I saw the Hunger Games and I liked it, sort of…


So, first of all, I want to apologize for my absence from this place.  In all honesty, I’ve just been doing well enough that I haven’t felt the need to vent in word form.  I’ve been spending all of my spare time on making videos or shooting photographs to work on my photography.  You can select either set of words to take you to the respective site.

Alright, now to the grit of it.  The Hunger Games.  Now, let me explain a couple things before walking into this review/recap/criticism.  1.  I have only read roughly 20 books in my entire life, so this includes a few books from grade school. (i.e. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, My Teach is an Alien)  2.  I’m not positive, but with the exception of Watchmen, this is the first time I read a book before seeing the movie.  Typically, my imagination is weak, and so I have a hard time imagining faces of characters.  So, if I don’t have a movie cast to base my imaginations on, it turns out poorly.  3.  I own over 6,000 movies, but that makes my opinion no more relevant than your own because we all like different aspects of movies, so don’t let this ruin it for you.  I believe as a movie, it was a good movie.

BEYOND THIS POINT, EXPECT SPOILERS (for the first book and movie only)

To my surprise, the book, The Hunger Games, grabbed hold of me and actually allowed me to complete it, which many books upon my shelf could not be bragged about the same.  As a veteran movie watcher, I knew changes were bound to happen.   But, it’s the amount of changes, especially in the details, that  bothered me.  I’m sure I’ll miss many, or make ones that aren’t important seem important but I’ll do my best.

The movie started out beautifully.  Starting with the game maker, which, I honestly don’t remember from the book, so I know that they put more effort into making him a character in the movie.  I’m guessing he’ll be dealt with in one of the next books.  (I do intend on reading them)  But then we jump into the  screaming of Prim and then the journey into the woods by Katniss, beautiful.  Then we fly into the time of the Reaping.

This scene was very well done, though it seemed a bit rushed and I’m left feeling, ‘where’s Haymitch?’  While some may claim this isn’t important, I believe that the face plant by Haymitch in the book goes a long way towards explaining his character that I think the movie misses out on.  The movie shows the anguish that Haymitch feels towards the games and the Capitol, but his alcoholism is only briefly touched.  I think that showing that he is a daily boozer goes a ways towards showing what winning the games cost him.  So, I was disappointed in the stripping of that, but my guess is that the PG-13 rating helped with removing alcohol scenes.

After the reaping, we are taken to the room where Katniss is allowed to see her family for the last time.  They were given 3 minutes.  I don’t know if the book says, but I pictured closer to 15 minutes when reading this, but 3 minutes seems more realistic to the nature of the games.  Here, the Mockingjay pin that we all know of, is given to Katniss by Madge Prim.  This change I’m mostly ok with.  I think that how Katniss gave Prim the pin, only to be given back to Katniss, kind of ruined the moment they could have had there.  Since little effort was used to show how much Katniss’ father meant to her,  I think a better story arc would have been for Prim to receive the pin from her father, and then for her to give it to Katniss, but that is nit-picking.  Otherwise, the exclusion of Madge does not bother me because both she and her father’s character seem of little importance to this book.

We finally meet up with Haymitch on the train to the Capitol, but this scene too feels very rushed.  What couldn’t have been more than 1-1.5 minutes, we see Katniss and Peeta uncomfortably attempt dialogue, Haymitch comes in drunk, there’s slight banter and very pessimistic talk from Haymitch and then the scene is done.  Peeta runs out after Haymitch to ‘talk’.

The arrival at the Capitol was done well, Peeta already waving and playing the crowd, Katniss stewing in her anger for the whole situation.  The preparation of Katniss goes as I would expect, with the exception of keeping her hair the way her mother had put it for the reaping.  A minor detail that doesn’t matter, but I remembered.   Here, we finally get our first glimpse at the other tributes.  I guess now is a better time than any to complain about casting.  My only real casting gripe is Cato.  Now, maybe because I grew up in the Midwest, and we breed ‘farm boys’ so I have a skewed bias, but these tributes were less than intimidating to me.  Especially, the number 1 badass of the book, Cato.  The actor they chose was WAY too small in my opinion.  I envisioned Cato being much beefier.  Like Clay Mathews in high school.  Not this scrawny guy.  On top of that, I felt his acting was sub-par and the character was robbed of development, but that is coming up.

