Bibliomantic Book Club: “The Hunger Games” Movie

The Hunger Games
Release Date
: March 23, 2o12
Genre
: Action, Dystopia, Drama

Summary: Set in a futuristic version of North America, the country of Panem was made up of Thirteen Districts – all ruled by the Capitol. At one point in the past, the Districts rebelled and were crushed. As a reminder that no treason of the kind would be tolerated again, the Capitol began The Hunger Games. Each year the twelve remaining districts must offer one girl and one boy as tribute – the twenty four children must then fight to the death in a pageant broadcast live on television for the whole world to see. When Katniss Everdeen volunteers as tribute to save her little sister Prim, she goes to the Games not realizing she would soon be dubbed “the girl on fire.” Beloved by the Capitol crowd, hated by President Snow, and seen as a symbol of hope by the districts, she unknowingly creates a spark that could lead to much more as she tries to keep herself and fellow tribute Peeta alive.

I think it’s safe to say we had all been looking forward to this movie feeling both very excited and also somewhat nervous. After the travesty that was made of Harry Potter, we weren’t too keen to watch another beloved book series be ruined on film. Would they cut too much out? Would it be what the media was calling a “sanitized version?” Would we know what was going on at all without Katniss’ inner monologue guiding us? Luckily, it turns out our fears were mostly unfounded. While no movie can ever be exactly like the book – The Hunger Games did a damn good job of coming as close as possible. Read our thoughts below and share your own evaluation with us!

WARNING: Please be advised there are spoilers for both the book and the movie in this post and discussion.

STEPHANIE’S THOUGHTS

I love this movie. LOVE. I want to shout it to everyone because I am so excited to actually love something for once when usually I just hate everything. This is definitely the best book to movie adaptation I have ever seen. I was actually wearing my shirt today that Kelly bought me that says “The book was better.” Now I want to add “But the Hunger Games movie is AWESOME.”

The main thing that gets me is how perfect the mood and feel of the movie is. The fear and panic you feel from the awesome cinematography, the amazing acting, and the music. Everything sets the perfect tone. A lot of what we were worried about was not quite “getting” a lot of the story since so much of the book (which is in first person) is Katniss internally analyzing things. But those fears turned out to be completely unfounded, somehow everything that was important was conveyed anyway. I absolutely loved all the scenes with Seneca (who is hardly in the book at all, but is a main character in the movie – fun! And that beard!) and the gamemakers, cheerfully going about their murder of children. I thought it was great that Haymitch could send Katniss notes so we still see the understanding between them without having to be inside Katniss’ mind. I thought her feelings for Peeta were portrayed extremely well also – we obviously can’t see the full extent of it, but you totally get the feeling of owing him for giving her that bread, then the fake kissing, but the actual really caring about him. All of it was just done so well.

Now I would like to go over three parts that made me CRY TEARS. Or more accurately desperately hold back tears so I wouldn’t be an idiot crying in a movie theater, but if I was alone I would have been SOBBING. It started pretty much immediately with the Reaping. That scene was absolutely perfect and completely terrifying. The lack of music created an eerie silence filled by the tension and fear of the children awaiting their fate. Effie – wishing everyone a happy Hunger Games, so cheerfully contrasted so well. And then Prim…Prim who tucks in her duck tail and Katniss who runs forward. Prim yelling as Gale drags her away is just…just…AHHHH. Tears. All the tears.

Obviously my next one is going to be Rue’s death which was just as horribly tragic as I had hoped. I loved listening to people in the audience who hadn’t seen the movie gasp in horror when she pulled the spear out of her chest. Horror. And even beyond Katniss crying over Rue – immediately following when Katniss has to deal with the horror she feels at having killed Marvel so easily without even thinking. The whole scene was just gut-wrenching.

And finally, this is totally sappy, but when Katniss and Peeta split up to hunt/gather and she hears the cannon and thinks he’s dead. I did in fact tear up when she found him alive and is yelling at him, but hugging him and is so relieved to find he’s okay.

So that’s what made me cry. Next I will do a little bit on WHY YOU SHOULD NOT LAUGH AT GALE. My poor Gale. Now, obviously we are all smart people here and know that the story is not about the romance, but we talk about it anyway – mostly because I’m a big Gale fan and like to be Team Gale to be contrary. But seriously, like everyone in the theater laughed at him sitting on that hill. But why? His best friend was dragged away to the Capitol he hates to an almost certain violent death. He talked in the beginning about what would happen if no one watched the games? So instead of watching the start of the games with everyone else, he did the most rebellious thing he could feasibly do – he hid in the woods and didn’t watch. His own one-man protest against them taking Katniss away from him. SADNESS!! And then of course we cut back to Gale when Katniss kisses Peeta and AGAIN with the laughing! It’s not funny! Maybe he didn’t know exactly what he felt for Katniss until she was taken away and then to see her supposedly in love with someone else and not thinking about him at all – and still the constant threat that she could be dead anytime. YOU SHOULD FEEL BAD FOR GALE! Come on.

Lastly – quick comment on the actors. Jennifer Lawrence is phenomenal beyond words. Really enjoyed everyone really – notably Stanley Tucci – oh my gah I love that man. But I have now seen the movie a second time and have to admit – I really do not like Lenny Kravitz as Cinna at all. While his gold eyeliner looks great, he just comes off as a complete amateur next to the greatness of Jennifer Lawrence. It is rather painfully obvious that he is not an actor, or at least not a very good one. While I don’t mind him too much, I really am rather disappointed with his performance – especially since we are such big Cinna fans here!!

