Have you ever had a time when you watched or read something really popular, and just couldn’t get into it?
A little while ago, I watched the “Hunger Games” movie, and as I watched, I waited to be impressed... and waited... and waited... but it never really happened.
It’s not that it was a bad movie. The acting, atmosphere, characters and pacing were fairly solid. But I just couldn’t bring myself to care about said characters, and thus the movie, very much.
Why not? Well, I think it’s because, between the movie and I, we were approaching the whole thing backward.
Most of the main characters are going to die. It’s right there in the premise. And when you know the stakes and the outcome before you even really know the characters, there’s just no point in caring about anyone, except for the obvious survivor-to-be.
The movie’s premise, and my resulting expectations, introduced the wrong element first, and thus all but ruined the whole thing.
As I contemplated my inability to really enjoy such a popular story, I found myself contrasting it with another popular story, “Puella Magi Madoka Magica”. For those who haven’t heard of it, it’s a magical girl anime that basically takes its home genre and deconstructs it in the most heart-wrenching ways it can come up with.
Ominous hints are dropped here and there, but the storytellers played their drama and danger cards wisely; they really made me care about the characters before putting them in harm’s way.
Would I have liked The Hunger Games more if I'd read the books first? Hard to say. I haven't read them yet. Yeah, I know, time to slap me. Maybe someday I'll read them, and write another blog post about that. But in the meantime, I watched what I watched, and thus I write.
Have you ever noticed the difference between stories like these?
Have you watched or read a story that was objectively good, but you just couldn’t get into it because it didn’t get you to care about the characters enough before it threatened to kill them?