So I finally saw ‘The Hunger Games’ . . .

. . . And it was awesome.

Even with my love of the series, I’m not one to debate all the similarities and differences. I recognize that adapting a book to a film is an extremely difficult process, and it would be impossible for movies to completely echo their literary counterparts. What works in print can’t always work in film. Other ways must be discovered to convey certain messages, certain ideas.

That being said, I thought they were darn close. And close in all the ways that mattered.

I’m going to be honest: as I was reading, I was always Team Gale; he was the strong, silent type, and maybe I just tend to like brunettes. Peeta seemed weak and dull. The baker’s son? Even after the bread-throwing act of mercy, I wasn’t really endeared to him. But I couldn’t help but be swept up in their story, constantly asking myself a central question of the series: does Katniss really fall for Peeta? Or is it all a game?

When the final credits began to roll, my sister began to ask questions. My dad asked to borrow the second book, wanting to continue the story, and I spent dinner discussing the Suzanne Collins’ Panem and world-building, plus where the plot was headed in as spoiler-free a way as possible.

My boyfriend was brought into the fold, too, for noting the “steampunk”-like style of the Capitol. And the craziness of its denizens. Me being me, of course, I had to ask, “Did you get the disparity there? Between the ridiculousness of the Capitol — the pink dogs; the outlandish costumes; the gluttony — with the people starving in District 12?”

They did. I thought that was very well done — from the futuristic music laid over scenes of the Capitol’s silly residents to the Dust Bowl-like grittiness of District 12 in present-day Appalachia. You definitely got the sense that people were starving while others were fat and happy, blowing their wealth on lush “costumes” and crazy makeup. Others, like Katniss, were just trying to survive.

{Image via Salon}

Considering I read The Hunger Games two and a half years ago, I was shocked at how easily the details came flooding back. It was heartbreaking to see Katniss and Rue’s bond, and haunting to hear the melody carried by mockingjays through the woods. Though I knew how it would all play out, I was literally on the edge of my seat — or covering my face with one hand, peaking through the slats of my fingers during some of the difficult scenes.

After we got up to go, my sister spoke first. “That was one of the most intense things I’ve ever seen,” she murmured, wide-eyed. And I agree.

There’s a reason this series — and, now, the film — is so successful: it’s a poignant, horrifying story that can’t help but make you sit back and think, This could actually happen. “Kids killing kids,” my sister whispered at one point. “This is sick.” And it is. Horrible, ridiculous — actions so shocking that you can’t help but think, Really? This is entertainment?

It’s more than that, of course. It’s punishment, too. But it makes you think.


22 thoughts on “So I finally saw ‘The Hunger Games’ . . .

  1. I was very surprised by how familiar the story felt even though I read it years ago. I really want to reread the series at this point. My husband has agreed to read them too, and he’s not a reader.

  2. Believe it or not, I have not read the books… any of them. But our girls had and we treated them to see the movie at IMAX…. and they had to take us to see it. The movie haunted me for days afterwards… it was very well done, and this from one who has not read. You bet I want to read all three books now! It was a very impactful movie, that is for sure!

  3. If the movie hadn’t come out while our family was on spring break, I probably wouldn’t have gone to it, but since my kids insisted, we went as a family, and I loved it. Now I’m ready to read the books. Here are some of my thoughts on it.

    I thought it interesting how the basic story tapped so strongly into ancient Rome and Crete. Obviously, the Tributes are gladiators, and their entrance in chariots really underscored that. I liked how the Hunger Games is sort of a natural extension of reality TV, gone amok (or acknowledging its roots, depending on your pov), and how the people in charge can change the rules at whim (throwing in new ingredients on TV cooking contests springs to mind). I also liked the story line of the lads/maidens being sacrificed, ala the story of the Minotuar. And if you still didn’t get the connections, the main characters from the Capital were named Cato, Seneca, Caesar (the ultimate showman!).

    I agree with you about Peeta–he seemed passively sneaky to me and I didn’t buy that Katniss really fell for him. My favorite part was her relationship with Rue, and I loved the mockinjay calls.

    • Excellent points about Rome and Crete, Jane — I never made the direct connections, but that’s quite true. Her relationship with Rue was a definite highlight and one of the most heartbreaking parts of the story.

  4. I loved it too. I came home and reread the series in three days. Needless to say, absolutely everything came to a standstill while I was reading. Cooking? What’s that? School? Reading is school, isn’t it? Have fun rereading the series. (I know you will at some point!)

  5. Aw I love that you went with the family!

    I went with my husband (not a big reader) and he is now reading Hunger Games and comparing the film with the book.
    Even my in laws are reading it.

