Before I get into this, here’s the most basic idea of what The Hunger Games is if you have: 1) been living under a rock amidst all the marketing and fandom in recent months, or 2) you’re too lazy to either Google it or go to IMDB…
America is now known as Panem, a country split into 12 districts following a civil war against The Capitol. As penance for the rebellion, all 12 districts submit 2 tributes (1 boy & 1 girl) between the ages of 12 and 18 to fight to the death in an arena that is shown all around the country as a form of entertainment. 24 go in, 1 comes out. The survivor wins his/her freedom and never has to worry about going hungry ever again. The story itself revolves around Katniss Everdeen of District 12, who volunteers as tribute when her 12 year old sister is drawn from the lottery.
With a cloud of negativity looming over my head, I’m going to go ahead and get the good out of the way.
First and foremost: I enjoyed this movie. The actors and actresses do an excellent job in their roles, and I can’t think of a single performance that wasn’t exceptional. Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Lenny Kravitz, and everyone else; all excellent matches that made the characters believable. The movie’s story is overall very faithful to the original material despite necessary cuts here and there to ensure the movie would be of reasonable length for audiences. It features a strong heroine that is more concerned with survival and doing what’s right, rather than being concerned with who would make the best boyfriend: a sparkly “not-really-vampire” or a shirtless werewol- NO NO, STAY ON TOPIC! And the action scenes, while toned down to accommodate for the PG-13 rating, are very well done and stand strongly on their own, even after the initial scene as the games began.
In fact, by all means The Hunger Games had the potential to be one of the most outstanding films to come out in a long time. I know the book itself is certainly one of the most intriguing works of literature I’ve read in a long time (and apparently the sequels are even more intense).
Ugh…Let’s go through the list shall we?
1) TOO MUCH SHAKY CAM. The first portion of the film that takes place in District 12 has so much shaky camera going on that it’s dizzying! We see the technique used throughout the rest of the movie occasionally, though thankfully much less frequently and to varying levels of severity. That first portion of the movie was almost unwatchable because of this. A few shots look like the camera is being held in someone’s hands with the zoom all the way in.
Possibly the only instance in which the shaky cam felt appropriate was during the opening of the games and a few action sequences after that. Otherwise, no. Just no.
2) Despite The Hunger Games’ strong focus around food and the severe shortage of it everywhere but the Capitol, no one seemed to be going hungry. Especially in District 12, which is supposed to be one of the areas where dying of starvation is commonplace. In the book, Katniss practically scarfs down the first full meals presented to her as a tribute. In the movie however, she hardly eats at all.
3) The whole movie, despite being over 2 hours and 20 minutes in length, and having numerous cuts to the original storyline, is very rushed. While this is a good thing during the actual games, which cut the timeline down from a number of weeks to a number of days, many things that should have been emphasized and expanded on felt skimmed over and lacked the emotional impact from the book. For example, the relationship between Katniss and Rue. Furthermore, while the ending is essentially well done, it zooms by in a matter of minutes and appears to have forgotten several key characters altogether.
4) This movie falls into an unfortunate position of being a faithful adaptation yet possibly drawing too much from its source material. While the movie itself is able to stand on its own for the most part, fans of the book will struggle over details left out (as is bound to happen with any book to movie translation), and anyone that hasn’t read the book will likely find themselves confused by certain details left unexplained or key characters left underdeveloped. The general assumption appears to be that the movies based on the 2nd and 3rd books will have more detail and fleshed-out characters, but even if that is true it still leaves this movie feeling somewhat crippled by its constant rushing.
In the end, it’s an overall enjoyable movie that suffers from technical issues more than anything. If you’ve read the book once or not at all, there’s a good chance that you’ll enjoy it despite its faults. Super fans of the series however, are going to be just as disappointed as any other super fan when it comes to their favorite franchise being put on the big screen and going in with high expectations. Keep your expectations realistic, people. Not every adaptation can be as perfect Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within. Or Baseketball.
I give The Hunger Games 7 “apples shot out of a pig’s mouth” out of 10.
I’m Papa Kenn, and May The Odds Be Ever In Your Favor.