I've been excited to see The Hunger Games movie since I first heard it was coming out. I am a big fan of the books, which I feel were well written (despite some being put off by their "young adult" categorization). Suzanne Collins does a fantastic job addressing the themes of the effects of war and violence on society, begging deeper discussion and processing.
I had read some mixed reviews of the movies, although everyone is a critic these days. One of the better thought-out reviews was this article from NPR, regarding how the movie addressed the violence seen in the books, as well as the cinematography. I, myself, had been concerned with how the violence (which was very graphic and, at times, disturbing in the book) would be addressed in the theaters. The review had me nervous that the movie would fall very short of the books.
Since I'm a parent who has to be up at the crack of dawn with my kids, I did not opt to see the movies at midnight. Instead, I waited until Friday night at the reasonable time of 8pm. I joined 3 other (adult) Hunger Games fans in a theatre filled to the brim with middle schoolers. WARNING: If you are an adult going to see The Hunger Games, even late at night, be prepared for a very vocal and thematically dressed group of young kids to be in your presence. Yes, they cheer and boo and swoon out loud.
Once the movie started, though, I could have cared less who was in the theatre with me. The first scene grabbed my attention, introducing the destitution of District 12, as well as our heroine Katniss. The anxiety of waiting for The Reaping creeped into my own stomach, and The Reaping itself was so raw and simple, the emotions were somewhat overwhelming. I was anxious for the calling of the names, and cried when poor little Prim was called, tucking the back of her shirt into her skirt before heading to the stage.
The extravagance of the Capitol is well-depicted, and The Arena is the perfect setting for the games. I was not bothered by the "shaky close-ups, so you rarely have a chance to take in the space, and the editing is so fast you can't focus." Rather, I felt it lead to experiencing the athletic activity of The Games, and the editing helped mute the graphic violence without making it lame, in my opinion. As the scenes flashed by, it gives the viewer a sense of how quickly The Reaping happens to the sudden transition of tributes fighting to the death - all in the span of a few days.
I was happy to see that Suzanne Collins was part of creating the screenplay. I'm not sure customary it is to have the actual author participate in helping write the script for the movie, but it was evident in how well the book was translated into a movie. Some details or characters are altered (there is no Madge, the mayors daughter, giving Katniss the pin, and it was not shared that the Mutts at the end of The Games were mutated from dead tributes), but the story was not lost. To keep the story streamline and the film at a reasonable length, it is expected some things will be changed. But I feel any cuts were done tastefully.
The movie also does a beautiful job of weaving in the backstory, not explicit in the first book, but necessary for viewers (who did not read the trilogy) to understand the storyline. There is a lot more behind-the-scenes with the Gamemakers as The Games happen, as well as seeing Haymitch wheel and deal with sponsors. The writers also brought in themes (uprising and rebellion, etc) from the later books that will nicely set up Movie #2.
When I first saw the cast, I had my doubts. Now having seen the movie, I am pleasantly surprised by the acting. Jennifer Lawrencei s spot on as Katniss, and Elizabeth Banks does a fab job as the ostentatious Effie Trinket. I initially felt that Josh Hutcherson did not replicate the Peeta I had envisioned. Once I saw him in action, I think he does a great job. One of my favorite castings is Stanley Tucci as Caesar Flickerman. He is fantastic! The role of Seneca Crane, Head Gamemaker, has a larger role in Hunger Games movie than he did in the book, but the with the backstory, the addition of his character is necessary. Wes Bentley plays him well, and I will be interested to see his character come ore into play in the Catching Fire movie. Woody Harrelson and Lenny Kravitz were also outstanding (although some might say Lenny played an understated Cinna).
All in all, I give the movie 4 out of 5 stars, and would happily see it again if given the chance. I definitely recommend seeing the movie, whether you have read the books or not. Due to the nature and themes of the film, I would encourage parents to be mindful when taking kids to see the movie.
Have you seen The Hunger Games movie? What did you think? How did it do bringing the book to life? I'd love to hear your thoughts, so leave a comment with your review opinion!