The Hunger Games combines action, suspense and compassion with fireballs, scary dogs and fancy beards creating a sure spring blockbuster. It was a book and is now a movie that almost all the men and women I know both read and are dying to see. It is a rare thing for me to read a book that both my wife, mom, dad, male and female coworkers and just about everyone else I know has read. The closest thing I can compare the mass reading to is Harry Potter but let’s end that comparison there.
A movie of a popular book faces a tough battle, it has to appease and excite fans of the book by showing the readers what they expect while at the same time engrossing new viewers unfamiliar with the source. Having read all three Hunger Games books I would put myself squarely in the first category. I had a lot of expectations for this movie, I wanted to see the games, I wanted to see Katniss and Peeta brought to life, I wanted to see the visions of the book from my head brought to life.
I am very glad to say I was not disappointed, the film did a very good job of bringing District 12 to life. The bleak living conditions, dusty courtyard and depression era clothes came together so well it almost looks like a period piece until you see Effie Trinket’s garish face and loads of white uniformed security. As the film transitioned to the Capitol it just got better, if anything the residents of the capitol appeared even more over the top than I imagined them in the book.
Then comes the game. The movie captures much more of the behind-the-scenes of the games showing the game maker Seneca Crane (who has got to have one of the most awesome beards in movie history) and how the players are being watched and more importantly manipulated for ratings. Remember this the next time you watch a reality TV show.
The games make the movie, its brutal, bloody and deserving of its PG-13 rating. I found myself counting along with Katniss how many tributes were left and on the edge of my seat as she made her way through the forest and other tributes to the conclusion all readers of the book know.
Were there a lot of details left out? Absolutely. Is the mockingjay a lot less relevant? Sure. Did some of the major secondary characters get glossed over? Incredibly so. Cinna, Gale, most of the other tributes and even Haymitch and Effie all probably got a lot less attention than you would expect from reading the book. But you know what, it’s okay. In fact it’s more than okay, director Gary Ross who co-wrote the screenplay with Hunger Games author Suzanne Collins instead focuses the film where you really want it, on Katniss. It is her story and given that the movie clocks in around two hours and 15 minutes I’m glad they chose to focus on her story and her emotions. She is played by actress Jennifer Lawrence (who I recognized as Mystique in X-Men: First Class) who embodies everything about Katniss. She’s gloomy and depressed, harsh and tough and loving and tender.
If I were to complain about anything it would be that a lot of the shots are short, handheld and frantic feeling. During the action sequences and even some non-action sequences the shots change so fast and are so shaky you can hardly keep up with what is being shown. It also, like the book, takes forever to finally get to the games. As a reader of the books this wasn’t so bad for me but for someone new to the series the first half may seem to drag.
However, I still thoroughly enjoyed it. It did great justice to the book and extremely entertaining. Go see it!