The Hunger Spoilers (Movie Review)

First, I wanted to say that The Hunger Games movie is” The Hunger Games Lite” or “The Diet Hunger Games.”  Then I thought about that.  Then I changed it to “The Moderately Well Fed Games.”  A lot of people are saying how accurate a portrayal this movie is, and how much they feel it did justice to the book.  But the truth is…I’m not very happy with it.  And I think I’ve figured out why there’s such a big difference.  Most of the time when I go to see the movie adaptation of a book, I bring the book with me.  I keep my mind open to the fact that it will be a version of the book, not the thing itself, but the main story is still something I automatically infuse into the film myself.  Even if I think parts might be incomprehensible to people who haven’t read the book, I can enjoy it because I know the story and this is just getting to see certain parts brought alive, or spins on those parts.  What most people are saying about this movie being wonderful seems to fall into this category.  They say not everything can be shown, that what was there followed the book, that most of the new parts showed aspects of the story, and that the acting felt true to the characters.  All this is precisely what usually makes me happy when seeing book adaptations.  However, for me, “The Hunger Games” was always clearly meant to become a movie, and I thought of it as such when reading.  In fact, I thought of it as so completely meant to be a movie that when I went to that theater I didn’t bring any part of the books with me.  I wanted to be shown the story all over again, confident that everything could be retold properly with such a visually written work.  I went into that movie theater with nothing…and left without that much more.

Perhaps if I’d brought the books and remembered my Katniss and characters from the read experience, or imposed my knowledge of the system and how intricate and devastating it is to everyone involved, then I could have simply seen “The Hunger Games” movie as an accurate, well-acted portrayal of parts of that story I already knew.  Wanting to be told the story anew, with nothing read into what they were showing at all, it fell flat.  Or rather, it shook around and made me dizzy with the camerawork, and then fell flat.  I’d been waiting to feel the building tension and trauma as Katniss considers what tactics have worked before, wonders whether Peeta is trying to make her soft so she’ll be easier to kill, runs because she knows she is supposed to run, deciphers what the parachutes mean, smiles so the sponsors can see her acting “in love”, and puzzles constantly over whether Peeta actually saved her from Cato or not.  Waiting to see the various tributes’ strategies played out in ways that never materialized.  Expecting to see the capitol citizens cheering their tributes’ violence, or pouting over their tributes’ death because they have to hand over money.  None of it happens.  I have other nitpicks with the film that are more about my own taste, like Haymitch evidently thinking he’s drunk in a western instead of seriously alcoholic, seeing small, gray wargs (from Lord of the Rings) in the finale instead of wolf muttations, or finding Cinna’s wondrous outfits decidedly lacking.  But all of these things would have been mere irritations in a film where more is happening.  In a movie where we’re following a shaky camera around seeing the occasional death out of context, watching Katniss grow afraid or perform certain scenes without appearing to consider the audience as important (other than Gale), or react much to the other tributes’ deaths at all instead of feeling happy, upset, or increasingly paranoid after each one, and there’s no real developed relationships between the Star-crossed lovers or even really Katniss and Rue (no growing respect for Rue’s healing skills, no conversations about home, no listening to Rue’s impressions of Peeta), these irritating nitpicks stand out as big problems.

What I did like about the movie was the sequence where Rue’s death led to the riot, the opening Reaping sequence, Katniss’ ranking session, all things Snow and Effie, and anything relating to Seneca.  The altered death scene where he faces down the bowl of shining berries felt incredibly satisfying.  The riot scene genuinely moved me.  Other than that, though…there just wasn’t enough of the true hungers, desperations, or tiny victories consistently given throughout the book to keep my attention on anything but the nuisances that plague every movie adaptation of a book….and usually do not bother me so much.  Hence, I find this movie a poor addition to “The Hunger Games.”  The books just show how much more everyone has to be hungry for and how much the games force them to stake.  The movie finds the baseline of children’s lives plenty enough and leaves out all the other pressures and gambles that bring this story to life.

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