Movie Review: The Hunger Games

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I loved the Hunger Games books.  I devoured them in days if I remember correctly.  The writing was great, Katniss was strong and smart and I really enjoyed the strategy and action of the games.  Last night I saw the movie and am sad to say I walked out telling my friend I’d be glad to never see that again.  Not all was lost though, there were some redeeming qualities.  Let me preface this by saying I read this book one time back in 2010. My memory is a little sketchy on the details.

  • Katniss was spot on.  I think she was cast well and really embodied her.
  • Haymitch was excellent as well.  Maybe a little too cleaned up at parts.  I imagined him a little nastier but overall attitude was captured.
  • Gale was completely off for me.  I didn’t imagine him so pretty or so tall or, I don’t know.  Just off for me.
  • Costumes were out of control amazing.
  • Proud of the Carolina mountains!  Loved seeing our familiar forests.  I mean, not that I go into the forest a lot but you know. if I ever see them, they look like that.  And I think I really appreciated it because that’s what I imagined when I read the book.
  • I appreciated that they included all the important scenes…Katniss on fire, Katniss hitting the apple, the tracker jacker nest, Peeta and Katniss in the cave, Katniss ruining the group’s supplies, cornucopia scene, etc.

But here’s what I didn’t like

  • For some reason reading the book I think I blocked out a little it was kids killing kids.  I didn’t even think much about it until people started making a big deal about it.  My first thoughts were what?? That’s not the whole point of the book.  The book for me truly focused on Katniss’ survival and her strategy. Yes, there were kids involved but I’m not sure I can explain it but it just didn’t seem so brutal in the book.  The movie was not at all graphic or violent but between their focus on the kids being shuffled to check-in and specifically Rue’s death I think it brought attention to something that didn’t have as much attention in the book.  All in all, I suppose seeing these kids with faces made it harder for me.  And yes, it could be because I have 7 and 9 year old girls and Primrose and Rue were such focal points.  But no, it’s not like I was imagining Emma and Lexi going into the games and getting upset.  Not like that at all.
  • Seeing the difference between the Capitol and District 12 was hard, particularly through Katniss’ eyes.  If you step back and think about how the book can be an allegory of how our society treats other third world countries, it was really hard to stomach.  And yes, I think Suzanne Collins probably wanted that a little.  But nevertheless, it made me feel really crappy when she walked in the royal blue train car because I’m a lot more like the one with a chandelier in my bedroom than the one who had a house with dirt floors.  So yes, it was hard seeing America cast as The Capitol.
  • I didn’t remember the kids from District 1 and 2 being so ruthless.  Sure, they were trained but were they really that excited about killing Katniss?  I don’t know.  It’s been awhile since I read the book but I was disturbed.  I think I would have been better had they been unemotional killing machines.
  • I was not expecting the documentary style filming.  I really was expecting an action-packed thriller and not what seemed like an emotional roller coaster.  I think I just needed less emotion and the style did not help. Plus, I think it made me a little physically ill. I was tired and it was late and I was like, please just be still, camera!  I love that style on Friday Night Lights though but FNL is a drama not a thriller.
  • The ending was not nearly the payoff it needed to be.  It was just like oh, let’s eat some berries, Oh no stop you’re the winners.  Haha, just kidding!  And then just to have them sit on stage and talk about it and the only resolution we saw with Primrose was a wave from the stage?  NOT ENOUGH HAPPY.  I realize there is more to the story and more coming but not enough good to counter balance all the bad.  I think if they’d given a stronger ending, it would have resolved better for me.

All in all, there’s not much about it that I want to see again.  I’ve read the book, I’ve seen it play out and it didn’t make me feel good so I just don’t care to see it again.

I realize I’m in the minority.  I really do.  I had one other person to see it Saturday and she hated it and I was like WHAT?  Now that more have seen it, there are still only a handful of us that I’ve heard that didn’t like it.  I really, really wanted to like it.  I really did.  I still love the book and will still recommend it.  Just not the movie.

