Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Movie vs. The Book: Mockingjay Part 1

"Fire is catching! And if we burn, you burn with us!" 

On November 21st, Mockingjay Part 1, based on the bestselling third book in The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins, opened in theaters. 

All of the fan-favorite actors and actresses returned to play their leading roles, but a few new additions needed to be made. Natalie Dormer joined the cast to play Cressida, as well as Julianne Moore to play President Coin. 

The following are some differences between the film adaptation and the book - some for the better, and some for the worse. If you have not yet read Mockingjay, please be aware because... SPOILER ALERT. 

  1. Effie Trinket makes an appearance in District 13 very early in the movie, unlike in the book where she does not appear until the end. I whole-heartedly believe in this change because 1) by replacing Katniss's three stylists, Effie works as a symbol for even greater change within the rebellion, as now even Capitol people are siding with the rebels and 2) her silly humor and clueless attitude  would be greatly missed. 
  2. In the book, before Katniss consents to becoming the symbol of the rebellion, the "Mockingjay", she negotiates with President Coin three important demands: her sister Prim gets to keep her cat, the tributes captured by the Capital will be given immunity upon their rescue, and she gets to kill President Snow. In the movie, quite surprisingly, Katniss only asks for the first two demands, leaving out the request to kill Snow. Because of this, Mockingjay Part 2 could possibly take on a very different plot, giving the book's controversial ending a chance to change.
"Are you, are you
Coming to the tree?
Wear a necklace of hope, side by side with me. 
Strange things did happen here 
No stranger would it be
If we met at midnight in the hanging tree."

Not only is the scene where Katniss sings the song "The Hanging Tree" my favorite part of the movie, but also the part I believe was the most well done. Jennifer Lawrence gives the song a jazzy feel that is both catchy and haunting, causing her voice to echo in your head long after the movie is over. The song continues to play during the two following scenes, scenes that were added in full to the movie whereas they were only hinted at in the book. These two scenes show other Districts joining in the fight against the Capitol - by destroying a dam and attacking a troop of Peacekeepers, the citizens of Panem are shown to be strong and fierce. 

One thing I will criticize is the relationship between Katniss and Gale, it seems forced, and is arguably nonexistent. Although fans of Liam Hemsworth will be happy to see him finally get some well-deserved action, he is still portrayed as a wounded boy waiting for Katniss to realize she is in love with him (readers of the book will realize this is useless).  

Overall, I believe Mockingjay Part 1 did justice to the book, and did a good job setting up the expected more epic and action packed Part 2 which is scheduled for release in November 2015.

Monday, November 10, 2014

All the Light We Cannot See

All the Light We Cannot See
Anthony Doerr
530 pages

"Could they hide here until the war ends? Until the armies finish marching back and forth above their heads, until all they have to do is push open the door and shift some stones aside and the house has become a ruin beside the sea? Until he can hold her fingers in his palms and lead her out into the sunshine? He would walk anywhere to make it happen, bear anything; in a year or three years or ten, France and Germany would not mean what they meant now."   -page 473

France 1944. A sightless sixteen-year-old girl named Marie-Laure LeBlanc is curled up beneath her bed, listening as the Americans shower bombs over her beloved ocean, her town, her house.  The roar of explosives is deafening in her ears, her body shakes. Down the street, an eighteen-year old German private named Werner Pfennig sits in a hotel cellar, one hand on his rife, the other on the radio transceiver he invented. He thinks of his younger sister Jutta, so gentle and pure. He thinks that it is impossible to ever know if he is doing the right thing.

All the Light We Cannot See begins in the year 1934, exploring the early childhoods of both Marie-Laure and Werner, two children who are so different, yet still so alike. When the war begins, Marie-Laure and her father flee from Paris to Saint-Malo, where her reclusive great-uncle lives in a large house by the sea. Although blind, she becomes infatuated with sea urchins, snails, and Jules Verne novels. Hundreds of miles away, Werner lives at an orphanage with his sister in the German mining town of Zollverein. Every night, they listen to a radio program hosted by a French scientist. Soon, his intelligence and expertise at building and fixing earns him a place in the Hitler Youth.
Both stories converge later in the novel, when Werner arrives in Saint-Malo, and everything he has been taught, is flipped on its head. Phrases he has memorized - F├╝hrer, folk, fatherland. Steel your body, steel your soul. Eat country and breathe nation - no longer seem to have any importance (137, 257).

The radio is an extremely important element in the novel, in fact, it is arguably the single object that the entire novel revolves around. Werner carries one with him practically in every chapter, and although it is illegal, Marie-Laure and her great-uncle have secretly kept one in their attic, from which they broadcast music and messages to give people hope during the Nazi-occupation. Monsieur Droguet wants his daughter to know that he is recovering well. Madame Labas sends word that her daughter it pregnant (346, 406).
"Everything has led to this: the death of his father; all those restless hours with Jutta listening to the crystal radio in the attic...four hundred dark, glittering nights at Schulpforta building transceivers for Dr. Hauptman...Everything leading to this moment" (338).
All the Light We Cannot See, although too slow-moving at the beginning, is expertly sequenced, so that each scene, like Werner says, accelerates and crashes epically into the most important moment.

Anthony Doerr explores the Earth's greatest paradoxes throughout the novel. Light and dark. War and peace. Life and death. Beauty and destruction. All are interwoven themes that present themselves through Doerr's careful blend of science and history. His beautifully crafted, draw-dropping sentences prance across each page:
“What mazes there are in this world. The branches of trees, the filigree of roots, the matrix of crystals, the streets her father recreated in his models... None more complicated than the human brain, Etienne would say, what may be the most complex object in existence; one wet kilogram within which spin universes” (452).
All the Light We Cannot See - part science, part history, part love story - intricately presents the idea that even in the darkest of times, in the most unexpected of villains, light and goodness still exists.
“What do we call visible light? We call it color. But the electromagnetic spectrum runs to zero in one direction and infinity in the other, so really, children, mathematically, all of light is invisible” (48).
All the Light We Cannot See has spent 26 weeks on The New York Times Bestseller's List, and is currently in the running for a 2014 Goodreads Choice Award.

UPDATE: All the Light We Cannot See has been named by The New York Times one of the 10 Best Books of the Year.

Story Line - 6/10
Narrator's Voice - 10/10
Writing Style - 10/10

Overall - 26/30