Movie review: The Hunger Games


My list of pet peeves is long. Ridiculously so. Somewhere quite near the top is the atrocity which is adapting of books into movies. I am one of those odd people who has almost always been a fan of the book long before the movie. Not trying to be hipster here, but the simple truth is that I read lots of books, frequently long before they become hits, and certainly before the movie fans start reading.

With that noted, kudos to the team that gave us “The Hunger Games” in film. I know I’m behind the crowd, but I just saw the movie this weekend. I’ve been a fan of the books since the publication of Catching Fire. Like all good fans, I was both excited and very, very nervous about the movie adaptation. In an attempt not to obsess, I limited myself to viewing the cast listing and watching the original trailers instead of following every tiny piece of news. So it was with great anticipation that I purchased and watched the movie (twice!) this weekend. Here are my thoughts. (and also where you should stop reading if you wish to avoid spoilers)

First off, I liked it. Plain and simple, it was a good adaptation. Followed most of the book, with only a few small details changed. I felt like the ideas and characters of the book were well captured. There are a few things that were especially impressive.

1. The casting. I can’t pinpoint a single part I thought wasn’t cast well. The main characters were all terrific, but there were two who really stood out:
*Caesar Flickerman, the games host. Stanley Tucci just made that part.
*Cinna. He has long been one of my favorite characters, and Lenny Kravitz was spectacular.

2. The costumes. I’ve heard some complaints about them not being original enough, but I felt like the costumes reflected the ones described in the books. Katniss’s outfits in particular are both serviceable and attractive.

3. The soundtrack. At no point did it distract me from the action, and I feel like it very much added to the general setting of the film.

4. The details. Many of the small details from the book were followed, which is impressive in and of itself. To top that, the parts that were added (for instance, behind the scenes look at gamemaker HQ), were set well with details that will add to the future plot.

 
Okay, I will stop now about positive points, because this could go forever. Here are the few things I didn’t like.

1. The cave scenes were drastically shortened. In the book it is two days of relationship building between Katniss and Peeta. In the movie it is condensed to about one day, and the long conversations are chopped.
2. Lack of interaction with Katniss’s prep team. For characters who appear in the next two installments, they got next to no screen time.

3. Losing the first person POV. They did a good job portraying much of the same information, but I missed the direct connection to Katniss.

 

So all in all, it was a terrific movie. Those were all fairly uncontroversial points. But I also want to discuss a few of the arguments surrounding the movie.

First, the violence. There has been an uproar, especially among parents, about the teen on teen violence. I have a few issues with this argument. I am not a particularly violent person. I am a teenager. The violence in The Hunger Games is teen on teen, but it is not gratuitous and it is not encouraged. It is viewed as terrible, a warped requirement of their society. There is a point to it…Suzanne Collins is making a statement about the pleasure we derive from terrible things. For instance, I bet all of you know people who watch Nascar just for the wrecks. What is that but taking pleasure in destruction? How about wrestling, the WWE? We are exposed to violence all the time. But those aren’t teens, are they? If that is the main issue, consider for me the soldiers the USA has overseas fighting right now. I have personal friends, no older than 18-19, in the military, training to fight and kill other people, some of whom may be as young or younger than they. I’m not here to get into a political discussion about the rightness of that, but it is one of the reasons that I disagree with the discomfort over violence in the Hunger Games. Violence is a regrettable part of our life. The books accept that, and deal with all the negative side effects of it. I think Katniss’s depression and anguish in Mockingjay bear enough evidence of the discouragement of violence.

One thing I am worried about is that the entertainment aspect of the film will outweigh the message. The Hunger Games does not try to pound a moral into you, but there is a motive for it. I feel like that is clearer in the books, where one is more likely to think through it, rather than the highly entertaining action film. Perhaps that is just me. The film will introduce a lot of new readers to the series, which is always awesome!

Finally, I am excited about the next movies and confident that they can be good. I look forward to seeing all my favorite parts of Catching Fire and Mockingjay on screen.

To those of you who have seen the movie, what did you think? How does it compare to the books? Did you see the film and not read the books? Share your thoughts on it!

 

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