Everything up until the games is rushed from here.  The training, the days, the conversations, everything.  Which, is fine.  I understand the need to cut time and this time in the book isn’t critical to understanding anything besides the fact that Peeta genuinely cares for Katniss.  I think that the apple in the pig’s mouth scene was better in my imagination than in the movie, because in the movie it didn’t seem as startling as it should have been.  I’m also confused as to why they let Katniss go before Peeta, but it’s a minor detail that doesn’t matter.  It just makes me wonder who decides to make these little switches when not switching would have cost nothing extra.  But Haymitch’s reaction to Katniss in the movie was far better than that of the book.

Alright, enough of all of that.  It’s time for the games.  Katniss is delivered here by a ship, that possibly had all of the same characteristics as the book, but without the ladder that freezes its holders while it is raised into the cabin.  Again, not a big change, but as a semi-sci-fi nerd, taking out extra tech like that kind of bums me out.  The lake and its surroundings are perfect.  The circle of tributes is perfect.  I think this scene is just well done, down to Katniss’s frustration at Peeta shaking his head no towards the bow.  The initial fight scene that takes out half of the tributes seems a little weak, but I assume that was a directorial decision based on the age range of the children, and again, trying to comply with the PG-13 rating.

12 down, 11 to go.  The girl from district 8 is killed after setting a fire at night.  The only change here is that Peeta did not have to double back to end the life of this girl.  This detail is unimportant and probably better suited that Peeta did not do this.  But it takes away the little bit of credibility he had with the careers to begin with.   From here, the Careers get Katniss stuck up a tree.  There were a few changes to this scene that I found puzzling.  One, Rue tells Katniss to drop the tracker jacker nest on the Careers, which I don’t remember her doing in the book.  I know she warned Katniss of the nest, but Katniss came up with the idea.  Two, in the book this happens at night which causes Katniss to wait for morning.  In the movie, the warning and action both happen in the dawn.  Again, nit-picky but why the change?  (Probably because Rue was easier to see in the trees during the day, honestly)

This brings us to the next set of changes.  Now, I understand, that being PG-13, the hallucination of skin and blood coming off on the bow and arrows from Glimmer, or having to break her fingers with a rock to release the bow, had to be cut.  But it’s another change.  Then, I don’t understand the absence of Cato and Peeta getting into it as Katniss runs for her life.  With the absence of that scene and never hearing Cato talk about cutting Peeta, Katniss has no idea what condition Peeta is in, or that the blood she trails would be his.  I just found this inconsistent if you haven’t first read the book, which A LOT of people won’t have.

The Katniss/Rue alliance comes about much differently in the movie.  Katniss is treated of her stings twice before she even wakes up and makes friends with Rue.  If you’ve read the book, you know that it happens slightly different.  But, not a change that bothers me.  The activities of the two girls are rushed for time’s sake.  We got no real back story on Rue, and I think the lack of character development between the two of them takes away from the death.  I can tell you by all the noise and subsequent yelling, that the people in the theater I went to, didn’t give two shits about Rue’s death.  It hit me even less on screen than in the book, even.  Also, and I know this is extremely nit-picky and I know it was done for the rating, but Katniss was supposed to shoot the boy from District 1 in the throat after he spears Rue, instead he got an arrow to the chest.  Equal result, but I think the neck was more fitting for the emotion that scene was supposed to convey.

Back to the alliance, we can talk about the lake scene where Katniss goes to rid the careers of their supplies.  The only problem I had with this scene was Cato and for two reasons. 1.  His size just again, puts no intimidation in me.  I found that guy snapping the neck of the small district 3 boy to be unlikely at best.  2. What upsets me most about this scene is that they took out what I found to be its greatest significance… That Cato isn’t ‘all there’.  In the book, he throws himself to the ground, pounding his fists and pulling his hair out.  The movie, we got virtually no emotion besides the snapped neck.  I think they pulled too far away on the development of this character in the movie, despite how short lived his roll is.

