The Hunger Games, according to a recent item in the NY Times, is Mitt Romney’s “fun” reading. Not sure I believe it, anymore than I believe he’s comfortable wearing jeans. But the film is breaking box office records. A recent NY Times Arts and Leisure published a discussion by film critics, A.O. Scott and Manohla Dargis, headed: “A Radical Female Hero From Dystopia.” Both agree that no hero like Katniss Everdeen has ever existed in film.
In literature she harks back to Diana, chaste Roman goddess of the hunt, with the steadfast virtue of Jane Eyre and guileless innocence of Daisy Miller. But she’s unique in her unquestioning acceptance of a gruesome law that demands she kill her peers, including Peeta, deeming his protectiveness and declaration of love mere ruses to lower her guard so that he can kill her. Katniss lives under hellish pressure, and considering the desperate acts of people adrift on oceans, starving in the wilderness, imprisoned in death camps, her response does not unduly strain suspension of disbelief.
Her country, Panem, is in what is left of continental United States following rising oceans that engulfed both coasts. A luxurious gated community, The Capitol, has enslaved outlying Districts 1 through 12, whose people are on the edge of starvation. A 13th district had been wiped out in punishment for a past insurrection. To remind the rest of its absolute power, The Capital demands each district sacrifice two children a year, boy and girl, to a sadistic ritual battle in which all die but one.
On the advice of another film critic (The Lone Teenager, Scroll to March 30th) I skipped the movie, but read Catching Fire, second of the trilogy. The inevitable rebellion should have begin, only it turned out to be a rehash of the first, another battle to the death with new hazards like poisonous fog and flesh eating monkeys. It ended with Katniss learning how to destroy the force field that held them, that a rebellion is under way, and that Katniss’s home District 12, has been destroyed. A disappointing rehash of the first, volume two is just a teaser to buy the third, titled Mocking Jay, which I probably will. As fiction. The Hunger Games has much to recommend it, but unless you loved Rocky 2, 3, 4, and 5, skip Catching Fire, and go directly to Mocking Jay. You won’t miss much.