I sit here thinking about the movie “The Hunger Games” and trying to put down in words my thoughts on this movie. I will say there will be spoilers for the movie in this review so proceed carefully.
I guess the best way to start is to discuss the most important issue: adaptation from book to movie. I personally think they did a pretty good job with the adaptation. It is not easy to take any story and adapt it for the screen while keeping the essence and beauty of the story alive. There have been some absolutely horrid adaptations and this is not one of them. I do not know how much Suzanne Collins was actually involved in the creation of the screenplay but it always is a plus to me to see the novels author on that list of names. Yes, as per usual there were many things left out of the movie that were in the novel but they were able to work in many of the more important plot points in other ways. There were times I wish they had expanded upon some parts of the story, like the relationship between the two tributes – Peeta and Katniss. It made it hard to believe there was any connection between the two by the end of the movie – whether it be friends or lovers. But this may work for the upcoming movies or maybe we are made to feel the disconnect, the unrealness just as some of the other characters do. But all in all, it was not a bad adaptation of the novel. While at points the story was rush, it would have been nice if we could have felt a little more depth in the story. More on that in a bit. My favorite part in the adaption is their use of the anchors for the Hunger Games to explain some of the things that happen in Katniss’ head in the novel. They gave us the explanations of certain aspects of the film that we wouldn’t have gotten unless they had inserted a narrator into the story. Plus, it gave us more Stanley Tucci! But it felt that they gave up parts of the actual novel to give us a different aspect of the story. Showing us how the game worked behind the scenes to show us how much of a “tv show” the games are for the people in the Capital.
As for the acting, before I even heard of the novels I heard of the uproar around the casting of Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen and I hope they were not disappointed. I feel that she did a wonderful job in the role. One of the biggest traits we see in the novels of Katniss is a kind of disconnect, she has this huge shield up not letting anyone in except maybe her sister and her best friend Gale and I felt that Ms. Lawrence was able to make this happen on the screen. You as an audience member were able to feel this shield she has up because you wanted to see her to express something, anything to see her breakdown and unfortunately this is one of the parts where the screenwriters screwed up because they cut out some of those moments in the novel where Katniss lets it all go and shows so much emotion. These were some of the most powerful moments in the novel because they let us see the humanity in Katniss, instead they did not give that to us and showed us for the most part a very robotic character.
Now the other characters, there acting was very well done as was the casting. You could sense the nonsensical desperation in Effie Trinket (played by the wondrous Elizabeth Banks) in the few scenes that she had. I wish we had, had more of Woody Harrelson. His part in the story is brushed over even more. It would have been nice to see a bit more from him but alas the movie was already a long 2 1/2 hours long. I am very torn on the casting of Peeta. I do not know if I should love it or hate it. In truth, like a lot of the other characters I felt as though there really wasn’t enough of him to be able to really know anything of his character. In the novel, we learn so much about his strength and character after he and Katniss can finally fight together but part of the movie is rushed by and smushed into what now seems to only be one day instead of days and days of time for them to connect and bond.
My favorite character was the President, okay not favorite character but my favorite role in the film because we really don’t see him at all in the first novel but they gave him a bigger role in the movie. Showing us what could have happened with him behind the scenes. But even with a few scenes, Donald Sutherland, was able to show us so much about how this man thinks and what makes him tick. They did a great job casting him in this role because he is one of the few actors I think who could have given us so much and helped set the stage for this important character.
I will say that the screenwriters did a good job at projecting the essence of the overall story into this movie. There is a scene in the film that I believe give us a hint of the next two films and did not happen until then. And I do hope the next two books do make it to the screen and this film doesn’t fizzle out like some of the other series have once they made it to the box office – Lemony Snicket and Eragon. I want to see who they cast in the future movies for certain roles. Can’t you see Meryl Streep as President Coin?
I think fans of the book will be happy with the movie, it gives you more to talk about when discussing the story. It makes you double think some of the things that you thought were important to the novels but maybe they really aren’t. And I think people who go see it may be slightly confused at certain points but will enjoy the movie as well. I wouldn’t take younger children to see it and I think any parents who let their kids see it, should see it themselves and use it as a starting point to a deeper discussion on humanity and how wrong it can go. We have many examples from the past but sometimes a fictional story can help explain the darkness in our own reality.
Now on a side note: Before I had a chance to read the novels, I read a lot of reviews and there were a lot of people aghast at the idea that anyone would think that this was a good idea for a novel for teenagers, tweens or anyone to read. How dark they were and how can they dare make this into a movie?! But in many ways, this is not a new story to us. Even I made the comparison to Battle Royale before I picked up the books. Or even the short story I think everyone I have ever met has read The Lottery. But Collins took this basic plot and made her own story of it. Yes, the idea of killing children for the entertainment or as tribute is something many people could not fathom but in many ways, death as entertainment is not anything new. While not real, just as The Hunger Games is not really real, how many horror films center around teenagers being ganked by some faceless serial killer? In many ways the story of The Hunger Games reminds me of a future despotism society’s version of the Gladiator games. We saw a similar story with The Running Man. This not anything that is new. Yes, it is a horrific idea but death as entertainment is not something we made up recently. Think about how people used to go to hangings for entertainment. I stated it a little bit ago that I think this story is a great thing for a parent to use to sit down and talk to their children. Maybe one day I will use it as well when my son gets older.