This post covers my opinions on both the Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins and the film adaptation of the same name. It is not intended as a review and does not cover much of the stories themselves.
Note: While due care and attention goes into these ramblings, and I’ve tried my best not to, there may still be some spoilers for the Hunger Games books and film in this post. You have been warned.
So I’m back from watching the Hunger Games. The cinema was packed, which I was not expecting. I tend to forget that even in this age of the Internet being everything you should ever need, people do still like to leave the house occasionally.
It’s been a long time since I’ve been so excited to watch something at the cinema. In fact, I don’t recall any film I’ve waited for with such eager anticipation. Except maybe Tangled, and I didn’t even watch that at the cinema, in the end.
But unlike the disastrous disappointment that was Blade 2 (which is honestly the last thing I can remember being excited at seeing on release), The Hunger Games lived up to the high expectations I set upon its shoulders.
My History With the Games
I first caught wind of the Hunger Games when the final book in the trilogy was released in 2010. I think Alex Day might have been talking about it. Somebody was talking about it, anyway. All I remember at the time was this person saying how the third book, Mockingjay, was a disappointment, not because it was bad, per se, rather that nothing but a stream of terrible things happened in it, whereas with the previous books there remained a sense of hope.
And I remember thinking, “surely it can’t be that bad?”, before deciding to add the series to my “to-read” list, and promptly forgetting all about it.
I heard sprigs and snippets from others singing the series’ praises here and there, and I kept considering it, but being the lazy bones that I am, I never got around to it.
I didn’t actually decide to read them until I heard the announcement for the film, and having long since realsing that you should always read the book before you a the film based upon it (I like the opportunity to make the characters in my own head before I’m told what the media tells me they will look like), I finally pulled my finger out and bought myself a copy. I have maintained this until this point, and I refuse to read any reviews until I’ve shared my own personal opinion. I have a tab open with Lindsay Ellis’ vlog ready to play after I post this.
And with the exception of one major spoiler in the third book I happened upon watching a fan-made video (curse you, random YouTube commenter!), I succeeded and went into all three books completely blind.
I devoured the first book in about three days (and that’s good, for me. I’m a lazy reader. I’m a lazy everything.), and I adored everything about it. It has a great opening that grabs you by the throat, screaming: “THIS WORLD SUCKS, BUT THEY’RE MAKING IT WORK, AND NOW LOOK AT HOW EVERYTHING IS GOING TO GO TO SHIT”. Which, let’s face it, is everything you want in an opening.
The others I read within a month. With the second one, I found it a little difficult to get into, because it started quite slow, but at the same time, it did a good job of really opening up the world of Panem and making you realise, “Holy shit, this is a big deal.” And I generally agree with the thoughts shared by the random person whose identity I can’t remember about the third book.
In all, I found the series to be wholly fulfilling and the first book now sits pride of place in my top 10 books of all time (a list I will write…one day).
The Hunger Games vs Battle Royale
Now, many people have likened the Hunger Games to Japanese cult movie Battle Royale (which one of my favourite films of all time), and haters go so far as to call it a blatant rip-off.
I’m just going to need a minute to rant about this.
Yes, the premise is similar, but then ideas are like that. Never heard the term “Great Minds Think Alike”? I’m not going to go on about it. I’m simply acknowledging the fact that people have raised the similarities between the two already, repeatedly, and – while a similar idea – the two are used in different ways, too much for one to be a rip-off of the other.
To those who maintain that The Hunger Games is a stolen premise, I’ll just leave you with this:
Anyway. Moving On!
I was generally impressed with the transition of the story from page to screen. The world of Panem was almost exactly as I imagined it, particularly the Capitol. I think the biggest detraction for me was that I imagined the Hob to be somewhat bigger, but that’s it!
The story as a whole remained in tact, with but a few tweaks. The origin of the Mockingjay pin was changed, the reason for which I’m not 100% clear on, though I suspect it might’ve been to both remove the character of Madge in order to simplify the chain of events and also to bring more attention to Prim before the Reaping. That’s my theory, at least. But other than that, and a few slight character modifications (Katniss seemed less aggressive and more pensive), it remained true to the books.
All the actors played their roles spot-on. Effie’s and Haymitch’s were my personal favourites, though Woody Harrelson was the last person I imagined to play the role of the old drunk. For some reason, I imagined Haymitch to be fat. Still, they did the characters justice. In fact, everyone did. I didn’t find myself frowning at any of the casting choices.
It didn’t, in my opinion, capture Katniss’ character quite as well as the books, but then that’s to be expected when we’re not actually inside her head. Speaking of which, I did like how we got to see others’ reactions to the events taking place in the arena, and the announcers (I forget their names: I’m a bad monkey) who served as exposition for the most part (but not obvious enough to distract from the story). I liked the extra layer it added to the world, having the ability to do so when not locked into a first-person narrative.
I remember when I read the book wondering about how the film would tackle this aspect, and it came across well. In particular, seeing the reaction from District 11 to Katniss’ salute had me almost in tears.
A few scenes could’ve been handled better, and many moving moments would’ve benefited from an accompanying score of some kind, which was largely lacking in most parts (I appreciate that might have been the film makers trying to show desolation with silence, but I don’t know if it worked for me). I want my orchestral swells, damn it.
I went to see it with a friend who hasn’t read the books, and there were a number of times I wanted to lean over an elaborate on what was shown. The outfits, for example, and the build-up to their reveal felt a little sandwiched in, as did Katniss’ time with Cinna and his team. Finally, I didn’t feel it quite conveyed the on-screen/off-screen relationship with Peeta, and the scene to explain why he joined the Careers wasn’t covered at all, leaving a bit of a hole that – had I not read the books – I might not have realised his intentions.
I’m sure there’s more I could say, but it’s late, and the clocks have just gone forward, so now it’s 2AM instead of 1AM, and I still have that review to watch.
Overall, I found The Hunger Games to be a very worthy adaptation, and that the creators did the best they could with the time they had.