The Hunger Games Review
** WARNING: Spoilers are abound in this review. Read only if you have seen the film **
The Hunger Games is a highly-publicized film based on The Hunger Games teen fiction novel by Suzanne Collins. Without trying to give away too much of the plot, it is a film based on an alternate reality North America where there are 12 Districts ruled over by a totalitarian “Capitol” government. The Hunger Games are a televised event where 2 “tributes,” one male and one female between the ages of 12 and 18, from each district are pitted against each other in a battle royale to the death.
The book is written as a first-person narrative with the main character being Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence, Winter’s Bone). This provides the author a way to truly get inside the mind of this young woman. When her younger sister, Primrose (Willow Shields) get chosen to participate in the Hunger Games, Katniss volunteers to take her place. Peeta (Josh Hutcherson, Bridge to Terabithia) is selected from the group of males.
Because of the book’s first-person narrative style, we are able to truly grasp Katniss’ thoughts and emotions. Unfortunately, that cannot be properly displayed in a film and it shows. Gary Ross was lucky he was able to obtain the cast he did (Lawrence’s performance is especially good). His actors were able to bring as much emotion as is possible given the way the film was written.
The novel had very little dialogue, the majority of the pages were filled with the thoughts and feelings of Katniss. Had the screen play been written in this way, with more flashbacks, a lot more of this could have been captured, but the movie left me feeling kind of empty, in a way.
Much of the character building from the novels was left out, and we’re left with a shell of many characters. We are left wondering who many of these characters are and why they are important. If a viewer comes in to this movie without having read the books before hand, they may be confused about why some of the characters are even there. While Gale (Liam Hemsworth) plays a vitally important role in the second novel, we get to know him greatly in the first. The movie shows him hanging out with Katniss once, and we’re all left as confused as to why he gets upset with the relationship Katniss is forming with Peeta. The character of Rue from District 11, who becomes an unlikely ally of Katniss in the arena, lacks any character depth at all. If I hadn’t read the novels, I would have been confused about why Katniss feels so much sorrow over the loss of the girl. I’m extremely disappointed in the portrayal of Haymitch (Woody Harrelson), though Harrelson does an amazing job, regardless. Much of his comedic role in the novel is dropped in lieu of his particular talent of bringing out the best (and worst) in people. They downplayed his alcoholism (which is discussed in detail in further novels), and many of his scenes are left out.
Much of the romance in the arena between Peeta and Katniss is also downplayed greatly. Much to my chagrin, the idea the star-crossed lovers idea is simply touched on. In the novels, this played a vital role in their training. They were told to hold hands and act like a team at all times. They are seen training separately through out the movie. Much of the kissing and lovey-dovey crap that provides them with more sponsor gifts is completely cut from the story. Katniss’s several brushes with death have also been, confusingly, removed from the script. Many other small details have been removed.
Now, I understand that it is difficult to include every possible detail from a novel in a feature film. I recognized many of the subtle changes in the story and why some unnecessary characters and events are left out. All of the important story-specific scenes are in the book and I feel that few people will be left wondering what the story is truly about.
Many reviewers complain about the shaky camera work. I, personally, find this to be extremely useful in portraying the “OMG WHAT IS GOING ON” feeling you get in the book. For me, it added to the excitement of the fight scenes.
Overall, this is a great film and Ross definitely succeeds in the conversion of this highly popular novel, though I urge all potential watchers to read the novel before going to see the film. The book will fill in any gaps intentionally (or otherwise) left out of the film. I was excited going in to the film, being a huge fan of the novel, and I left pleased with how the movie came out. I cannot wait for the extended edition to see what they can add back in to the story that had to be taken out due to the time constraints of a 2.5 hour movie.
I give this movie a B+ for its amazing story, amazing actors, amazing camera work. It loses a few points in the way the film removes much of the romance aspects of the novel and for it’s inability to truly build the secondary characters in a meaningful way.
For more reviews and movie information, check out The Hunger Games at Rotten Tomatoes.