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The Hunger Games

I actually got to go to the movie theater and see a new release. Caution Spoilers!

I never get sucked into book series. Didn’t read Harry Potter, never read Twilight, so I never had the experience of waiting patiently to see characters I loved come to life. But last year, I read The Hunger Games series at the recommendation of Hubby and cousins so now I feel like a part of the great human experience that is intense fandom. They announced they were making the movies while I was reading the books and I remember reading certain passages and thinking “How are they going to bring that to life?” But they were able to faithfully adapt the first novel, cutting material that was not missed and adding elements that strengthened the story.

What I love about the series is that it features a fiercely independent female protagonist, Katniss Everdeen. She continually thumbs her nose at the oppressive government that tries to control her. From volunteering to compete in her sister’s place, to refusing to turn into the killing machine the powers that be craves, she stays true to herself, and inspires her fellow countrymen, but more about that in the sequel. While Katniss is talented with a bow, she is an underdog compared to the “Careers” from the wealthier districts that have been specifically trained to compete in the games. She spends a good portion of her time in the arena avoiding conflict, forcing the gamemakers to push her back into the action. However, she never kills except in self-dense or to protect the few tributes she befriends during the course of the game. Her bravery and strength is a welcomed alternative to Twilight’s Bella, who has to be routinely saved and fought over. While The Hunger Games does have a love triangle (to be fair, most movies have some element of romance) it never becomes the center of the action. In the books it was easier to convey Katniss’ confusion about her feelings for Gale and Peeta and how she is unsure what is real and what is just for the games. I also love that the two boys respect Katniss enough to allow her to make her own choice instead of fighting over her, like the romantic leads of certain other series.

At first I question some of the casting decisions. While Jennifer Lawrence was not my first choice, I knew she was talented enough to do the role of Katniss justice. I was unsure about the male leads, Liam Hemsworth and Josh Hutcherson, but was pleasantly surprised to see them embody Gale and Peeta. Hutcherson in particular is very charming in interviews and I hope to see him in future projects. I was also a bit cautious about Lenny Kravitz as Cinna, but I had no reason to fear. Kravitz is a natural as the sympathetic stylist. I was also impressed by Woody Harrelson as Haymitch. It was fun to see him turn on the charm when needed, which shows how this drunken bum was once a winner himself.

There were some specific choices made by the filmmakers that elevate The Hunger Games beyond the typical blockbuster. During the film’s most emotional moments, there is no music. Also, there’s the controversial use of the shaky cam. I can’t really tell how much I would have noticed if it hadn’t been pointed out in all the reviews I read. However, I think during the arena scenes, it helps convey a sense of confusion. There’s also good use of flashbacks, making them quick but to the point and sticking one bit of important information in a hallucination.

There were a few additions that were really powerful. One being that after Rue is killed and Katniss covers her with flowers, we see her district reaction. A man who may be Rue’s father is seen overcome with anger, fighting against the peacekeepers. It reminds you that these are children fighting, with parents who are forced to watch. I’ll admit, it made me tear up. Another moment is when Cato prepares to die and says that he realizes he never had a chance. Here is a child who was trained to kill and win the Hunger Games, realizing it was all for naught. It made him and the other Careers sympathetic, something one would think was impossible when you watch them gleefully killing their fellow tributes.

While I’m not sure how I would feel about the film if I hadn’t read the books, or if I would have even seen it, it’s a loyal adaptation that doesn’t rely on the fact that they have a built in audience.

Favorite Quote:

Effie: I don’t think they even get dessert, but you do!

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About amandalovesmovies

Lifelong movie lover who's ready to share her two cents with the world! Follow me on twitter @tuxedopengin

14 responses to “The Hunger Games

  1. I read somewhere that they didn’t include the scene where someone cut a girl’s tongue? is that really in the book?

    • There are slaves in the Capital who are people who rebelled against the government and they are punish by having their tongue cut out and being forced to live the rest of their life as a slave. Katniss recognizes one of them as a girl she watched get captured and feels guilty that she didn’t/couldn’t help her. So there are characters who have had tongues cut out but no scene where someone’s tongue is cut out.

  2. It’s rare to find teenage novels with stories like that. Could you recommend any other dystopian teenage novel? I know your blog is about movies hehe, but maybe you can share something if you’ve read any other.
    Btw, I need your opinion on my post ‘Film or Movie?’ cause idk if there’s any mistake or not in my observation since English isn’t my first language.

  3. Patrick

    An overall great review, I like that you included that the movie had Cato’s emotional turmoil when the movie really didn’t. I pointed out in my book review that I thought seeing the games from another’s perspective like Cato or even Peeta would’ve provided an equally excellent story.

  4. Katie

    I’m glad to hear that someone else wasn’t bothered by the shaky cam. I had a lot of reservations going in because I’d heard it was TOO shaky, but I think it’s appropriate for the film. And the Effie quote you included was one of my favorites, too! I thought her character brought some much-needed humor to the table in the film version.

  5. I didn’t notice the shaky cam either except maybe during the initial escape from the cornucopia and the hallucination. I didn’t watch it on the big theatre screen just on my TV on DVD which could explain why it doesn’t bother me. I got sucked into the Twilight series but the Hunger Games (movie and book) is way better, with a strong female lead as you’ve described. My review of the Hunger Games is here on my blog.

  6. mithiization ⋅

    Thanks for the visit to my blog and the comment. Its great that you read the book before going to the movies with that one. Reading a book always gives you an edge over understanding (judging) the movie. If there were elements in the book that explained Everdeen’s confusion better, then its a shame that they did not include it in the movie, or attempt to create elements that would have otherwise explained Everdeen’s emotions the better. Did read your review and its a great read 🙂 Just got one more story based on a book up – let me know if you got to watch this one, read the book – or both. http://thewannabechronicle.wordpress.com/2012/09/18/an-experiment-to-watch/

  7. BeattieB ⋅

    Thats a good review ”Amanda loves movies” – thank you for visiting my blog – and for the comment, that was the first day of my blog! I have changed it quite a bit now!

  8. benmc47

    The only scene where the shaky cam really stood out (negatively) to me was pre-games, when she was hunting. Found it annoying then, but really only then.

    I’ve never read these books and although I could recognize elements in this film that made it feel like an adaptation, I enjoyed it quite a bit.

  9. I also was very impressed with their excellent use of music, including volume control and some fantastic super slow fade-ins, and silence. And the shaky cam/quick cut thing bothered me a great deal in the theater, probably because I was sitting too close. I think it was way over-used and overly shaky pre-reaping. I know it was meant to convey the gritty,unsettled feeling of her home, but I don’t see the need to make your audience sea sick. It gave me the impression of a director going crazy with an effect he particularly likes because he can’t seem to help himself, rather than in a controlled and sparing way that adds something unique and interesting to the film. It was used to much better effect later, as early as their being taken to the train. Of course, it’s much more tolerable on the small screen.

    Great review! I agree that they did a great job with the adaptation. I’m excited to see what they do with Catching Fire – can’t wait for that to come out next year.

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