Back in November, I wrote about my excitement for the Hunger Games movie, and my hope that it wouldn’t be a total flop or butcher the story too much.
I went to see it on Wednesday.
It was a very interesting experience for me because though I read the books, it’s been a while. I only had a vague memory of the general storyline, but as I watched, the scenes came back to me like a half-remembered dream (apologies for the cliche, but that’s how it felt).
I didn’t like Katniss Everdeen in the book version. In fact, it’s probably safe to say that I actively disliked her. I don’t remember why, but it might have had something to do with her prickly personality. Katniss, as portrayed by Jennifer Lawrence, is much more likable. Possibly because the audience can’t tell what she’s thinking. The reaping scene where she screams, “I volunteer! I volunteer as tribute!” gives me chills every time I watch it.
Peeta Mellark was probably the most unsteady character. At times he was charming, genuine, and hilarious. At other points, though, the acting fell flat. I like Josh Hutcherson, but I couldn’t help feeling like I was watching an actor recite his lines.
I was surprised to find that I liked the Head Gamemaker, Seneca Crane, he of the weird beard (I mean, check that thing out). Not so much in his role as gamemaker, when he’s trying to kill children. But in his scenes with President Snow, the character undergoes a marked transformation; he becomes unsure of himself, vulnerable, and that’s a testament to Wes Bentley as an actor.
Caesar Flickerman, the blue-haired TV personality, added much-needed comic relief. He managed to be funny and empathetic while interviewing 23 potential victims and one eventual victor. In a way, he’s the most sadistic element of the Hunger Games.
Gale is Gale. He wasn’t featured much at all in this first installment, but he’s as I imagined him: big and hunky.
As to the controversy over Rue and Cinna being black, all I can say is that Rue is adorable (especially when she smiles), and Cinna is perfect.
I almost view the Capitol as its own character. It and everything that comes with it is, in a word, magnificent. The absurd and colorful makeup and clothing, a la Lady Gaga, the extravagance, and the future technologies were all breathtaking.
There’s a reason I haven’t mentioned Haymitch yet. He’s very heavily tied into the question:
Is the Hunger Games movie better than the Hunger Games book?
No. But it’s the best adaptation I could have hoped for.
One way in which the movie was more impactful than the books: even though it was PG-13 level violence, it still felt more overwhelming to watch than it was to read. The horror of kids killing kids struck me in a way that the books never did.
However, at (almost) 2 1/2 hours long, the movie couldn’t possibly be any longer, which might be why a number of things were changed or left out.
The books delved much more deeply into the characters. There were two points that most stood out to me.
- Katniss and Peeta’s relationship: In the movie it appears that Katniss warms to Peeta’s charm and, though she might have been encouraged by Haymitch and the circumstances of the Hunger Games, she’s grown genuinely fond of the guy. That’s nice. But that’s not what happens in the books. In reality, their relationship is far more complex. My friend, Miriam Frank, explained it thus: “Throughout the story, she’s conflicted about it, because she likes him, but she also has to pretend to be in love with him. She’s forced to be further along in the relationship than she wants to be.” So the whole time she’s wondering if it’s real. The movie ends simply with Katniss and Peeta standing before their district, arms raised and hands clasped together. Simple. In the book, Peeta puts his hand out to Katniss and asks, “One more time? For the audience?”
- Haymitch: Haymitch, Haymitch, Haymitch. In the book he’s a terror. Drunk. Obnoxious. The worst mentor imaginable…and eventually he matures as a character. In the movies, Haymitch starts off that drunk/obnoxious…and then miraculously transforms into a mostly pleasant guy for the rest of the movie.
I also didn’t like the use of shaky-cam footage during some of the action scenes – it wasn’t easy to see what was going on, and made my head hurt.
Overall, great movie. Love the actors and loved seeing the book translate to the big screen.
Read the books.
Watch the movie.
Which do you like better – the book or the movie?
*Check out my other movie reviews!*