Movie Review: The Hunger Games

Denisa and I went to the movies this weekend once I was back from my conference. (Yes, I’m back. Yes, it went well. Yes, I’m glad to be back.) We were worried we wouldn’t be able to get tickets to The Hunger Games, but we went to the late show, and got right in easily. (The theater was packed, though–we just were there in time for the tickets, then waited in line and got seats.)

But you don’t care about that. You want to know what I thought of the movie.

First off, I loved the book. It was riveting–I read it in a frenzy of turning pages. (The second one wasn’t as good as the first, but was still quite good. The third wasn’t as good as the second. More on that later.)

The movie is an extremely faithful adaptation of the book. For some of you, that will be good news. For me and Denisa? How to put this? It was like opening a Christmas present for the second time. You can love that Christmas present a ton, but you’ve already opened it. The surprise–the joy of unwrapping–is gone. It’s still the same present, but it’s different. And in the case of the Hunger Games, that difference is big.

Most of what drives the first book–the whole series, for that matter–is Finding Out What Happens Next. Yes, Katniss is involving as a main character, but we really just want to know who dies next. Does she live? I watched the film version, and it was so faithful that I knew everything–everything–before it happened. I knew how people would act. I knew when it would be tense. I knew when I could take a bathroom break, if the need should arise.

Again, for some of you, that’s just what you wanted to hear. For me? I couldn’t help feeling a bit let down.

It’s not that I wanted an extreme adaptation. No need for singing cats, or turning Katniss into a cyborg or something. But . . . I already read the book. Experienced the plot. Loved it, but I’m not going to reread the book tomorrow. No need. I still remember it. And watching this movie was much like rereading the book.

Don’t get me wrong. The acting is well done. The action well constructed. It’s tense, and moving. Seeing the action first hand–how these games are treating children like toys on a chess board–made an impact. (Although as a side note, can I just say the Shaky Cam was way overdone? Seriously. I could have filmed it with my iPad, and it would have been smoother. Not cool.)

It’s the book, on film. But I can’t help thinking some of you will notice the same thing. So many people clamor for a movie to recreate the book exactly. Will some people watch this and note that getting what you wish for isn’t always all it’s cracked up to be.

Some of you are asking what I would have done differently. I’m not a film maker, but I would have put some of myself into the movie. The plot doesn’t have to change, but there’s such a thing as artistic flair. I know this is making some of you bristle–it’s not up to film makers to change the book when they’re adapting it–but I’m telling you. 100% faithful ain’t all it’s cracked up to be. If I knew every movie adaptation I’d see was going to be like The Hunger Games was, I’d stop going to movie adaptations.

Been there, done that, bought the t-shirt.

All told? I give the film about 3 stars out of 4. Maybe 2.5. The thing is, a 2.5 or 3 star adaptation of a 4 star book is a let down. By definition.

So that’s what I thought. Now how about the rest of you tell me why I’m wrong.

6 thoughts on “Movie Review: The Hunger Games”

  1. I just reread the book this weekend, and it was kind of a bummer…because I already knew what happened (as opposed to the first time I read it, when I was reading under the table during a ward activity because I COULD NOT put it down). Now I’m rethinking whether I want to shell out the $$ for a babysitter and theater tickets. Maybe this one is a Redbox.

  2. The film doesn’t really get going until they actually do get to The Hunger Games, but when it does get started up its entertaining, tense, unpredictable, and very well executed from Gary Ross. I also couldn’t believe that this was his 3rd film after other flicks such as Seabiscuit and Pleasantville, which are both good but are different from this one. Still though, great jobs from everybody involved and I cannot wait for the sequel. Good review.

  3. I suppose that one of the advantages of adapting older or lesser-known literary works is that you have the latitude to take more liberties with your adaptation.

  4. Yeah, Rachael–if you’ve already read the book twice . . . I think you might be better served watching it later. Then again, if you can see it with someone who hasn’t read the book, that might freshen it up some. That always helps me.

    Thanks, Dan.

    Katya–Good point. Adaptations usually work better for me when they’re not of works I’m really closely familiar with.

  5. I didn’t read the book (heck, I didn’t know the book existed until about three weeks ago), and I thought the movie was good — but not anything special. Everyone tells me that the books are different, they are amazing. So I think there is definitely something missed in just seeing the film. I’ll read the book and decide if the fact I know what will happen prevents me from enjoying it as much.

  6. Scott–Yeah. I’ll be interested to see if the book loses some of its shine now that you know what happens. So much of it is driven by plot progression. Having it spoiled might take a lot away from it . . .

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