Posted in Adaptations, Reviews

Adaptation Review: The Girl on the Train

The Girl on the Train is about an alcoholic woman who witnesses something out of the window of a train and finds herself entangled in a mysterious web of lies and deceit, not exactly unwillingly. It’s based on a supposed best-selling novel but if you saw my post about my Most Disappointing Books of 2016, you’ll know that I didn’t really think much of the book. I wasn’t really planning on watching this movie after I missed it in the theaters but then I saw Luke Evans in Beauty and the Beast and I just had to see more of his work. So that was basically my sole reason for watching this movie haha.

I must say that I enjoyed the movie a lot more than I did the book. I think it’s a story that is really just better told on the big screen rather than in words. In the book, I thought the characters were incredibly irritating. They were basically suburbian white people bored with their lives so they made tons of bad decisions just to make their lives a little bit more interesting. This was the impression I got from the book. Although the movie stayed very true to the book, they were somehow able to evoke a lot more sympathy from me for the characters. Not too much because I still thought they were suffering from a case of White People Problems, but enough that I was at least able to understand where they were coming from and why they were acting the way they were. This was especially true for the main character of Rachel. I don’t know if it’s Emily Blunt’s superb acting or my own experiences with cheating that has brought me a new perspective on the story, but I definitely appreciated the character of Rachel a lot more. I could understand her motivations and where she was coming from and why she was so obsessed with the couple she was watching from the train. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that she was relatable, but I definitely sympathized with her a lot more in the movie than I did in the book.

Reviews of the book have compared it to Gone Girl and that has always baffled me because it is nothing like Gone Girl. The plot twist at the end was pretty average and not as mindblowing as people make it out to be. However, if you compare the movie to Gone Girl, I can definitely see where you’re coming from. The tone is pretty much the same, interweaving images of the perfect American neighborhood with the dark and downright twisted musings of our characters. There’s always this quiet air of suspense throughout the movie where you’re expecting a physical jump scare like BOO! but in the end, what you get is a mental scare that quietly creeps up on you. Makes for good entertainment, I must admit, and this quiet, dark tone is much better captured on screen than in the book.

Overall, I thought the movie was a pretty good adaptation, one of those which stay loyal to the book yet somehow tell the story better. Those are the best kinds. I really enjoyed Emily Blunt in this movie too and if I didn’t know she was a great actress before, I do now. Can’t wait to see her in Mary Poppins next year! Extremely different from this movie, which was more a spoonful of cough medicine than sugar, but somehow still enjoyable, in a twisted sort of way.

Cheers and happy watching!

Posted in Reviews

Review: The Hunger Games

So I know that this is incredibly outdated because the whole Hunger Games phenomenon has kinda died down already but I figure, now’s the best time to be as objective as I can without the influence of the hype right? Plus, I recently reread the series again so my points are quite fresh in my mind. There will be spoilers ahead but honestly, if you haven’t read the books or at least seen the movies, what have you been doing?

Something that caught my attention from the get-go, something which I didn’t notice the first time I read the series, was that Suzanne Collins writing is really quite sub-par. She writes in a very simplistic and straight to the point manner, which is great for action scenes and when the plot is really picking up, but at other times, it becomes quite jarring and makes the story flow not quite as smoothly. My experience reading the series felt like riding a bus. When the plot is going slow, the pace of the writing is akin to a bus starting and stopping on a small road, making the ride quite jerky. But when the plot really starts to pick up, it’s like the bus is on a highway and we’re going at a steady but fast pace. Suzanne Collins’ writing is perfect for describing the action scenes and is great for fast-paced stories because she just tells you exactly what is going on without any kind of flowery writing or embellishments, which makes these fast scenes easy to follow. Unfortunately, when nothing is really happening, this kind of writing makes for a less than smooth reading experience. I was surprised to find that the Games and the fast-paced parts of the story actually only make up about a third to a half of each book. Those were obviously the most memorable parts of the story so I had forgotten that we actually spend a lot of time in the preparations leading up to the Games and Katniss wandering around District 13 in Mockingjay. This is where Suzanne Collins mediocre writing comes to light.

