More Like An Appetizer (Movie Review: The Hunger Games)

“Hope. It is the only thing stronger than fear. A little hope is effective, a lot of hope is dangerous. A spark is fine, as long as it’s contained. So…contain it.”

 –  President Snow


I’ll confess right now: I didn’t hop on the Hunger Games bandwagon until October 2010, when a friend told me about the series and how good it was. I read the first book in two or three days, and the next one within twenty-four hours. The third one was the same (though the ending was far more disappointing. But I’ll save that for later).

So, naturally, I was at the midnight premiere with one of my friends, dressed in my Hunger Games shirt and ready to have my mind blown.

I was disappointed.

But wait, don’t go! I promise I’m not one of those people who hated every aspect of the film, nor am I someone who loved the whole thing. I had mixed feelings about it, and still do. And those I present now.

Also note that I present those with spoilers, only because of one major scene I have to give a shout out to, so if you aren’t familiar with the plot, feel free to leave now.

I should start by saying that if I were Suzanne Collins, I would be happy with the adaption. The casting is well done, the acting by said cast is great, and in my opinion the story does justice to its source material. Collins was smart to write the screenplay herself, and did a good job of not recycling the book’s dialogue word for word (*cough* Deathly Hallows Part 1) but retold the story we enjoy.

One of my closer friends is nearly impossible to please when it comes to film adaptions. And indeed, he argued that this didn’t provide enough back story of the characters, especially Avoxes (though they are present in the movie, it isn’t explained what they are).

I think that sort of thing is best left to be told my Katniss herself, through her own narrative, but backstory is actually one of my primary complaints about this movie, except for the opposite reason: they take too long setting it up. The reaping isn’t for a good twenty minutes into it, and by that point I was resisting the urge to think, alright, get to the point, already.

From there, I can’t actually think of anything specific I disliked about it. The suspense of the story is good, which is saying something considering that I’ve read the book a handful of times. The pacing is a bit odd, with a dragging-out feeling attached to everything leading up to the arena. And then, when I saw it for the first time, it got to the point where once they were in the arena, I was a bit detached. I’m not sure why; maybe that was just me.

One scene I can’t go without applauding has to be [spoilers!] the death of Rue. She is portrayed exactly as described in the book, and her death is as emotional as the first time I read it. But what really kept me fixed on the screen was the rebellion shown in district 11, and the peacekeepers marching in to silence it.

THAT was well done.

I also did like how the filmmakers included other scenes not from Katniss’ point of view. The conversation between President Snow and Crane is a nice addition, and seeing the game makers controlling what happens to the contestants gives the brutality of the games some extra emphasis.

All that being said, I am excited for the next movie. It’ll be interesting to see what it’s like, since this screenplay won’t be by the author, nor will the director be returning. But who knows…maybe the new production team will bring an amazing new quality to the second film to make it (much like the second book) better than the first installment.

In conclusion: I wish I could figure out what disappointed me about this movie. Looking back, I think there was just way too much hype, and I let my expectations get too high. But fear not; while it isn’t the best movie ever (as everyone was saying at the time), it’s excellently acted, with additional scenes not in the book and everything important that was. Aside from clunky pacing and an uneasy start, this is one adaption that does enjoyable justice to its source material.

Rate: 7 out of 10.