  6. I have always been Team Gale too! And I, too, was wondering if she really falls for him or if it’s a game. I think in the movie it just happened really fast so it didn’t feel at all natural for it to develop like that.

  7. Yay! Glad it was well reviewed by you (trust your judgement based on other reviews of stuff :P) Am going to try and get to the theatre sometime soon and cannot wait! We’ve got the trilogy on order through my kids’ school because it’s half price 🙂 Looking forward to the books (and now the movie too!)

  8. completely agree with you on your views of the movie! this is definitely one of the better book to movie adaptations i’ve seen.

  9. I agree that one of the central questions of the series is whether or not Katniss really loves Peeta or if it’s all for the cameras, but I felt like this aspect of it wasn’t development enough in the movie. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the movie and agree with your point – adapting books is hard, so you can’t really compare the two. But I wish we had seen more of Katniss’ uncertainty and confusion or even [SPOILER ALERT] Peeta finding out that Katniss was playing for the cameras (this happens at the end of the book, but it doesn’t happen in the movie).

    • Great point, Meredith — and you’re right. I completely forgot Peeta’s hurt regarding Katniss “playing” him for the drama of it all, but that made my heart ache while reading. Peeta is such a good guy.

  10. I thought they did a pretty good job of the translation to film as well. It wasn’t perfect, but as book lovers, I don’t think anything ever would be. We did think Gale was just a little too clean cut and put together for a District 12 guy, but we forgave him ’cause he’s hot. My husband loved it too, and he came into it cold.

    • Haha! Yes, I expected Gale to be a little grittier and . . . you know, dirty. I guess. Like, physically dirty. My dad and boyfriend liked the movie, too, and also knew next to nothing about it beforehand! (Aside from what I told them. And I guess I’ve babbled about this series a few times, because they knew more than I expected they would.)

  11. I really loved the movie. It’s only been since December that I read the books, and I usually like to put a little more distance between the reading and the watching because having the book fresh in my mind makes it hard for me to take the movie on its own terms, but that wasn’t a problem. The contrast between District 12 and the Capitol was very well-done. The filmmakers created it even better than I could imagine it. Both book and movie are definitely intense experiences!

  12. I thought it was a terrific adaptation. I think it’s impossible to get a book to screen translation perfect, but this one was very well done. I loved the books: all three. I’m really not team anyone, although I loved Peeta in the books. I always thought the books did a really good job of showing us how Katniss felt about both boys and her confusion over those feelings as she worked through them.

    It was never a team Gale or a team Peeta for me. I will admit that I adored Josh Hutcherson’s portrayal of Peeta in the film, especially given what he had to work with, because everything we see of Peeta in the book is from Katniss’ perspective, and they cut things out for the film. I thought Josh did a fantastic job of capturing the absolute essence of Peeta’s character and how he feels about Katniss. I can’t wait to see them together in Catching Fire, as it was my favorite of the three books.

    The setting was terrific too. The almost holocaustic feeling of the reaping, the poverty of District 12 and then the complete contrast of wealth and gluttony in the Capitol. So well done. And, Lenny Kravitz as Cinna and Woody Harrelson as Haymitch? Perfect casting. Absolutely. Loved them.

    I’ve already seen it twice and the second time it was nice to watch it and not feel like I was going to miss something. I could just enjoy it and I certainly did.

    • Thanks for your thoughts, Holly — you make some excellent points! Definitely agree that the reaping and the District’s residents being “rounded up” echoed the Holocaust, and the settings were very captivating. Peeta was very well portrayed in the film; I really felt his love and devotion to Katniss, and his eyes were always so conflicted. So good!

    • It was more off-screen, Laura, though there were a few disturbing images. I’ll say I didn’t find it overly graphic or too upsetting, and I didn’t think they emphasized the violence within the overall story. We get that they’re killing each other, of course, but I didn’t feel it was gory or gratuitous. And I’m very squeamish!

  13. I recently saw this movie, but I think I’ll be watching it again once the DVD comes out. I was so focused on thinking about book/movie that it didn’t completely draw me in as it did others. Still, I did enjoy it.

  14. I was really happy with the book to film translation too. It can’t ever be perfect, but they did a really good job. There were so many elements that they got just right! I do hope it encourages more people to read the books.

  15. I skipped reading the series because it just didn’t seem like something I had time for and it’s not really my genre of choice, but the movie previews for the movie were so good I had to see it. I loved it! I went into knowing just the basics and my husband even less but we were both impressed. Can’t wait for the next one!

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