My “Hunger Games” Thoughts

by Emily Steers on 03/29/2012

A while back, I wrote a review of The Hunger Games book 1 for my friend’s website. Re-reading it, my assessment of the book is still pretty valid now; and it even applies greatly to the movie.

I saw the movie last night with a mixed group of people– two other (straight) couples, so we were evenly split of three women and three men. We ranged in age from 22(ish) to 29; most of us had read the first book– my main squeeze was the only one who hadn’t already read the original text. (Hi, I was an English Major.)

First, I sort of have to talk about HG in contrast to Twilight– even though the books’ only similarity is the fact that they’re in the broad spectrum of fantasy, and aimed towards younger women.

When I saw the first Twilight movie, I admit: I was drinkin’ the Kool-Aid. I was working for the PR firm that represented the publicity for the movie–and a good handful of the then-unknown stars. We were all whipped up into a Robert Pattinson-fueled frenzy for a little while, and it wasn’t until months later that I realized that entire series was an insult to my intelligence, and my status as a actual, thinking womanThe pro-life allegory in the fourth book basically made me want to vomit. Profusely.

So, yeah, I was really hesitant to start in on The Hunger Games but once I read the book (and loved it, even though it was seriously flawed in style and technical skill)– I knew I should be even more wary of the film. I was afraid the production company that tackled the book would turn it into some sort of Teen Girl Is Moody But Falls In Love And Is Tamed piece of shit.

I loved at the beginning of the film when Katniss and Gale are sitting in the field, and he talks about running away together to start a little family in the woods.

Katniss’s reaction? A big old STFU, and she knocks him down to size. She doesn’t want kids. She’s exhausted. She’s been caring for someone her whole life. She’s looking forward to that ending someday.

I can totally relate to this. As being the friend in the group that was designated Mom, I can chalk up my own lack of desire for children to the fact that I’ve always stood in a caretaker role. Certainly, not as the literal breadwinner for my family, but whenever one of my friends was going to go off on some sort emo jag in high school or college, I was the person there to make sure they didn’t die. You know the drama, and you know someone like me who fits that description.

I’ll tell you that I loved Jennifer Lawrence, and if she and Emma Stone would like to be my besties, I think that would be stellar.

The most interesting reaction David had to the movie was how he felt about Peeta. I’m talking as though most of you know the plot, so when Peeta drops his bombshell in the interview, David was PISSED OFF. He thought Peeta was a creep and super manipulative, clearly leveraging Katniss’s weakness and caretaking spirit for his advantage.

I (uncharacteristically– because usually I’m a cynical grouch) totally drowned in the sweetness of Peeta. I think the character is a total peach, and loathed Gale like nobody’s business throughout the entire series.

Anyway, back to the movie.

Things I loved:

  • Casting. Lenny Kravitz was Cinna in my mind the whole time; Woody Harrelson was Haymitch. Perfect, and even Elizabeth Banks had the right spin on Effie to make her not loathesome, but more out of touch than anything else. Kristen Chenowith would have made the character offensively perky, I think. And Rue? I was sobbing. SOBBING. She was so delightful.  (Did anyone else think Cato looked like Prince Harry?)
  • Costume and set design. I thought the apartment in the capital was just spot on. Those dining chairs!
  • The score. Maybe there was a smidge too much fiddle, but it was understated enough that it avoided any of the usual crap that happens in movies meant for younger audiences. It was mature, and couldn’t rely on familiar songs to capture your attention.
  • The plot points hit. I like how they cut down on Katniss’s hatred for her mother, but also didn’t focus on her idolization of her dead father. She was the focus, and I appreciated that.

Things that Disappointed Me:

  • There is one detail they won’t be able to put into any movie without ruining the moment– when Katniss realizes President Snow’s breath smells like blood. I’m so irked by that! She never announces it to anyone in the books, so it would seem strange to have her TELL someone in the movies.
  • Haymitch wasn’t drunker. He was just sort of bumbling– he wasn’t depicted as abusive or alcoholic as he is in the book. Too much Cheers Woody Harrelson and not enough … well, 1990s Real Life Woody Harrelson.
  • Without sounding totally lecherous, casting the doe-eyed hunk Josh Hutcherson as Peeta made me kind of forget that the characters are sixteen. (I’m not COMPLAINING that he was cast, ifyouknowwhati’msayin’. He’s 7 years younger than me and that makes me feel icky saying that.) I think that’s one reason why David read Peeta as a terrible person, rather than as a sweet young kid who didn’t know the impact of what he was admitting. In the book, his crush is innocent, in the movie, I can see how it was portrayed as a tactic.
  • Also, they didn’t do a great enough job really portraying that Katniss is from the “wrong side of the tracks” of District 12 and that Peeta was sort of the equivalent of the popular, preppy kid. That’s sort of an issue for their relationship throughout the series, and why Gale claims ownership of her, you know?  Also, one of the reasons why she doesn’t like Peeta is that she’s humiliated that she had to eat bred meant for pigs in order not to starve to death. She resents him for a long time that he is well-fed and she is starving. She thinks he doesn’t understand the hard life, when in fact, he’s physically abused by his mom.
  • Wigglycam. Do cinematographers no longer do crane shots? I’m not joking– ever since the Bourne movies, Children of Men, and District 9 actiony movies are relying on a wildly shaking camera to (I guess) gloss over action sequences. Why? It doesn’t bring me into the movie, it makes me dizzy and spend half the film with my head between my knees trying not to barf up popcorn.

All-in-all, I want to see the movie again, stat. I think I would like to pick up more details that I missed (like through the tears that are shed every time Jennifer Lawrence yells, “I volunteer!”)

What did you think?

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

suki March 29, 2012 at 3:56 PM

LOVE this review. You covered all the bases! Can’t wait to see the movie! :) I mean, I like to wait, but yeah. :)

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Shelly March 29, 2012 at 4:05 PM

Great review! I loved it, and can’t wait to see it again too.

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Ada March 29, 2012 at 8:09 PM

I haven’t even read the book. I feel terribly out of touch.

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Ginger March 30, 2012 at 4:46 PM

I pretty much agree with everything in your thoughts. Especially the wigglycam (side note: we were late to the theater, so we ended up sitting in the 4th row. Yeah. Good thing I don’t get motion sick).

The biggest issue that I had was that they took out some of the drama and life-and-death imperative of some of the survival stuff from the book. Water, food, the parachutes–I think they removed some of that to the detriment of the story.

But overall, I loved it. I’d go see it again RIGHT NOW if I could.

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Adrienne March 31, 2012 at 6:31 AM

Love this great review…Anyway, I haven’t watched Hunger Games and it was already trending in the whole world…I want to read the book first…

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Kim March 31, 2012 at 2:38 PM

I agree with your sentiment about not portraying the Katniss/Peeta from different parts of 12 — I thought that was totally not obvious, and was kind of an important plot point. Also that the Tributes didn’t really seem to be suffering much (aside from, you know, trying not to get killed). There was so much more “shit, it’s hard just to survive in here, nevermind trying not to get murdered” in the books. Also, I really liked seeing the Capitol people manipulating the game in real time – I don’t remember as much of that in the books, and it was a cool/interesting/terrifying side to the story that was neat to see. Made you hate them just a bit more for their cool manipulation. It’s always hard taking a first-person book and translating it to the screen, I think, but they did a pretty good job. I was entertained!

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