Book AND Movie Review: The Hunger Games

Now that I’m done with my month-long (and change) insanity of the 31 Days of Twilight project, I can move on to some other stuff, like my own writing and a backlog of reviews for books I actually enjoyed.

In February I went on a cruise and, while travelling, put away a couple of books, one of which was The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. Michelle had been trying to get me to read this book for years and with the up-coming vacation and the movie being released soon after I decided it was time to read it.

Well, first of all THG is definitely a young adult novel. Maybe an older young adult novel, what with all the death, but definitely a YA novel. THG covers the story of Katniss Everdine, a young woman who takes part in The Hunger Games, which is a survival-tournament of sorts pitting twenty-four children against each other in a last-man-standing fight-to-the-death scenario.

Basically, I liked the book in that I found it entertaining although the first person, present-tense perspective was a little difficult as Katniss, in my opinion, is not a very likeable or comfortable character to wear. She’s rough and abrasive to all but a few individuals and emotionally stunted in a few ways. I found myself getting frustrated with her and the way she acted emotionally but beyond that I enjoyed the story. The descriptions were interesting, the action was decent, and I thought the twist at the end was a nice one. Will I read the sequels? Eh, maybe, but I don’t have any real burning desire to do so.

A few weeks later the movie came out. I thought THG movie was ok as a movie and fine as an adaptation. I thought the actors did a great job with their roles and I enjoyed getting to see the gamemasters in action (I’d wondered how they might portray them). I think that the chemistry between Lenny Kravitz’s Cinna and Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss was spot on and while they didn’t go for the full-on drunken slob that Haymitch is in the book, I think Woody Harrelson was a great casting choice for the role. I thought most of the style choices were also really well done; I dug the dustbowl era mining town feel of District 12 and the look of the Capitol.

I have three main complaints with the movie. The first is that I felt it lacked a lot of context regarding things it brought up in the movie itself and regarding the plot translated from the book. For instance, when Effie plays the “Yay, the Capitol!” video reel just before the Reaping the video references thirteen districts but the movie never explains what happened to the thirteenth district (or, really, why the twelve districts are now in subjugation to the Capitol other than that the Capitol “won” the war). We’re not told about how mockingjays, tracker jackers, or the wolf creatures came to be, or really any of the history of the world that lends its current situation any context. Before the Reaping, when Katniss and Gale are talking, they mention how many times their names are in the bowl for the choosing but they never go into WHY their names are in there as much as they are. It’s little things like this that are never explained that, as far as the plot goes, are inconsequential but I feel should be addressed if they’re brought up at all. The detail regarding the thirteenth district is especially important when you consider that it is integral to the history of the relationship between the Capitol and the other districts.

My second complaint is in regards to Katniss. Now, before you fans of the movie lynch me, I thought Jennifer Lawrence did a just fine job as Katniss aside from a couple of things. One, I found her Katniss to be more likeable than the one in the book; she didn’t feel as abrasive to me. Two, the make-up and costume choices for her felt off. Sure, Katniss goes through the grooming process when she gets to the Capitol but at no point before that were her eyebrows anything but perfectly plucked. She was too clean and her hunting attire didn’t match up with the rest of the District 12 setting; for one, her clothes were too clean, two, they were the wrong style, and three, that leather jacket was not hunting wear, it looked like someone went to wardrobe, found a modern cut leather jacket and dirtied it up/aged it a little. None of her rough-and-tumble clothing was stained, torn, or mended in any way that I would expect in such a financially destitute setting.

My third complaint is shaky cam. I hate shaky cam. I think shaky cam is ridiculous in anything but a “found footage” type movie because why would the all-seeing eye of the audience have to be shaky? I get why they used it (combined with quick cuts) during the initial scene at the Cornucopia (to get around showing a majority of the violence so they could qualify for a PG-13 rating) but the shaky cam at the start of the movie? Annoyed me right from the go.

But, as I said, I thought it was a decent movie. I don’t think anything would be missed if you waited to see it at home but I’d recommend seeing it in general if you liked the books.

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8 Responses to Book AND Movie Review: The Hunger Games

  1. headtrip-honey says:

    Interestingly, my husband, who hasn’t read the books, didn’t have a problem with them not mentioning District 13 or the tessarae. I mean, he figured it out on his own, which I thought was impressive. With the tessarae in particular, he put two and two together when Katniss told Prim “not to take any extra food” because it wasn’t worth it. Granted, he’s a sharper tool than most, but still, I was impressed that the movie got it across. I had to explain about the mockingjays, however.

    If you do read the last two books, be prepared that it’s a very *realistic* look at war/trauma/death. A lot of people were expecting a wham bam heroic tale of young girl takes on oppressive government….but it isn’t. The third book isn’t nearly as well written as the other two, but it’s still a fun ride.

