From Goodreads: In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV.
Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister’s place in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before—and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that will weigh survival against humanity and life against love.
I first read this series in 2010, and I fell in love instantly. Of course, many had recommended it to me, but I kept putting it off thinking that it couldn’t be as good as everyone was saying… but it was. It was better. Amazing. Absolutely stunning! Collins is a master storyteller, weaving together such an intricate tale, pulling the reader into the story and making him/her feel like s/he is physically there throughout it all. I laughed, I cried, and I fell in love with Peeta and Katniss, her inner monologue, the suspense, and the constant fear factor. I became extremely wrapped up in the story and found it impossible to put the book down, especially because Collins keeps the story moving so quickly, yet fleshes out all the scenes and characters so perfectly that it’s impossible not to fall in love with the book, in my opinion. Collins amazes me, and so it was no surprise that a movie deal was soon in place. Hence, I recently re-read the first book in the series, The Hunger Games, this past weekend, finishing it the day before I planned to see the movie. Again, I fell in love with the story, rooting for Katniss and Peeta, laughing, crying, and overall having another wonderful reading experience. The book is definitely five star material.
And then, I went to see the much-anticipated movie with a group of friends. I was ecstatic as I walked in, but not so much when I walked out. And here’s why I think that is: it’s not a good idea to read the book right before going to see the movie. Why? Because this perfect book will be so fresh in the mind that when the director changes things, they stand out immensely, which makes it difficult to watch without any bias. Of course, books are always better than the movie, or usually so, and I knew that was a big possibility going into this movie, but I was expecting so much more based on all the hype I was hearing concerning it. Don’t get me wrong, I did like the movie, but in my opinion, they cut out too many of the important scenes, added some things that didn’t fit and, overall, I feel like those who didn’t read the novel are at a bit of a loss. Quite honestly, so much important information was left out that, if one isn’t familiar with the book, not everything will fit together and questions will arise. While I do think lots of people will be able to fill in the blanks enough to have a great movie experience, I have talked to many people who watched the movie and didn’t read the book, and overall, many said they had lots of unanswered questions. I did the best I could to fill them in, like why Katniss yells at her mother, what the flashbacks about Peeta really mean, how Peeta hurt his leg, etc. but it’s not the same, and I’ve told them they really need to read the book, because so much is ultimately left out.
Two major issues I had with the movie were that Rue wasn’t present enough and the cave scene was shaved down too much. These are two extremely important episodes within the novel, and they really needed to be played up more because many of the events rely on them, and I expected them to be a huge portion. While I was glad for the portions they did include, I can easily see how someone who didn’t read the book would be a little confused concerning these events. I won’t go into details here in order to avoid spoilers for those who haven’t read the book or seen the movie, but I was a little disappointed by how quickly these two events seem to be glossed over.
The shakiness of the camera in the beginning of the movie also made me a bit ill. I have motion sickness, and watching extremely shaky movements on screen makes me ill very quickly, so I started out the movie already disliking it based on camera movements. I think the director chose to do this in order to show how scared those in District 12 really were, and to give a quick overview of what life was like in the District, but I would have much rather had a smooth flowing camera, even if less could have been captured on screen, because it really made my nauseous—not a good feeling to have when just sitting down to a highly anticipated movie. Now, on the other hand, I was glad for the shakiness of the camera when the tributes ran to the cornucopia and the blood bath ensued, as it created a shell for what was happening and didn’t make it as gruesome to watch. Due to the shakiness of the camera, viewers have a much harder time focusing on one set thing, and so the murders that ensue were played down a lot, which was good, because I was nervous about how all the child murders would be portrayed on screen. In this instance, I think the director made a good call to use shaky movements, and I’m also thankful that the two scenes I just mentioned were really the only times I noted the camera moving all over the place. Everything else was very smooth, which was great.
Now, when the characters were first introduced, in District 12, I really wasn’t impressed. I know they were supposed to look dejected and shocked, but I wasn’t a fan of any of the main characters until they were nearly at the Capitol and their personalities began to shine through. But overall, I did like the cast, and most of the acting was superb, though I thought Cinna’s lines were a bit clipped and I hope that he gets lines that flow a lot better in the next movie.
I also really liked that they showed the game makers controlling the game, using this technique to fill in some of Katniss’ assertions from the novel and her inner monologue, and I thought that was an ingenious idea. In the book, Katniss assumes the game makers are producing certain things to make the game more interesting, and it was awesome to see the game makers actually do it in the movie, since it’s not actually in the book.
I was also impressed with special effects throughout the movie and, honestly, I think that when I buy it, because I will, and watch it on a smaller screen in my own home, I’m going to love it so much more. And the reason for that? I will have been removed from the novel for a bit, so it won’t be fresh in my mind and, so I’ll be able to watch the movie for what it is, and not be so biased about subtle changes. The shakiness of the camera also won’t be such an issue for me because it doesn’t affect me as much on a small TV. Therefore, even though I can only give the movie three and a half stars right now, I think that will change as time goes on.