If you saw it, what’d you think?  It’s ok to say you loved it, perhaps I’m coming at it from the wrong angle.

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Comments

  1. I loved the books, but I haven’t seen the movie yet. I’m so glad you liked Katniss! She’s my HG connection (just like the scenery is for you, I’m thinking).

    Okay, looking through your critique, I’m wondering if Julie Clawson’s new ebook The Hunger Games and the Gospel is on your radar? I’m only about 1/3 of the way in, so I can’t give a proper review yet, but the main theme is that we in the US–the ones with roofs over our heads and plenty of food–are The Capitol, so what do we do with that?

    Here’s a link: http://www.amazon.com/The-Hunger-Games-Gospel-ebook/dp/B007HG1H0W/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1332768570&sr=8-1

    • Anne, that was definitely one thing that I took away from the movie but honestly, it’s not something I thought of while reading the book. I think reading outside texts/reviews led me to see that and I really think that’s a big reason I was bothered while watching the movie. And just the fact I was watching a movie in a comfy theater ABOUT all of that made it ironic and more uncomfortable.

  2. I thought it was brilliant and perfectly captured the book. In many ways it visualized what I could not see clearly when reading the books… some things that left me a bit confused in the book. The brutality (and yes the kids killing kids) was vital to the story and the social commentary that I took from it… both as it applies to what is happening in our real world as well as in Panem. I was both sobbing and tense the entire time. It was spot on and even where it wasn’t (Haymitch) I thought it was a great characterization… a cranky drunk. I honestly NEED to see it again and I am SO glad that it was not another YA book made into a shoddy film to turn into a quick buck.

    • Laura, I will agree with you on that…very well done for a YA book. I think maybe the fact that I did want to sob the whole time is what surprised me. I wasn’t so emotional reading the book.

  3. Heather W. says:

    Did we read the same book? I thought the movie actually toned down what I imagined in my head while reading the books. They’re fighting for their survival…of course they’re ruthless…if they were anything less I wouldn’t believe it. I think that’s what was so awesome about the book is that they lived in such a depraved world in their district and yet the Capital basked in all its wealth. To me it paralleled how America lives like the Capital while there is third world countries living as the districts and flaunt what we have. Anyhow, I think the movie is fabulous for the book readers, I however see flaws with it if you have not read the book. I definitely would be disappointed as a viewer and not realizing Snow and his future in the story line and so forth. That was me rambling…all to say, I like the movie.

    • Well, it makes it tricky when everyone definitely has their own imagination and chooses to read the book differently. I think it just got to me last night how much the Capitol is like America. Didn’t think about it that much reading the book.

  4. Interesting take on the movie.

    I like it a lot. Don’t love it, but I think it’s one of the better book adaptions I’ve seen.

    Regarding the concept of kids killing kids – this is why I think parents need to think hard about taking their younger kids to see this movie. It is one thing for them to read it and for their juvenile and naive imaginations to conjur up images in their heads of what those words look like. It is a completely different thing for adults to take those same words and recreate those scenes in film for our eyes to consume. As an adult, I found the violence in the movie less jarring than what I read. But as a kid, the violence would have shaken me because I don’t think my younger mind could have come up with those kinds of images of brutality on my own. And this was a pretty tame violent movie since much of it was cut-away and aftermath shots.

    I did not make the connection of The Capitol = America and the Districts = Third World. For me it was much more simply rich and decadent America and poor and desperate America. All of it still America under the terror of dictatorship. Perspectives definitely differ.

    I’ve seen a lot of complaints about what was left out. My argument to that is what did you expect in a 2.5 hour movie? There is no way to show every single thing that happened in that short time. Also, since the book is 1st person, there’s a lot of head stuff that is hard to convey unless there’s a voice-over. I like that there were no voice-overs. Audiences are smart enough to figure out what’s going on if the story is told well visually and in dialogue. I think it was.