Now we’re back in the cave with a dying Peeta.  The days in the cave are turned into what only seems to be a night.  And we miss the part where Katniss tricks Peeta into drinking the stuff that makes him sleep for half-a-day so she can sneak out.

The next day, we have our lure to the cornucopia.  This scene was well done with a few exceptions in my mind.  1.  The wound on Katniss’ head was supposed to be far worse than what it was in the movie.  It is supposed to blind one eye because the blood is flowing so quickly.  Instead, they made it a slight gash.  2.  The Thresh/Katniss interaction felt much different, I attribute this to a lack of character development with Rue.  3.  Does Katniss go half deaf?  It obviously doesn’t matter with how fast the movie wraps up, but that mattered in the book.  Katniss makes it back to the cave and the two from District 12 treat their wounds with the medicine.

Somewhere throughout this mess, they show Prim and the mother.  It upset me to see them watching the games on a projected screen against the wall instead of the ‘old clunker tv’ that Katniss tells us about.  It takes away familiarity for me to a situation that while completely different, is not much different from my own growing up.  So, to make that tiny change just makes me wonder ‘why? were you being lazy?  trying to prove you could add another thing in post?’.

With the movie coming to an end, we fly through the rest of the book.  Within minutes, Foxface has eaten the berries that kill her.  Thresh is already dead, likely by the hands of Cato but we never know for sure.  Finally, we’re being chased by giant werewolves dogs?  In what I can only assume was a move to keep this movie separate from Twilight, the genetically engineered killer animals made from the former tributes have been replaced by giant genetically engineered dogs.  With no mention that they have any involvement with the former tributes.  Again, the sci-fi nerd in me is hurt.  And I wonder what happens in the next two books that make that an irrelevant event.  Now, we’re back to dumb animals who are just out to kill.  So, the Cato scene is much less gruesome.  Instead of him being torn to shreds inside the cornucopia for a length of time unknown, but enough time that it is noticeable, Cato is knocked off and Katniss puts him out of his misery almost immediately.  This also causes for no second injury to Peeta’s leg and this means that Peeta does not lose his leg.  I’ve been told this is insignificant, but I think they took enough away from him to make his love seem less real.  And as a guy who’s been in Peeta’s shoes, sort of, it upsets me.  Katniss is obviously playing the ‘like-us’ game, and confused about her true feelings, but in the book I never felt once that Peeta’s feelings waived for her.    And with the absence of Peeta’s imminent death, we are robbed of the ship scene where Katniss desperately looks on as Peeta is worked on.  Again, I feel the movie stripped a lot of the emotion away.

I think I’ll stop here.  This is way longer than I expected, 2 people will probably be able to get all the way through it AND I just don’t like criticizing movies.  I make videos for YouTube, but I am by no stretch a director.  I only know what I know and know how I feel and that is what I’ve shared here today.   I think as a movie, this stands up tall.  I think as a book-to-movie, this stands up well.  I just don’t like the creative differences between the two and so could not dub this ‘the best book-to-movie’ adaptation ever.  It’s worth a watch, but I’ll definitely wait until DVD to see this again.

Lastly, I have only read the book once and seen the movie once.  I may have overlooked something on either front, and if I did, correct me! I don’t like being upset over something that doesn’t exist.  I just wanted to provide the clearest response to how I felt about the movie and the changes made within.

Thanks for reading!  I hope to blog more often.  But, until next time, Don’t Forget To Be Awesome.

–Donny

And here’s a video I posted yesterday prompting this blog:

4/5/2012 UPDATE
I read Catching Fire, cover to cover in 1 day!  Here’s a video talking about it:

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About houseofgeekdom

Nothing for now...

One response to “I saw the Hunger Games and I liked it, sort of…”

  1. Jennifer Montalvo says :

    I haven’t read the whole blog yet – I will be back to finish the post (computer dying). But, I completely agree with everything I have read thus far!

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