Movie Review: The Hunger Games

 

Every year in the ruins of what was once North America, the evil Capitol of the nation of Panem forces each of its twelve districts to send a teenage boy and girl to compete in the Hunger Games. A twisted punishment for a past uprising and an ongoing government intimidation tactic, The Hunger Games are a nationally televised event in which “Tributes” must fight with one another until one survivor remains. Pitted against highly-trained Tributes who have prepared for these Games their entire lives, Katniss is forced to rely upon her sharp instincts as well as the mentorship of drunken former victor Haymitch Abernathy. If she’s ever to return home to District 12, Katniss must make impossible choices in the arena that weigh survival against humanity and life against love.

WARNING–IF YOU HAVEN’T READ THE BOOK YOU PROBABLY DON’T WANT TO READ THIS REVIEW!

I first read The Hunger Games in early 2009. I remember whipping through it and loving it.  Then it became THE book. Popular and loved and recommended.  Often, when I read a book, I get through it so fast that, months later, I barely remember what it was about. This was the case with The Hunger Games, and so I read it again. And then I went out and bought the series.  I never forgot the plot again. 😉

The Hunger Games is easily one of my top ten favourite books, so I had high expectations for this movie.
I’m so unbelievably happy to say that I wasn’t disappointed.

Jennifer Lawrence is the perfect Katniss. Lay any doubts you had aside right now (trust me, I had them, too!). She becomes the Katniss that’s been living in my head for years. She’s strong and smart and uncertain and withdrawn, just like ‘our’ Katniss.  She’s wonderful in the part.

Josh Hutcherson as Peeta also grew on me quickly. I was worried because the actor himself appears smaller than the Peeta in my head is, but he pulls off Peeta’s strength well. By the time they reached the Capitol, he WAS Peeta to me.

I wish I could say more about the rest of the characters, but sadly, I can’t. I understand that the movie can only delve into so much background, but, sadly, Gale, Effie, Haymitch, Prim, Cinna and pretty much everyone else mostly get pushed to the side.  I CAN say that every actor played their roles wonderfully.

Gale is barely seen, which may make things confusing for folks that haven’t read the book. The whole history between Gale and Katniss isn’t shown, so the love-triangle the movie tries to portray falls a bit flat.

Woody Harrelson is a great Haymitch, but again, because we don’t go into who he is, viewers don’t get the depth of what Haymitch does for his tributes. They show that he’s an alcoholic, then they show him mentoring the kids and refusing a drink.  They don’t go into what the kids mean to him, why he suddenly gets so invested in them, his love for them, etc.  That was a bit frustrating.

And ditto with Cinna (played amazingly by Lenny Kravtiz). Cinna’s introduction to Katniss is perfect, but they just can’t get into how deep their relationship really becomes.

Amandla Stenberg is great as Rue. Again, we just don’t get to see how deep the relationship between Katniss and Ruereally becomes, but that didn’t make the death scene any less painful. Literally the WHOLE theater was sobbing right along with me- it was that well done.  But the scene in the book where District 11 sends Katniss the bread as a thank you for what she does for Rue?  NOT IN THE MOVIE AT ALL! That ticked me off.

The rest of the tributes? Well, we barely learn anything about them.  Foxface runs in and out of scenes (much like she does in the book), but we know nothing about her.  Glimmer is barely there at all until the Tracker Jacker scene.  Thresh from District 11 gets his one big scene and that’s pretty much it.  Clove has a minor scene or two, and Cato gets his big moment at the Cornucopia, of course.

It’s often a bit frustrating when watching movies made from books because, while YOU know what’s going on in the characters head because you’ve read the book, it’s not actually mentioned on the screen.  Like Peeta allying with the District 1 and 2 tributes. The movie makes it appear that he’s actually on their side when those of us who’ve read the books clearly know he’s not.

Speaking of Peeta, again, the book just does a much better job at describing his actual intelligence, strategies and cunning. Yes, they show that he’s artsy–they do have the camouflage scene where he explains about the cake decorating–and they show he has a soft side, but they don’t get into how hard he actually plays the game to survive.
And they pretty much leave out completely the time he and Katniss spent together while Peeta was close to death.

Katniss’s scenes in the arena are also shortened, or missing completely. I suppose that makes sense, considering the games don’t actually start until halfway through the movie.
She is never near death like she is in the book. There’s no dehydration, there’s no battling the elements. She just seems to breeze through the games with almost no problems (well, except for the fire, of course).  And by the end, she still seems pretty non-committal toward Peeta…Like it was all an act for the cameras. But I suppose that’s so they can get more into the love triangle in the second movie.

As for the non-character bits, the scenery is gorgeous. The forests of the games is amazing. The Capitol is just as I imagined it, and District 12 definitely has the right look.
However, we don’t get to see much of it. The Hob is barely shown. We don’t meet Peeta’s father or Gale’s family at all, and there’s no Madge.

Katniss actually gets her pin from a shop woman and then tries to give it to Prim, who gives it back after Katniss volunteers in her place.

The costumes are incredible. The colours of the Capitol are vibrant and vivid and all kinds of weird. Exactly as described in the book.
The red ‘Girl on Fire’ dress is brilliant, and the entrance scene flaming clothes are really great.  There are a few added scene that aren’t in the book between Seneca and President Snow, and Seneca’s death is completely different in the movie, which I actually liked.

And now that I’ve made it sound like the most horrible movie ever (it’s not! I promise!), lets get to the good stuff!

The games ARE amazing. I held my breath through almost every battle scene (even though I knew Katniss came through alive).

The shakiness of the hand-held camera–which seems to be the current filming trend–was distracting and a bit nauseating at first, but I can understand why Gary Ross decided to film the more gory and hardcore scenes that way. You can’t see any actual killing when the camera is shaking all over the place which means the rating stays low and teens can see the film.

I loved the use of flashbacks to tell the story of Peeta giving Katniss the bread and to explain what happened to Katniss’s father and the stupor her mother went into afterwards.

The use of Claudius and Caesar to explain things (like the tracker jackers) was definitely handy, and the two of them are amusing, if rarely seen.
I was lucky enough to see the film with my brother, who hasn’t read the books yet.  When I asked him afterwards, he said he’d enjoyed it, but it was long. For someone going into it new, it would drag in the middle, definitely.  He DID understand everything and wasn’t left with any questions, which leads me to believe that Ross succeeded in making this a movie both book-lovers and newbies will enjoy.

I’m not going to lie, here–The book is better. MUCH better. But they always are, aren’t they?

Aside from the minor things I mentioned above, I did REALLY love this movie. It was very much like watching the scenes in my head come to life, which is what everyone is hoping for when seeing a movie made from a book they loved, right?  Definitely go see The Hunger Games…and then come back here immediately after and tell me what you thought!

Happy Hunger Games, and may the odds be ever in your favour!

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About JustAGirlGeek

I came into my geekiness late in life. Well, later than normal people do anyway. I have my brother to thank for that, although he's probably the biggest not-geek I know. "Watch 'The Eleventh Hour", he told me. I haven't looked back since. Visit my blog at justagirlgeek.blogspot.com Follow me on Twitter @ChristinaBWho