“Hope – it is the only thing stronger than fear.”
~President Snow, via Suzanne Collins in The Hunger Games
HOLY HUNGER GAMES. That movie is SO GOOD.
Like everyone else, I have been counting down the days until The Girl on Fire made her big-screen debut. This weekend couldn’t come quickly enough. After flying through the trilogy of books because I could NOT put them down for anything, I was more than a bit excited to see how the compelling story would translate to a movie version – and, I admit, a bit concerned, too, because if reading about the violence was that disturbing, wouldn’t it be even more difficult to actually watch it unfold?
Thanks to some very clever cinematography and slight changes from the often graphically-descriptive novel, the answer to that is (at least in my opinion): no. The movie didn’t glorify violence. Instead, it used the sensitive subject to show exactly why and how violence is saturating society. It made the same point Suzanne does in her intricate novels, that it has become too much, and instead of the horror, we must fight for heart, for integrity, for all that is good and hopeful. Although there were many points in the trilogy of books that were unspeakably, emotionally difficult and draining to read, that’s the message I took away: as President Snow states in the movie adaptation, hope is the only thing stronger than fear. Light can outshine darkness. Even after the worst of times, the sun can come out again. Even if we’re forever changed, we can still find faith. Still find good.
I thought the movie did an excellent job of showing that – from Prim’s unconditional belief in Katniss, to Cinna’s faith in his Girl on Fire, to the heart-swelling welcome Katniss and Peeta received upon returning to District Twelve, we saw the delicate strands of inspiration woven among all the pain and challenges. That was just one of many high points. Others included the beautifully poignant scene between Katniss and Rue (made me cry in the book and again in the movie!), the chillingly emotional salute all of District Twelve gave to Katniss, the addition of Haymitch going to Seneca to fight on behalf of Katniss, the behind-the-scenes look at the Gamemakers perspective, which we didn’t see in the book, and the simultaneously heart-breaking and heart-warming conclusion of the Games. The embrace between Katniss and Peeta, between these two people connected forever more in the way they saved one another, was enough to make many eyes well with tears. I also loved the addition of the scene between President Snow and Seneca. Snow’s line about hope being stronger than fear is my favorite from the whole movie.
There were a few things left out that I really had been included – especially District 11’s gift of the bread to Katniss as thanks for her compassion toward Rue – but overall, it did an amazing job of staying true to the heart of the book. It had the action and suspense, the sadness and shock, the dignity and heart. We very much saw Katniss’ strength and determination. We saw straight into the characters’ souls. I thought all the actors shone like absolute stars and did an exquisite job – such amazing casting – and the sets/special effects brought the story to life in captivating ways. It was like literally seeing the pictures Suzanne painted with her words.
And, above all else, it left an impact. Just like the novels, this is a movie that affects you and won’t leave your thoughts. It makes you feel, it makes you ponder, it makes you wonder. Katniss, Peeta, Prim, Haymitch, Rue, this whole cast of complex characters, they made their way into our heads and hearts when we read about their journey. Now they’re leaving another handprint. This is a movie that will stay with me for a long time, one I think will stay with many people. And yes, we’ll remember the struggles, the atrocities, the sheer shock and horror of something as awful as the Hunger Games. But we’ll also remember the hope that’s stronger than fear and the spark lit by the Mockingjay. We’ll remember that compassion is key.
And with that knowledge, the odds are ever in our favor.