Review by Tawdra Kandle
I have mixed feelings about movies made from books, stretching back to the first time that I saw Gone With The Wind after I read the book several times. Friends not-so-jokingly warn me not to re-read a book before we see a movie, because they know that I will be perhaps a tad more critical than I might otherwise be.
Happily, I followed this advice when I saw The Hunger Games this weekend. It had been three years since I read the book, and I was able to enjoy a well-executed interpretation of the original story.
It’s never easy to make a movie that conveys the sentiment and meaning of the book. Creating the world that Suzanne Collins so artfully described in the first volume of her best-selling young adult series was doubtless a real challenge. Director Gary Ross managed to do just that. The movie captures the essence of The Hunger Games, including what defines the characters and plot without becoming bogged down in details.
It struck me immediately that this book is far more visual than I recalled. The juxtaposition of the gray hopelessness of District 12 with the almost frenetic color of the Capitol is particularly effective; the luxury of the train that transports tributes Katniss and Peeta is jarring after the opening scenes in their depressed coal-mining home district. The settings are a perfect backdrop to the steady character development and the forming relationships.
Just as in the book, the movie’s pacing never slowed or flagged; there were very few breaks from the intensity and action. I was impressed by how quickly the arena scenes moved. Exposition and story background was deftly handled in quick flashbacks or within the hallucinations of some of the characters.
The casting was perfect. Woody Harrelson as Haymitch was amazing; all the principle characters disappeared into their roles.
My only real criticism of the film was the camera operation in the opening thirty minutes or so. In what I believe was an attempt to capture the immediacy of Collins’ first person present tense narrative, the scenes were jerky (think Blair Witch Project). Several members of my party became so nauseated that they couldn’t enjoy the rest of the movie.
There was a definite lack of character development of the tributes other than Katniss, Peeta and possibly Rue. In the book, the readers learn more about each as Katniss interacts with them, but since the games prep scenes were fairly shortened, that opportunity wasn’t there.
The Hunger Games was an overwhelmingly successful adaptation of a gripping book. It was a breathtaking ride. . .a haunting story with such an uneasy ‘it could happen here’ feeling that it left me never wanting to see another reality show again.