Unless you’ve been living in a cave with no internet access, you probably heard of a little movie called, “The Hunger Games,” which opened up last weekend to largely positive reviews, and a shit-ton of money. The movie shares the same title as the young adult book on which it is based. Both tell the story of Katniss Everdeen, a girl from District 12, the poorest district of all in the future nation of Paenam.
Each of the twelve districts in this dystopian society are powerless against the control of the Capitol. Every year, as a way to flex their control and continue their subjugation over the districts, the Capitol holds an event called, The Hunger Games. For this event, each district must randomly choose a boy and girl between the ages of 12 and 18 to fight in an arena to the death and only one may come out alive.
I’ve come to find that it is a rare occurrence that a movie adapted from a book is actually better than its source material. Our imaginations and expectations are often much greater than any image or feeling a movie is able to convey no matter how detailed a particular character or scene is. I know this concept is not earth-shattering, but I think it is important not to measure “The Hunger Games” by how the good the book is and simply judge it on its own merits. Obviously some plot points and characters must be glossed over for the sake of time, but the important question to ask is did it capture the essence of the book? In the case of “The Hunger Games,” the answer is…sorta.
On the surface, I thought the cast and crew of this movie nailed the look and feel of what Paenam is. The citizens of the Capitol showed brief disconnection from the games with their blue hair and eccentric outfits while the disheveled citizens of District 12 wore the look of defeat as if it had been there for ages. Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson did an excellent job of embodying their respective characters of Katniss and Peeta. Each one of the the more minor characters of Seneca, Caesar, Effie, Haymitch, and Cinna, were all pitch perfect representations of what I pictured them to be in the book. It’s not very often I say this about a film adaptation of a book, but it looked exactly like I pictured it when I read it.
For as detailed as any set, costume, or character can be, they tend to loose a little something for me if the point of message of the book is lost. For example, the character of Rue is described in the book as having dark skin, and is about the same size and shape of Katniss’ younger sister, Prim. These details are hold true in the movie.
However, it wouldn’t make much of a difference if she was cast as a white girl with blonde hair, just so long as the purpose and feel of her character came across in the movie, which it did. There would be no need to loose your shit over the color of her skin or hair and turn Twitter into a disgusting whirlwind of unfounded racial hate. That would just be crazy. What would be crazy would be if Rue, instead of being the delicate child that she is, showed up with guns and a thirst for blood because it does not embody who the character is.
My point is that the message and the feel of a story are more important than the details for the post part. “The Hunger Games” is supposed to be a satire on society and how we view reality television or even the news as reality television. The commercialization of violence washes over us much as it did for the citizens of the Capitol. This idea does show its face somewhat in the movie, but it came across much more clearly in the book.
A large portion of the games has little dialogue and you are left with Katniss’ thoughts on what is transpiring around her. Her actions are dictated by what she thinks people want to see in an effort to help keep herself alive. In the movie, the audience is not given an inner monologue, and is instead given short clips of the Capitol to help explain what is happening for those unfamiliar with the story. While this works to keep the story moving, it detracts somewhat from the impact of the message of “The Hunger Games.”
Despite the fact that the overall message of “The Hunger Games” did not come across as well as I would have liked, I thought it was a very good movie. The cast and crew did an excellent job of portraying their characters, and the attention to detail for this society was more than I had hoped. The movie follows the events of the book very well, and it is definitely worth seeing.
tl;dr A few problems aside, “The Hunger Games” is a solid movie, and one of the best adaptations of a book to film to date.