So that about wraps it up for me. I absolutely loved this movie and feel so happy and grateful that it was so well done. Obviously there were some pieces missing, and while those things enrich the book I love – I totally understand the cuts and changes they made and find myself not minding one bit!

KELLY’S THOUGHTS

Movie adaptations are usually more trouble than they are worth – firstly, they produce movie tie-in editions of our beloved books. The horror of seeing Kiera Knightley on a cover of Pride and Prejudice is something from which I am still not recovered. Then, there is the rampant commercialization. Sure, books can blow up and create merch, but it mostly happens after movies. (Also, it made Daniel Radcliffe the canon image of Harry Potter. Gross.) Another side effect of the movie versions is that it brings all the awful, stupid, and terribly racist people out. Like the ones who thought Rue was a little white girl and vocally tweeted their stupid, racist rage. Breathe deeply, Kelly. Breathe deeply.

However, in the hands of the right people, a movie version of a book can stand on its own. The Hunger Games is one of those films. The people working on it made smart and artistic choices in adapting the story. The few things they changed were small and not that important to the plot. That’s what I expect out of an adaptation. Films rarely rival the sheer depth of their source material, so that’s why it’s necessary to change things. I’m so impressed that the filmmakers captured the emotion, relationships, and just the overall feeling of the book.

We were all worried about how a book that takes place in the first person present could be adapted to the inherent voyeurism of the cinema. Again, it was done through smart, economical choices. The way they showed the control room was freaking cool (dare I say this was some exposition that was missing from the books!). They converted Katniss’ thoughts about Haymitch into cheeky notes from him. When she was hallucinating from the Trackerjacker venom, we learned the backstory of her father’s death. There was even symbolism! I squirmed with English major joy in my seat, even as I wiped away tears. Sure, Haymitch should’ve been drunker, and the ending was a little too happy. However, this film gave me hope that Catching Fire will burst that bubble and bring on more pain, sadness, and revolution.

Also.. more Lenny Kravitz in gold eyeliner, please!

CASSIE-LA’S THOUGHTS

I was a little hesitant about The Hunger Games film. Excited because it was finally released, but worried that it couldn’t possibly live up to my expectations. I did a bunch of stuff to prepare for the premiere which I detailed in THIS POST, including giving myself Katniss hair and Cinna gold nails and eye shadow, but it all would have been a waste of time if the movie was awful. THANKFULLY, it was pretty damn good. Color me surprised.

The first half of the film was amazing! I loved that it started off like a documentary, giving the audience some back story without having to rely on Katniss’ narrative. The extreme poverty was a nice touch to bring District 12 to life. The shaking camera wasn’t my favorite thing in the world, but I can understand why they chose to do it. Again, we don’t have Katniss’ monologue so we have to rely on other cues to tell her story (shaky camera = worry, panic, disorientation).

Perhaps my favorite elements of the film were the Seneca Crane Show and the Capitol. First up, Seneca Crane who was given a lot more camera time than I had originally anticipated. Whereas the book revolved around Katniss, the film is a fuller picture of Panem and helps set up the world for some of the later films- the revolt in District 11, the role of President Snow, and how the games work. It also helped us see exactly how Haymitch was able to schmooze and get sponsors, which was a fun inclusion. I also loved Seneca Crane’s poor doomed bearded end- I initially didn’t understand the implications of his last scene until I read another review. I would love to watch that bit again.

The Capitol was equally fulfilling, with all the bright colors and strange mode of dress (I loved Effie’s purple butterfly dress with the bright yellow lips). But it wouldn’t be the Capitol without the opening ceremonies and Caesar Flickerman. First, the opening ceremonies, which were tons of fun, especially when they lit Peeta and Katniss on fire. The effect was wonderful, and Jennifer Lawrence’s happiness at that moment was adorable. Stanley Tucci was amazing as always with his big white teeth, and blue hair, just the right blend of over the top and likeable. When he was narrating the Games for the home viewers: perfect! Again, they did a great job fleshing everything out without relying on a voice over.

Well, what didn’t I like besides shaky cameras? I didn’t really appreciate how Katniss and Peeta’s complicated relationship was glazed over and given a more happy, “YAY US!” feeling versus all the will they/won’t they inner turmoil we get from Katniss. Perhaps they’re saving that for Catching Fire when Gale has more to do than be the best comic relief ever? Also fail on Peeta’s nonsensical camouflage skills. I also really disliked the rushed feeling after the Games, specifically that they cut a lot out (Katniss’ scene on the hovercraft in particular), and pushed forward into the interview. The ending seemed to be more concerned with setting the scene for the sequel rather than be true to the source material.

Despite these minor grievances (including Katniss’ fancy hunting jacket and shoes- too fancy for a poor person) I really did love The Hunger Games. I will definitely be counting down the days until Catching Fire. TEAM NOT THANKSGIVING LOOKING CORNUCOPIA!

WHAT WE LIKED MOST:
-Seneca Crane – his beard and getting to watch him and the gamemakers run the show!
-Stanley Tucci and his gigantic smile
-Capitol costumes
-Could understand everything without Katniss’ narrative

WHAT WE LIKED LEAST
-Katniss’ fancy hunting jacket (Ha.)
-No after the games scene on the hovercraft with Peeta in distress
-Not quite enough Katniss/Peeta relationship turmoil

Join us next month when we review our April Bibliomantic Book Club Book: The Book of Blood and Shadow by Robin Wasserman.

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