Movie Review: The Hunger Games

Okay, so I loved the book, and was eager to see the movie.  My teenaged son and I counted the days until the movie’s release and rounded up some friends to go with us to see it, and last night was our big night.  So what’s the verdict?

I thought they did a pretty decent job with the story, at least at first glance.  On further analysis when we got home, however, Kevin and I went back over it and realized that we were both disappointed in certain things that were changed or ever left out of the movie – for instance, in the book, Buttercup, the cat Katniss hates, is described as an ugly yellow cat.  In the movie, the cat is black and white.  Kevin thought this was laziness on the movie-makers’ part.  “Would it have been so hard for them to find a yellow cat?” he asked.  Katniss’s acquisition of the Mockingjay pin is different in the movie version than the book version.  Her whole ordeal of nearly dying of thirst in the beginning of the Games is completely left out.

On the other hand, at close to two and a half hours long already, it’s hard to imagine how every detail could have been fit into the movie.  So that’s understandable, I suppose.

I loved the actors chosen to play the various characters; all of them seemed to fit, so it made it believable in that sense.  The musical score is great.

There was some discussion between me and some friends on Facebook the fight scenes, and the general consensus (and Kevin agrees) is that the fight scenes are largely glossed over and not graphic enough.  It’s not that everyone is a fan of blood and gore, but most of the fight scenes consisted of a brief flash of a knife, a quick glimpse of a dead tribute, a fast fading in and out of a mortal wound, that type of thing.  However, it makes sense that the graphic nature of the violence had to be minimized in order to keep the movie’s rating at PG-13, and therefore accessible to the very audience the books are aimed at.

All in all, I thought they did a pretty good job of adapting the book to a movie version.

My biggest issue is the cinematography, and it was a HUGE issue for me.  Lots of quick zooming in and out and shaky, jerky movement.  I believe the intent is to make the viewer feel like they’re right there, a part of the action, running right alongside Katniss in the woods, staring at close range right into the face of Effie Trinket, and then suddenly jerking your gaze away and onto something else.  All the constant motion and shaking made me very motion sick, however, and I spent the majority of the movie trying very hard not to vomit.  I actually had to get up at one point and go sit in the lobby for a few minutes, and I wasn’t sure I would be able to go back into the theater.  I did go back, but it wasn’t easy to sit through the rest of the movie feeling extremely nauseous.  Now, this could very well be chalked up to my currently being in a delicate condition, but several other people I know who have seen the movie also said that the cinematography was difficult for them, so I would caution anyone who is sensitive to motion sickness about seeing this movie.

If I had to rate it, I’d give it 3 out of 5 stars (Kevin gives it 4 out of 5, for the record).

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

Catching Fire (Book II in the Hunger Games Trilogy) by Suzanne Collins

Hi, it’s me again, your friendly anti-YA reader, reading another YA book!  Okay, so I’ve gotten sucked into this trilogy, I admit it.  And I enjoyed this one as much as I enjoyed The Hunger Games.

I had heard that neither of the second two books in the series are as good as the first, that they’re more political-oriented.  And I confess that I delved into Catching Fire a little hesitantly, assuming it might be a little boring.  I thought to myself, “If there’s not the action of the arena, what is there?”  Okay, so I kind of enjoyed the violence action of the first book.  It’s fantasy, right?  Well, lo and behold, Katniss and Peeta do indeed find themselves back in the arena – a completely different arena – again fighting for their lives.

I don’t want to give away too much, but this installment is filled with action, drama, suspense, violence, a touch of teen romance (torn between two lovers, feelin’ like a fool . . .), hints at political uprising, and lots of funny names (apparently in this version of the future, society has completely abandoned good sense when naming offspring).  You’ll laugh, you’ll cry . . . okay, maybe you’ll laugh, and you probably won’t cry.  But you’ll shake your fists at the injustice, and cringe at the blood, and you’ll definitely be rooting for our favorite teenaged heroine, Katniss Everdeen!

What happens next?  We’ll have to find out in the final book, Mockingjay, which I probably won’t get to for at least a few weeks.  Stay tuned!

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

I was not going to read this book.  In fact, I kind of dug my heels in about it.  I’m a grownup – I don’t need no stinkin’ trendy YA books.  I finally relented, very reluctantly, under pressure from both my book club and my 15-year old son.

Fine, I’ll give it a shot.  But I won’t like it (just like Twilight . . . pfft.)

Well, you can probably guess what happened.  I liked it.  In spite of myself.  Which just goes to show, don’t judge a book by its cover – or its genre, for that matter.

As I may be the last person standing to read this book, the following synopsis is probably unnecessary, but humor me:

It is an unspecified time in the future.  North America has been wiped out following war, flood, famine, etc., and a new land called Panem has taken its place, with the Capitol running things surrounded by twelve districts.  Each year, just to keep the people in line, the Capitol requires each district to offer up two children – a boy and a girl – between the ages of 12 and 18, chosen by random drawing at a ceremony known as the Reaping, to enter into a bloody death match that typically lasts a few weeks and is televised to the whole of Panem, live.  This death match is known as The Hunger Games, and each “tribute,” as the child contestants are known, is dropped into a carefully chosen arena, which typically consists of some sort of vast wilderness, and must try to kill as many of his or her opponents as possible while avoiding being killed him- or herself – using wits, weapons, and whatever else is available.  The game continues until only one tribute is left alive, who is then named the Victor of that year’s Hunger Games.

Is it violent?  Yes, but actually not terribly graphically so; killings and deaths are described in rather general terms, so a lot is left to the imagination.  I’m not sure what about this appeals so much to the young adult crowd – is the actual violence, allowing teens to live out their hormone-driven anger vicariously?  Is it the competition aspect?  or are the characters real enough that teens are able to connect on some level?  In any case, I thought the storyline was very imaginatively conceived and executed, and it was well written.  It really is quite suspenseful (although some of it is predictable from an adult’s standpoint, I think), and I found myself cringing and gasping throughout the story, wanting to know what was going to happen next.  Also, I really love the fact that the protagonist/hero in the story is a female – an excellent point to make to both male and female adolescents.

This is the first in a trilogy, and the end compels one to read on in the next book.  Hopefully I will get around to it before too long, but for now, I’m committed to several other books first.