opponent ending the fight to a hail of boos and hisses from a pre-recorded "crowd." Spock and McCoy are taken back to the slave pens and Kirk is taken to stand execution which will be televised live."

the other one that King lifted source material from. At least "The Simpsons" had some fun with it and acknowledged TOS.

By the way, if you haven't seen it, you might want to check out Martha Marcy May Marlene as it deals with cults...err...religion. And it's a pretty decent film despite the despicable subject matter.

Well, I need to get back to helping those angry birds kill those outer space pigs.

SJHoneywell said...

Hey--apropos of nothing, please read my latest blog entry, as it includes you.

Kevin Kim said...


I liked King's novel. Haven't read Collins's books, but I can't say I have much desire to, given the "been there, done that" nature of the Hunger Games story. The Star Trek episode, while having some of the same tropes (esp. the notion of "bread and circuses"), doesn't seem to be the same story at all. The parallel Rome is decaying and a parallel Christianity is on the rise; it's not about a gladiatorial hero or heroine who fights to upend the oppressive system. The Enterprise crew, despite being conscripted as gladiators, are more intent on observing the Prime Directive (for once!) than on changing history.


I'm not much for memes, as you know. I enjoyed doing the "23 Movies" one, but can't see myself sifting through my enormous archives for seven posts that fit the criteria mentioned in the "7 x 7" meme. I enjoyed your post, though.

John from Daejeon said...

My point was this "Also, readers of Battle Royale (by Koushun Takami), The Running Man, or The Long Walk (those latter two by some guy named Bachman) will quickly realize they have visited these TV badlands before." as we have done on TV well before his books and Takami's had ever even been published thanks to TOS.

Anyway, a "B" review by King is more than just faint praise. That's pretty solid in my book as it comes from a solid writer. Now, Stephanie Meyer being obsessed with "The Hunger Games" and calling it "amazing" is an even greater endorsement as it comes from the "it" writer of the current generation and not some way-over-the-hill guy who obviously can't relate to the all those tweens out there with their smart phones and Ipads.

I had no intention of ever reading the series either, but I passed on one of my faves (Heinlein's "Stranger in a Strange Land") to a former student who, in turn, asked me to read "The Hunger Games." It was a good deal all around as the series, while not up to Heinlein's standards in my estimation, is not only very enjoyable, but very relatable to so many people on so many levels that it has most definitely struck a massive chord that King's many great works have failed to reach. Jealousy is definitely rearing its ugly head as so many are quick to put the kibosh on something they consider beneath them (or stealing their thunder). So, it's not that hard to believe that both political parties in the U.S. are claiming that The Hunger Games is more in line with their ideals than with those of the other party.

The "been there, done that" nature of the story is nothing more than just the basic setting of a televised arena. The "meat and the potatoes" of the books are far removed from King's and Takami's ("Battle Royale" is my second favorite movie of all-time), and I keep moving these books up my list of all-time greats as well. It also doesn't hurt that they really help me relate to my students better as we all now have a set of books (and a movie) in which we can talk about, especially as I can't stand Meyer's contribution to the current generation with Bella, Edward, and Jacob and that "Twilight" nonsense or trying to relate based on current musical "acts."