Because I’ve apparently been living under a rock (or perhaps cleverly camouflaged by Peeta Mellark to blend in with the scenery), I hadn’t heard of “The Hunger Games” trilogy until I saw the movie trailer based on the first book. And I love young adult fiction! Haven’t I put in my time with Harry Potter and the “Twilight” gang?
That trailer looked intriguing, so I downloaded “The Hunger Games” to my Kindle (free to Amazon’s Prime members) and read it after first lending it to my older son (I knew he would like it). I finished Suzanne Collins’ well-written take on a dystopian (if I had to look it up, you do, too) society (Panem) that rises from the ashes of the United States after drought, fire, and war. Then I quickly polished off “Catching Fire” and “Mockingjay” (spoiler alert: all three were good, but I liked the first the best).
Now I was ready to see the movie! I actually drove to San Antonio last Saturday to watch it with my #1 son (the Mister and our younger boy were off playing disc golf). The verdict? We both enjoyed “The Hunger Games,” but we also were disappointed.
Of course, it’s a tough task to bring a much-loved book to the big screen. Especially one that is so richly penned, weaving such a compelling tale about how 24 tributes (one male and one female ages 12-18 were chosen from each of Panem’s 12 districts) travel to the freak-show Capitol to compete in the annual Hunger Games. A movie just can’t tell the story better than the novel. Period!
Here were the positives: The casting was great! Jennifer Lawrence is wonderful as Katniss Everdeen, a teenager who illegally hunts to keep her family alive and volunteers to be her district’s female tribute at the brutal Hunger Games in place of her little sister. What a great heroine!
I thought Josh Hutcherson as Peeta, the district’s male counterpart in the fight-to-the-death games, and Liam Hemsworth as Gale, Katniss’ hunting partner, worked well. For those who haven’t read the books, the love triangle that’s hinted at in the movie is explored further in the sequels.
Casting Stanley Tucci as the flamboyant Caesar Flickerman was simply brilliant! He’s a scene-stealer. Woody Harrelson as Haymitch surprised me; it was a perfect part for him (or Josh Holloway, who played Sawyer on “Lost”). Elizabeth Banks lent just the right amount of kookiness to Effie Trinket.
Because the trilogy is told in the first person by Katniss, changes had to be made in the movie for its third-person point of view. I especially liked the use of the command center, which gave us a behind-the-scenes look at how the Hunger Games were controlled. Seneca Crane (Wes Bentley), the head gamemaker, had a much-bigger role in the film, which gave us an interesting angle. Plus I thought the music was great.
On the negative side, I disliked how the writers handled how Katniss got the important mockingjay pin, which was her good-luck charm. They couldn’t give Madge 30 seconds of on-screen time? She was one of Katniss’ only friends!
Also, the book emphasized the importance of food—the abundance for the “haves” in the Capitol (which astounds Katniss) vs. the starvation mode in the “have-not” districts. Yet the movie merely glosses over this. In fact, you really couldn’t tell that people in District 12 were perpetually hungry.
Even though the Hunger Games part of the movie had me on the edge of my seat at times, it felt rushed. I know they didn’t want the deaths to be too violent for the PG-13 rating, but the fact that kids were killing kids is what made the “sport” so horrific. The muttations weren’t as good as I expected, either.
All in all, though, I recommend seeing the movie. Just hope that the odds will ever be in your favor!