So though I read the Hunger Games back in January, I only just got around to seeing the movie last night.  I won’t go into the quibbles over what was important that they left out (I’m trying to enjoy the movie adaptations for what they are).  But I felt something fairly unique happened in the translation of this book to the screen.

First, they worked really hard to keep the movie PG-13; much of the violence was shrouded or used blurred fast-cuts to minimize what the audience actually saw.  My wife, who saw the movie in the theatres, feels that the larger screen lent an air of even more brutality to it since one could feel immersed in the action, especially where half the tributes are killed in a single scene.  That’s a luxury the fictional audience in the book don’t have if they’re watching the broadcast of the games.

Secondly, the movie did a fairly good job of portraying the audience in the Capitol as alternatively overly-exuberant and bored during lulls in the action.  It was, after all, merely a spectacle for them to watch and root on their favorites.

And this is where the creepy transformation from book to movie hits home.  Forgive me for getting a bit “meta” here, but when we read the book, all of that is imagined, and we’re merely reading a description of the death, mayhem, and desperation of the combatants.  We read about the audience watching and reveling in their safe voyeurism, but we, as the reader, are also kept at a distance.

That all changes when we become visual spectators to the games ourselves, just like the Capitol audience.  Perhaps we don’t have the same “enthusiasm,” but we’re certainly rooting for Kat and Peeta, and that tacit participation blurs the line between fiction and reality.  Rather than simply reading about the games, we’re watching them alongside the Capitol hedonists.  We watch the deaths unfold, hold our breath during the dramatic moments, and hope our champion emerges safely.  It seems fair to ask: Are we really any different?

That is quite a drastic transformation of how we engage with Suzanne Collins’ work known as the Hunger Games.  Perhaps she meant for us to see such similarities when reading the book, but we are directly confronted with our own participation when we watch the movie…especially on the “big screen.”

And that may be one of the most important lessons of the movie, unintentional or not.

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