!!SPOILER WARNING- I will talk about the whole movie and all 3 of the books!!!
I always get a little anxious to see movies of books that I love. I was pleasantly surprised by the Hunger Game movie ! Yay!!
There were only a few things I didn’t like, and I’ll start with those because they are small and nitpicky and few. ** Note– I acknowledge that they are very nitpicky so chill out***
1) Katniss’s voice. Her speaking voice bugged me because she always sounded like she was about to lose her voice. Even at the beginning before any of the craziness started. And in the book there is a lot of talk about her singing voice makes even the birds stop and listen. Her singing was fine, but not spectacular. And Yes, I realize how small and petty this is, but the singer in me was a little dissapointed.
2) Katniss’s prep team. Collins specifically describes them as chatty and overly friendly, not cold and distant and disdainful like they were portrayed in the movie. They have a presence in all three books, and are supposed to be likable. They’re supposed to be likable because it adds to Katniss’s confusion later on about the citizens in the Capitol. She acknowledges that they’ve been raised totally differently and that if she’d been born in the Capitol she might be shallow and flighty also. I thought it was important that Collins had regularl Capitol citizens that we like to show that even when Governments are bad, that doesn’t mean every person under their jurisdiction is also.
Now for the things I LOVED!
Yup, because I’m a music nerd and the score never gets as much attention as it should. The musical score, by James Newton Howard was pure brilliance. Understated but so effective. Music tells the audience what to feel and its absence sometimes says more than ints presence. The slow dissonance of the music underscored the tension of the reaping, but when Katniss volunteered the music stopped. Instead of heroic trumpets, we get to feel the oppressiveness of the silence of the crowd. We don’t hear Katniss as a hero yet because at that moment she isn’t- she is a terrified 16 year old girl. The music as they enter the Capitol takes on Non-western scales and instruments which adds to the feeling of disorientation, of being in a totally foreign place. When Rue dies (and I’ll get to more of that in a minute) the music conveys ALL OF THE FEELINGS. Grief. Loss. Pain. Innocence. Guilt. Peace. All the conflicting emotions of her death are carried through simple chords.
This was one of the things I worried about, because the violence is so specific in the books. I’m not one for violence for the sake of violence- AT ALL- but in this case it served a very specific purpose. In the books it was specific enough to picture and feel the horror of it, but un-graphic enough to let our minds filter the images into something we felt comfortable handling. In a visual media, the viewer can’t filter images in this way. I saw a lot of comments about the shaky documentary type filming, and at times I could also have lived without it, but what it did allow was a style of shooting for the Games that was shaky and fast and jumpy and didn’t seem out of place. This way of shooting did, I thought very effectively, what the descriptions do in the book. They make the events stark and real. We can’t hide from the deaths. We can’t pretend they aren’t horrible. But we don’t see enough to give us nightmares. We see just enough to let our minds filter through adding/subtracting details were we need them. The violence serves a purpose. It is supposed to be awful. We are supposed to be upset by it. That is the point. We are supposed to feel the horror of the arena. That is kind of the point.
The books are told from Katniss’s point of view and so we only know what she knows. We don’t know if Peeta is really on her side when he is sitting with the Careers becuase she doesn’t know. We don’t know what Peeta’s strategy is when he asks to be coached separately because she doesn’t know. We have no idea what is happening in the world outside the Arena because she doesn’t know. This is very effective in the books, but not really in a movie. So I liked what they added of the outside world. Showing the Gamemakers manipulating the game gives us the information that they can control everything, information we get from Katniss’s inner monologue in the books. Seeing Haymitch get it together, stop drinking and try to keep Katniss alive makes us cheer for him and see him as the tragic character Katniss doesn’t see him for until the 2nd book. Seeing Seneca talk to Snow gives Snow a presence in the movies. In the books he is there in Katniss’s thoughts, but again, that doesn’t translate on screen. It shows Seneca as a sympathetic character, and shows Snow for the controlling power that he is.
The Tribute whose appearance surprised me was Clove. I couldn’t find a detailed description of her in the book, (feel free to correct me), but I realized that I had been picturing her like what I envision Clarisse to look like from the Percy Jackson books. She was smaller than I expected but just as lethal. The other tributes looks basically as I’d pictured them. Foxface the clever redhead, Clove imposing and blonde. Actually, I imagined there would be more ethnic diversity than there was shown on the movie. At least a few of the tributes (in my head) were Hispanic/Latino and a few were Asian. When I saw the articles about the racist comments about Rue I literally felt sick. The girl playing Rue was adorable and sweet and just what I had pictured her to be. Her death was poignant and heartbreaking and I absolutely wept.
I was worried how much of her internal thoughts would come across, but I could see everything she was feeling. She was brave, and terrified and awesome. She was confused and uncertain and rebellious and funny. There was a lot of pressure riding on this role, and I thought that Jennifer Lawrence did an excellent job.
I have to say I find it really disheartening to see these books put in a “teenage love triangle” category, by people who obviously haven’t read them, and who are usually dissing YA at the same time. The point of the triangle, which is a very small part of the books, really, is not the triangle itself. In the first book having Gale back at home gives Katniss a reason to be confused about her feelings for Peeta. Because she is confused about these feelings she is naturally skeptical of his feelings. It’s not about “which boy should I choose” it’s about “I can’t trust anyone’s motives and I don’t know what I feel about anything or anyone because my survival instincts are overriding everything else.” In the second book it’s about the fact that one of the few free choices left to the people is who to marry and the Capitol is taking this choice away from her. She doesn’t get to decide what she feels for anyone because now she has to marry Peeta. It’s complicated by the fact that she has feelings for him, but she can’t sort them out because of all the other stuff.
Katniss is a flawed hero, just by being a hero in this situation. We want her to win the Games, but doing so means killing other people. It means manipulating people in and outside the Arena. It means being suspicious of every move, every word, every look of every person. In order to survive, she has to become a very ruthless version of herself. She says at one point “It’s no wonder I won the Games. No decent person ever does.” It’s because she sees this about herself that I find her most interesting and most likable.
All this being said…
I really REALLY hope that all the people reading the books and seeing the movie are also seeing the larger message. One of the things that the movie really drove home for me was the image of Cesear on stage. It was such a familiar image– the host on television interviewing competitors. How often do we see that image every day? No, we aren’t sending children into an arena to die, but there are children starving to death in the world and most of us do absolutely nothing to help it. Like Katniss’s prep team we are preoccupied being annoyed that our birthday party didn’t go well (or that we have to hem up every pair of paints we buy) and forget that there are people in the world who never get a birthday party and can’t afford a second set of clothes, let alone a new interview suit. Just a few ways you can make a difference: