Review: Hunger Games left me hungry for more

I am a purist in the sense that, when I see a movie that’s based on a supercool book, I want the movie to be as close to the book as possible.  You hear that, movie makers?!

Now, I can understand that movie makers often need to cut out parts of a book in order to fit the whole thing into a movie or in order to make the movie flow, and I get that.  That’s permissible.  But when the screenwriters go changing the plot of the book and adding scenes that indeed never took place, that’s when I get angry all up in my grill.

That being said, Hunger Games was the closest book-to-movie adaptation I have ever seen (that I can think of here on the couch in my Hunger Games induced hangover).  I chalk this up to the fact that book author Suzanne Collins was both co-screenwriter and executive director.  Overall, it was freaking awesome and I wants me a second helping.

First of all, gotta love me some strong female lead character!!  I love Katniss.  She’s smart, she’s caring, she’s stubborn, and she’s downright kickass!  While I liked the casting choice of Jennifer Lawrence, whose amazing job in Winter’s Bone proved she was pretty close to perfect for this role, I really would have liked to see her more gaunt and lean.  She still has that cute baby fat on her cheeks, as well as curves on her body, and because of that, I had a hard time believing that she actually was hungry.

Not only that, but they didn’t really play up the whole hunger part of the Hunger Games.  Katniss and Peeta were supposed to dig into the food on the train to the capitol and we barely saw them touch their plates.  Also omitted was Katniss’ favorite part of the capitol when asked by Flickerman: lamb stew.

In looks, Peeta was not how I had pictured him.  He was supposed to be one of a few from District 12 who got enough to eat everyday, and so he was supposed to look healthier, bigger, a bit fatter than Katniss and he didn’t.  He was tiny.  And in the words of Liz Lemon, I wanted to look at him and just know that his arms would smell of freshly baked bread…but they were rather moldy.  In addition, I thought that book Peeta was far too whiny, sappy, and clumsy.  He annoyed the hell outta me, especially when all he was was a liability to Katniss.  I wanted Katniss alive and home with her Gale, where she belongs.  So, I was much more satisfied when movie Peeta turned out to be much less whiny, less sappy, and much less of a liability.  A definite improvement over book Peeta.

Let me just say that Elizabeth Banks was amazing.  She melted right into her role as Effie Trinket.  Indeed, she wasn’t even visible behind the caked makeup.  I loved the comic relief banter between her and Haymitch.  The only thing missing was a short scene or comment from her after the games showing how happy she was that she’d now get some recognition for her work.

Haymitch was pretty good, although I would have liked to see him fall off the stage at the reaping.  That would have been too good.  Casting for Flickerman and Snow were right on in my mind.  Very well done.  You just can’t beat Stanley Tucci with blue hair, grinning at the cameras like a hyena.

And Lenny.  You know, when I read your name on imdb, I was very skeptical, to say the least.  Cinna was one of my favorite characters, and I didn’t know if you could pull it off.  But bravo, my friend.  I think you proved me wrong.  All the way down to your beautiful gold eyeliner.

And Gale.  My dear actor person who played Gale in the movie – Since Katniss clearly has other priorities, please consider me as your companion with whom to run away and start a family of miscreant, rebellious wanderers.  Here is a list of some of my post-apocalyptic skills for you to review.  *Call me*

The scene of the reaping.  It was so well done.  It made my heart pound with nervousness, and in that pounding I could feel the hollowness.  From Effie, from the Peacemakers, from the propaganda film, the cruel intent was fake, hollow, thinly veiled.  To see the drab-colored District 12 residents, and that their only mode of resistance was the absence of applause.  Whoa.

They struck an interesting balance with all the child-on-child violence.  I assume that they wanted to keep the movie PG-13 to keep the younger audience (and their money) coming.  I must admit that there is this primal side of me that actually wanted to see all the brutal violence on-screen, just as it was described in the book.  There is also another side of me that is happy the movie was done the way it was, by portraying a good portion of violence in indirect ways.  I appreciated the artsy, frantic yet slow-motion way the first few minutes of the games were portrayed.  Music was all you heard as you watched through shaky, first person point of view camera angles as the bloodbath began.

I wondered how they would convey all the information book Katniss gave to us via her thoughts.  The answer was that we got to see previously behind-the-scenes scenes with President Snow and Seneca Crane, the other gamemakers, and with Caesar Flickerman.  Even though these scenes violated my previously stated standards against adding information to a movie that wasn’t in the book, these were very well done, interesting, and I imagine (hope) they came straight from Collins’ brain as what she had in mind all along.  In the book, all we see is the games from Katniss’ perspective in the arena, and these extra scenes gave the movie more depth without having to do something like give Katniss a running inner monologue so that the audience would know what the hell was going on.

More specifically, it was incredibly moving to get to actually see the rebellion starting in District 11 that begins to set the tone for the rest of the story.  That made the tears flow.

Scared the absolute crap out of me when the mutts arrived.  I wish they would have gone the extra mile to make them look like the dead tributes, though.  Ah, well.

As for the ending – it could have been…punchier.  More dramatic.  I expected more than that.  I liked Snow’s warning comments to Katniss; gotta set the tone of fear and paranoia.  Very nice touch with Crane locked in a room with the berries.  It was just Snow’s style.

I could go on nitpicking the details and giving the account about how much I cried when dear little Rue died…those big brown eyes…sigh.  But I won’t.

All I ask is – what will quell this hunger of mine until the next movie comes out?  I might have to make do with berries and dead squirrels in the meantime.

 

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14 responses

  1. My biggest problem with the movie was the non-existent love/affection between Gale and Katniss.
    In the book, I was rooting for Gale.. and then Peeta, and then Gale again… But in the movie? It’s more like: Who the hell is that extremely hot guy? Oh well, Katniss doesn’t seem interested in him… he’s probably just nobody.
    So sad… so sad…

  2. Pingback: Nobody Likes a Whiny Baby | Psychobabble

  3. I have to disagree with your critique of the casting of Katniss. She was described in the book as malnourished, but I applaud the decision of the casting director to use an actress who represents an actual fit-looking adolescent girl. I think they recognized the fact that a huge number of teen girls (aka body dismorphia central) would be seeing the movie and chose to provide a role model for healthy body image rather than yet another skinny unattainable frame. What you describe as baby fat I saw as a step in the right direction for Hollywood. The movie barely touched on the famine aspect of Katniss’ existance, and really framed her hunting as more for sport. This would have made an underweight actress even more disparate. One other note, I noticed that they chose to use Caucasian actors for district 11 instead of the “olive skinned” populace described in the book. Wondering what that choice was all about.

    • Very interesting point, Ayn. I was coming at this purely from the standpoint of making the movie more true to the book and I honestly didn’t think at all about the larger picture. I would have preferred that the movie touch more on the famine aspect of the books. And I don’t remember which district was supposed to have olive skinned people, but I do remember that District 11 was accurately portrayed as mainly black, as it was Rue’s and Thresh’s district.

      • My mistake – Katniss’ district, 12 not 11 like I typed, was the one that was supposed to be olive skinned with dark hair. District 11 was spot on. I agree that if the movie had focused more on the widespread poverty and famine of District 12 that it would have made perfect sense to have the actress look thin and malnourished. I felt like it was a very important part of the story and really explained a lot about why Katniss was so formidable in the arena. I was sorry that they left it out.

  4. Glad you enjoyed it.
    I’m enjoying the blogger reviews everywhere, because now I know enough about to know what everyone is talking about.

    Note – haven’t read it, no plans to see it.

  5. I saw it last night. The weirdest part was the reaction of the kids in the theater. Some actually laughed at really horrible parts like when Katniss shoots an arrow in the heart of the boy who kills Rue. Um…ha-ha?

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