Aside from a jerky reading experience, Suzanne Collins’ writing also affected her characterization of Katniss. I found Katniss to be difficult to understand as a character and somewhat inconsistent in her actions. It was hard for me to predict what she would do next and understand why she did those things after the fact. This is especially true at the end of Mockingjay where she voted yes for another Hunger Games and then assassinated Coin. I know it was intended to be a plot twist sort of thing but these sort of apparent inconsistencies in her character made me find it difficult to really understand her. I don’t think it has anything to do with her characterization really but rather, I think it’s down to Suzanne Collins’ depiction of Katniss and her obscurities in fleshing out the character. For being the main protagonist, we really don’t get to see much inside of Katniss’ head and figure out what her motivations and intentions are. I think one example where her actions baffled me the most was her sudden willingness to go to District 8 and film a propo in Mockingjay, even though up to that point, she was completely against the idea of being the mockingjay and was still suffering from PTSD from her first two games, so it didn’t make sense that she would want to go into a warzone like District 8 at that time. Her ability to act like a lovesick schoolgirl in front of the cameras in the first two games also kinda rubbed me the wrong way. Katniss doesn’t seem like the type of girl who can act so flawlessly, even if her life and the lives of the people that she loves are at stake. Perhaps it was Suzanne Collins’ way of brushing aside those instances, simply describing her as “giggling” and “burying her face in Peeta’s chest”, without letting us into her thoughts, that made those moments seem so out of character.

However, what Suzanne Collins lacks in writing style, she makes up for with her brilliant plots and ideas. Even though I know this story so well, I was still blown away by the twists and turns, like the reaping of the Victors, and the sheer detail and creativity in the creation of the Games, especially the clock arena in the Quarter Quell. Suzanne Collins sure knows how to create compelling and fascinating stories. Her stories are definitely perfect for the big screen, given how action-packed they are, and the movie adaptations are one of the very few which I think live up to the books and may even surpass them. I also like how this is one of the few dystopians that actually continue the story a little bit after the rebellion and shows us what life is like after. I feel like a lot of dystopians chicken out and leave the story at the height of the rebellion or at the very beginning and I’m glad that Suzanne Collins saw the story the whole way through.

Something that I truly wish for this series, something that would have turned it from great to excellent in the hands of a capable writer, is multiple POVs. I love how Suzanne Collins’ story is so fleshed out and how the politics intermingle with the Games to bring about a revolution. The problem is that we get to see none of that. We only see what Katniss sees and in the grand scheme of things, she really doesn’t see a lot. The only interesting perspective we get from Katniss is her time in the Games. Every other time, she is clueless as to what is going on around her and she’s either just hunting in the woods or trying to get a grip on her own reality. What I wouldn’t give to see Haymitch as he tries to mentor these ignorant kids and navigate the politics of the revolution with what’s going on in the Games, Prim and Gale as they watch their sister and friend fight for her life on national TV, Peeta in the first Games and his Capitol torture and through his hijacking, Finnick as he worries about Annie in District 13, Katniss’ mother, President Snow, Coin, Plutarch, Beetee, Johanna, literally anyone else. Multiple perspectives would have given us, the readers, a much greater understanding of the world and the intricate political plays at hand. Katniss is literally the most clueless character in the entire series so I think it was a great disservice to the wonderful story that Suzanne Collins created by only following her perspective.

Last thing I want to say is about the love triangle. This love triangle is one of the few that I can tolerate and when I first read the series, I genuinely didn’t know if Gale or Peeta would have been a better match for Katniss and I was fine with either of them or neither of them. Upon reread though, it is clear from the first moment we are introduced to Peeta that Gale doesn’t stand a chance. It might be hindsight bias on my part but as I read about Gale and Katniss’ interactions and as I understood Gale as a character, I could see that Gale and Katniss never would have worked. The two of them are just too similar and Gale would never have provided Katniss with anything that she couldn’t have gotten on her own. My favorite line from the series is definitely Gale’s assertion that Katniss would pick whoever “she can’t survive without”. Going by that, the obvious choice is actually Prim. Katniss would not be able to survive if Prim died, which of course she did and we saw that Katniss was basically in a comatose state for the weeks she was back in District 12 until Peeta returned. But since the very beginning, Peeta was there whenever Katniss was on the brink of death. He gave her the bread when she was on death’s door, he saved her from Cato in the first Games, and he brought her back from the brink after Prim’s death. The whole bomb thing is not even the issue with Gale and Katniss. Katniss simply doesn’t need Gale to survive because whatever Gale can provide, Katniss can provide for herself. Maybe in another life, Katniss and Gale would have worked out but from the moment Peeta was reaped, she was lost to him for good. She was constantly wondering about Peeta and when she thought about Gale, it was only to wonder what he thought about all the kissing she was doing on national TV. Gale also would have never understood Katniss’ ghosts and demons from the Games and this became painfully clear in the way Gale strategised for the rebellion. Those differences in ideals were a bridge that could never have been crossed between the two of them. So basically, Everlark 5ever LOL.

To sum up, while the Hunger Games suffers from a mediocre writing style, it ultimately comes out on top with a brilliantly thought out world and plot. It definitely translates better to screen and I’m glad that it became as huge as it did. It is a story worth remembering and was a groundbreaker in the modern dystopian literature, paving the way for many more but still maintaining its status at the top. This series is so important and it introduced me to my favorite genre in all of literature, so it will always have a special place in my heart.

Cheers and happy reading!