Saturday, March 24, 2012

Reading Penguin Goes to the Movies: Hunger Games

Last night was date night, and after sitting through The Muppets no less than three times I was owed my choice of movies, and this is what I wanted to see.

I don't know why I'm always surprised to see families with very small children at movies like this. It's PG-13, not R, so it's not like it's going to contain anything that traumatic, but you would think the subject matter would make some parents think twice. Whatever the case, we sat in front of a family with three girls, the youngest of which was definitely Kindergarten  age or younger, and I worried about noise or seat kicking from them. Surprisingly, the worst that happened was multiple mid-movie bathroom trips.

The truly annoying movie goers were the two college age girls next to me, one of whom had apparently read the book and one of whom had not. The reader spent the entire movie explaining the plot to the non-reader in glorious detail. Everything from details that were only in the book, to stuff that the movie had already explained. I have a low tolerance for people who talk during movies. It gives me the urge to throw things and shout and stab people. And frankly if your too dumb to follow plot lines, you shouldn't go to public movie theaters. Josh hadn't read the book, and he was able to follow. He had a few questions after the fact, but it's not like he was lost.

So that was the movie going experience...what about the movie? I don't even feel like I need to say "It wasn't as good as the book!" because they almost never are, and I went in knowing that. It does take pains to stay pretty close to the source material, which is almost detrimental in this case. Josh's one major complaint was that there were "pacing issues", because it takes such a long time to get to the actual Hunger Games. All of the slower bits and the details of Katnis and Peeta getting reaped and preparing for the games, those things that work really well in the book for fleshing out their characters and making them more sympathetic, feel like filler in a movie setting.

The characters were pretty freaking close to how I pictured them. I felt they picked a good actress for Katnis. No complaints about everyone else. Josh felt that Ceasar and Effie Trinket were "Hammy and over the top", and no amount of my explaining the Capitol attitude and fashion sense could make him see them as anything other than ridiculous. The Capitol did look like they filled an auditorium with anime cos-players, and perhaps that did come across as unintentionally funny.

I liked seeing the gamemakers in action, which of course is missing from the book, since it's told from Katnis's point of view.

The most flawed thing about the movie is the editing and camera work. I'm no expert, but it seems like they made some odd choices there, either in an attempt to create a stylized feel, hide the violence so they could keep their PG-13, or some combination of the two...There were a lot of abrupt, quick cuts, which makes it feel like they're Punctuating. Every. Word. of the. Sentence. And a lot of shaky camera, which was there way of making the violence less overt.

One more comment about the audience: at the end, when the announcer says "Here are the winners of the 74th Hunger Games!" our audience cheered. Guys, I think you missed the point. You're acting like the audiences in the Capitol, who we're supposed to be disgusted with. Our main characters are facing a lifetime of PTSD induced nightmares. Also, cheering at movies is stupid.

Overall, I thought the movie was a solid 3.5/5, and admittedly a lot of the enjoyment came from seeing characters I already like on the big screen. Josh kept using the word "okay" which I interpret to mean average, so I guess his non-reader rating would be more like a 2.5/5. We recommend it, but try not to sit next to illiterate dumb asses.


  1. I've never read the book, but personally I didn't like the movie. First, base on what I've heard from Nadia, I do appreciate that they let us in on all the behind the scenes business. The politics and choice in acting talent were pretty much the only things I like about it.

    I agree that the pace was poor, but the target audience has ADD so it didn't bother me. What I hated most was the script and the development of the characters. The only character they spent any real amount of time on was Katnis. During that time however, she was pretty much a closed book except for a few scenes with her little sister. I figure that's probably how she is supposed to be, but I feel that if they had made the movie a narrative like the book I could have had a deeper connection with the character, she never really grew on me. Everyone else I knew next to nothing about. There were a few details like Peeta's prior relationship with Katnis and what happened to her father that were glazed over so quickly that I had to infer what actually happened. Something the target audience would be less capable of doing. They even left out the chief detail: that Peeta was aiding Katnis in her GREATEST TIME OF NEED, a detail that, had I known prior to finishing the movie, would have made their rapidly changing relationship 3/4 into the movie less fake. **spoilers**The point when I decided I didn't like the movie was when the little girl from district 11 dies**end spoilers**. It was apparently a big deal but I didn't know anything about her character so I didn't care. I'm usually a big softie and cry at most movies, but this scene couldn't even get me.

    Despite all of this, the creativity of the subject matter kept me from leaving at the very least. Also, thankfully, my audience didn't cheer. 2/5

    1. In the book, Rue's death is a big deal for Katnis because Rue reminded her of her little sister, Prim. Rue and Katnis spend quite a bit more time together,talking about Rue's home and so forth. The movie cut this out, no doubt due to that ADD target audience. Katnis covers her in flowers as an act of defiance against the Capitol, the first really rebellious thing we see her do. Now, because I knew all of this, the moment in the movie was sufficiently emotional for me (though I did not cry). Had I not read the book, I imagine I would be pretty bewildered.

      Also, now that you pointed it out, I agree that the movie did a crappy job of showing Peeta's motivation: keeping Katnis alive. However, the shift in Katnis's emotions toward Peeta was, for me, just as abrupt and fake in the book as in the movie. She's playing to the cameras and doesn't know what she really feels.

  2. I haven't been to see the movie yet but I'm not expecting it to be anywhere near as good as the book - like you say, they never are as good.

    When I do finally get to see it I'll be going with my hubby who hasn't read the book, so will be interesting to see what he thinks of it.

    1. Yeah, it's interesting to hear from the non-readers. Overall I'm getting the impression that the movie doesn't stand well on it's own, but is good as a companion to the book.

  3. I haven't read the books (I've just started in the first book, almost done) and I still loved the movie! I thought everything was very well explained :) There was no confusion for me during the movie and I loved the cast!


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