***Though I have tried to leave this review vague enough for those of you who have not yet seen the movie (or read the book), I am issuing a slight spoiler alert as I have made some obvious references to scenes from the story.***
It’s taken me a couple days to fully process my thoughts on The Hunger Games movie. If you’ve been reading along or following me on Twitter, you’ve likely noticed that I’ve been off the charts with enthusiasm for this movie. On Friday, I spent some time asking early viewers what they thought, and all of them seemed to be quite pleased.
So, when I headed out Friday evening with seven other friends to see it—five who had already read the books and two who had not—I had high expectations and a ton of anticipation for a movie I’d been waiting to see for over six months. Though I can say that we enjoyed the movie to a degree, we also all seemed to leave with the same sentiments, which were voiced very clearly by my close friend:
“Some things are just best left untouched.”
Perhaps my group of friends is the exception to the norm on this whole Hunger Games movie, but I had a hard time fully embracing it. There are things I definitely enjoyed: the acting, for example, was superb. Jennifer Lawrence made an excellent Katniss Everdeeen, Josh Hutcherson played a worthy Peeta Mellark, and Liam Hemsworth made a workable Gale Hawthorne (though he seemed far too old to be playing the character, in my opinion). Donald Sutherland, Stanley Tucci, and Wes Bentley as President Snow, Caesar Flickerman, and Seneca Crane, respectively, were by far the most impressive, easily filling the shoes of the manipulative Capitol characters they played. Elizabeth Banks provided a serious yet comic relief character through Effie Trinket, which seemed to closely fit the Effie we knew in the books. Lenny Kravitz as Cinna was also good, and his portrayal as Katniss’s supportive friend came across as heartfelt and representative of the original character.
The depictions of the Capitol and the Districts also felt clever and suitable. The director, Gary Ross, created a land of excess and technological wizardry for the Capitol, surrounding it with images of extraordinarily poor neighborhoods whose hunger, misery, and complete devastation has clearly prevailed after a hostile government’s suppression.
Despite all this great acting and staging, however, I really felt like I was watching a slow-paced, bare bones interpretation of a truly phenomenal tale.
I know, I know—no movie is ever as good as the book, but I think there were a lot of directorial choices by Gary Ross that could have gone differently in order to more closely suit the story. Character development was of course hindered by the length of the movie, but certain pivotal pieces were also purposely left out, such as Katniss’s guilt over leaving Gale behind, and several momentous details about rival characters through the later parts of the movie. I recognize that some of this happened due to a PG-13 rating—a wise move in that the book is for teens, so of course the audience would mostly be filled with teens as well—but some of it seemed unnecessary. Yes, the story was there, but the devastation and torment caused by a Capitol so horrifically murdering children as payback for rebellion seemed cryptically and skeletally pieced together with scenes of a Capitol that we didn’t completely understand as viewers. Had I not read the book, I don’t know that I would have understood what—to me—is the entire essence of The Hunger Games: Katniss’s strength despite the nerves, horror, and fear she feels as she makes her way through the Games and preparation for them. We see only a glimpse of her feelings in the movie, as we rapidly speed through her multitude of obstacles and her eventual care for Peeta. In addition, the “Girl on Fire” chariot scene felt like someone ran through with an extinguisher to tone down the blaze before it came to our screen, but this part was critical for the entire idea of Katniss as a spark for revolution. To me, the whole film felt rushed and yet barren, as if we were meant to wade quickly through a series of images that could have been dramatic and terrifying, but really were just dulled-down glimpses of a society that was supposed to evoke some emotion from us as an audience.
The part I did feel actually drew something out of me was one between Katniss and Rue, played by Amandla Stenberg. Rue’s demise did play out a tad differently in the movie to suit the time frame, but I appreciated Ross’s portrayal of their connection and teared up a bit as I watched.
In the end, I admit I may have been expecting too much. I will of course see the next movie because I have some buy-in with the trilogy, but even the ending did not have enough bite for me, nor did it leave me wanting more—or even realizing there was more, for that matter. Was Snow mad? Did he give up? Was that a shrug of his shoulders and a general dismissal of Katniss? I really had no idea other than what I read, and for the audience member who did not read the book, I don’t know that I’d return for part two.
Am I glad I saw the movie? Yes. Was I disappointed? Yes. Could it have been done in a different way that would have suited my vision? Very possibly. Am I in the minority of viewers?I’m not sure, but I have a strong feeling that I am.
But, more importantly, do I still have half of the third book, Mockingjay, to finish, to reinspire me to fall in love with the trilogy? YES! And for that I’m very grateful.
I know my opinion is likely conflicting for many, but I’d love to know your thoughts. If you’re willing to share, please participate in the poll below.
Thanks for sharing!