Saturday, March 24, 2012

Movie Review: The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games trilogy is one of the most entertaining and brilliant series of books that I have ever read.  When the movie was announced, I was both excited and skeptical at the same time.  Excited because I could not wait to see certain events and objects portrayed on the big screen; skeptical because Hollywood has a tendency to change many aspects of a book's plot and enrage anyone who has read the book before seeing the movie.  After seeing the movie, both my excitement and skepticism were confirmed.  The movie was nowhere close to being as entertaining as the book, nor (I think) could it.

Do not get me wrong, as far as a movie goes, The Hunger Games was entertaining enough.  I think the movie makers did an exceptional job dulling down the violence (as much as is possible in a post apocalyptic world in which 24 children fight to the death) while getting the point across that this is an incredibly violent society.  However, while it was entertaining enough, there were so many parts of the games that were left out of the movie that I felt made the book as entertaining as it was.  The movie, like almost all movies based off of books, was inferior to the book because it eliminated so many aspects that made the book's plot famous.  I don't understand why they change these things, since it is these things that helped the book so popular that they could make it into a movie.

The casualties of the movie version were not limited to just parts of the plot.  Characters who played a significant role in the first Hunger Games book (and, furthermore, are of more importance in the later books) were not present in this movie or had their roles reduced to those of nonspeaking parts or insignificant cameo appearances.  For example, in the book Katniss receives her mockingjay pin from Madge, the mayor's daughter, after she is volunteers for the games.  This is an important component of her own character development and feelings in the later books.  In the movie, Madge does not even make an appearance; instead, Katniss gets the pin for her sister at the Hob (a kind of black market) and her sister gives it back to her when she leaves.  Another example is that of her prep team, who are obnoxious to her at first in the book, but become very important parts of her resistance in the second and third books.  When the next two movies are released, I will be very interested to see how they remedy the decision to diminish their parts in this first movie.

I do, however, realize that some things needed to be cut.  The movie is almost two and a half hours long as is and including everything would be near impossible (although they could pull a Twilight/Harry Potter deal and divide each book into two movies, but that of course is probably out of the realm of possibilities).  A few things that they did not cut that I found to be striking in the movie were the costumes that Cinna, Katniss and Peeta's stylist, designed for them.  While the computer animation of these costumes was painfully obvious, I enjoyed seeing the effects on the big screen because my limited imagination had a hard time picturing them while I read the book.

Perhaps the greatest part of the movie was the character development, an aspect of the book that I feel is its greatest quality as well.  This is sometimes hard to portray in a movie because it requires incredible talent on the part of the actors to bring it out.  Very rarely do I see a movie like The Hunger Games and feel like there is no weak actor in the cast.  There was absolutely no weakness in the actors of The Hunger Games; I felt that it was quite possibly the strongest cast they could have assembled for this movie.  While there are not many big-name actors (Donald Sutherland and Woody Harrelson are the biggest names in the cast), the young actors in the cast create  believable and stunning depictions of Suzanne Collins's characters.

Overall, I give the movie a 6.5/10.  I cannot overlook things that I feel are vital to the overall plot of the trilogy that were left out.  However, the action was solid and the character development was strong.  I certainly would watch the movie again, but the book is so much better than the movie and I will not be able to watch the movie without constantly critiquing and comparing it to the book.

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