    Gale – there wasn’t enough of him for me to judge, but he worked for me generally. What I missed was when he started to declare his love for her before he was hauled out of the room before she left for the Capitol.

    The End – I don’t remember the end of the book being super happy. There was a lot of relief, but there was still the tension of the tour to come and Katniss/Peeta being on show. I think they were smart in leaving it open for the next movie. It whets the appetite for more, at least mine is whetted.

    I’m sorry you didn’t like it. I know how disappointing it is to go to a movie with deep love of the source book.

    • Jen, I think two things…while reading the book, I didn’t think about America/Third Worlds. It was very much fantasy. I think reading commentaries before I went might have ruined it a little for me.

      Also, I think I really did miss the first-person of Katniss. I don’t think I’d like voice-overs but that aspect was obviously very lost and I think I really missed her thought-process.

  5. I agree with almost every point you made! I know the basis of the book was about the “Hunger Games” but what I took from it was a story about Katniss’ strength and perseverance and a love story between her and Peeta. I felt they showed parts from the book that weren’t significant and the parts I wanted to see weren’t depicted the way I would have hoped.
    I did disagree on Gale though, I thought Liam did a good job as Gale, even though he (Gale) didn’t get the recognition he deserved and the comment he made to Katniss before she left, wasn’t shown in the movie (where he gets cut off by the closing door) That really upset me. My sister was very upset about the mockingjay pin since it was given to Katniss in the book as a gift, she didn’t purchase it.
    I am going to see the movie again next weekend in hopes to form a different opinion. I am so surprised that so many people loved it. Glad to see someone else thought what I thought!

  6. OK. I didn’t love the movie, but for some different reasons, I think.

    I had JUST finished listening to the book for a second time (in the last three months …) so it was very fresh in my mind.

    First, I just have a hard time with book adaptations. I think they did a good job with what they had time-wise, but it’s depressing to me how much they leave out. I didn’t feel like any of the relationships were believable – Rue and Katniss, Peeta and Katniss, even Gale and Katniss. You just don’t see enough of Katniss’s struggle for survival before the Games to see her back story.

    I hated that there was no real notion that the situation with Peeta was a struggle for Katniss and she wasn’t sure whether she really did like him or not, you know? All we saw was her playing the game for survival.

    I actually thought they did a fairly good job downplaying the actual killing. I didn’t think it was gory, any more than could be expected. I didn’t love the documentary-style shooting, either, although I did feel like it lent to the uneasy feeling that surrounds the story.

    All in all, I feel like the real story is the Capital vs. the Districts. And yes, I HATED what they did with the berry scene. Not nearly tense enough.

    When it was played up as a “love triangle” I was really expecting more of the Katniss/Peeta/Gale stuff. Just showing shots of Gale didn’t do it for me, no matter how cute the actor playing him was.

    Anyway, here’s my essay. I might see it again just to see if it would make any difference – and because my husband wants to see it.

    • I love what you said about Katniss’ struggle. I do think a lot of that was missing. It was a huge deal she won a lot because of the food for the district, not just because of Prim.

      I don’t think the killing was gory in the least. Just the idea that those kids just died bothered me more in the movie than the book.

      I’ve been thinking all day maybe I need to see it again so I can go into it with better expectations.

  7. Michael Carmichael says:

    Sounds to me like the movie did exactly what it was supposed to – helped you see elements in the story that were there all along but that you had missed or glossed over on your first reading of it (i.e. the brutality of the games, the analogy to the exploitative economic realities of our own world, and the less than perfectly happy ending). Granted, none of those are particularly nice to look at, but who says stories are always supposed to be happy or nice? Good stories shake us up a bit and force us to look at the world in new ways. So in that sense, even though you didn’t “enjoy” the movie, it was still a good movie in that it took you out of your comfort zone and made you think more deeply about the story and about our own world.