    • mattmarovich says:

      *nod* I’m cool with realistic looks at war/trauma/death; war/fantasy is a favorite genre mix of mine (Books of the Mazalan Fallen is my all-time favorite fantasy series, hands down). I’ve heard, pretty much universally, that while the second book is good, the third is disappointing. Not sure I’ll read them but who knows what the future holds.

    • spideyj says:

      I plan to read the books but ended up seeing the movie before reading them (not my usual style, but oh well) and I felt like it was explained in the movie. Not in as much detail as I would like, but I think I got the point.

  2. Lisa says:

    I was disappointed that they didn’t explain about the muttations too. When I leaned over in the theater and explained them to my husband, the look of horror he gave me was priceless. I would have liked to see that same look echoed on the faces of everyone else in the theater as well, because it was such a little thing they could have added that would have made the Capitol seem just that much more cruel.

    • mattmarovich says:

      Very true, but then they would’ve had to spent even more money on making each of the creatures look different and who knows if they even wanted to go there.

      They also didn’t do any of the animal-modded Capitol people either.

      • Beth says:

        Not to get too spoilery,but the muttations and the animal-modded people will become more of a thing in the sequels.

        I’ve read the books a few times, and had to fill in a few things for people who hadn’t but saw the movie. Some books are BETTER than the movies because there’s more backstory (the Descendants, comes to mind), but THG’s back stories were too complicated to leave quite so much out, and the things they left out missed the overarcing themes of economics, debt and, HUNGER!

        I agree about the tessarae and various other things that were missing. Telling Prim not to take tesserae (I think Katniss called them “extra rations”) wasn’t quite enough explanation. The missing Madge character would have helped; 30 seconds of Gale snapping at her that the odds were DEFINITELY in her relatively-wealthy favor would have set up the tesserae nicely, and a hand-to-mouth trader in the Hob (not that they really set up the Hob), just GIVING Katniss a pin that, in the book, was mentioned to be worth weeks of food for a family made no sense in the Seam’s economy (I don’t think that they mentioned the District 12 class divisions, and the blue-eyed blondeness of the merchant class compared to the olive skinned gray-eyed Seam look. In fact, Haymitch is explicitly described as looking like he’s from the Seam, and as excellent as Woody Harrelson was, casting him and his bright blue eyes changes the character for those who understand District 12.

        The way food was treated, or not treated, was another missing piece of the economy; they needed to set up that Katniss and Peeta never ate that well, and Rue’s missing line about never having a whole leg to herself was beautifully telling (and mentioned again in the second book.). There were a lot of missed opportunities to explain, visually or in dialogue, that part of the Capitol’s evil was facilitated by controlling food (having one district do seafood, one do agriculture, etc, controlling its transport and making hunting or gardening illegal does a LOT to make a population dependent, in reality as well as in the THG universe).

      • mattmarovich says:

        *nod* I get that. I mean, the movie, as it was, was already two hours, twenty minutes long so adding in additional stuff would’ve even pushed it further. I agree with the director’s decision to not include some stuff, like the avox’s, but considering that they are almost certainly going to do sequels it would’ve been nice to have touched on some more of the Capitol’s evil. I did think they capitalized and really captured the materialistic nature of the Capitol however.

  3. Allison S says:

    Yeah, many of the details left out of the movie were fine (like, say, the hovercraft coming for the bodies), but the one that really bugged me was the mockingjays – she still gets the pin, they’re using it as a logo, and it’s going to be a recurring thing later (not to mention the TITLE of the third book), but without explaining the birds’ origins the symbol is kind of meaningless. I’m thinking some things will be explained when they come up in the sequels, but generally I got the impression the movie was intended for people who had already read the book.

    As far as Katniss’s likeability – yeah, she is definitely emotionally stunted and actually very selfish in the books, but I guess I forgave her when accounting for her situation. For being more likable in the movie, I felt that a lot of that was because in the books a lot of her abrasiveness and emotional issues were kept to herself. We miss out on a lot of her internal dialogue in the movie, and it just kind of glosses over the fact that her entire relationship with Peeta is actually just an act in her mind, and she’s actually thinking along the lines of “Well, I have to save Peeta, because if I don’t and then I win the people back home will be mad at me!” I definitely noticed her doing an awful lot of silent staring in the movie, which I realized later she actually did in the books too – it was just less obvious with her thoughts filling in the blanks.

    I did like seeing other points of view in the movies, like the gamemakers, Snow, and the reactions in the districts – they are explained to Katniss in later books as having taken place, but seeing them as they are happening was much preferable to hearing about them after the fact, a major bonus to throwing out the first-person narrative. I think the second and especially the third movies might actually do a lot of scenes better than the books for this exact reason.

    Oh, and I was very sad that Katniss wasn’t olive-skinned in the slightest. And none of them looked very hungry…

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