By now, everyone knows The Hunger Games movie is based on the novel by Suzanne Collins and published by Scholastic. It is set in the future on what we’re lead to believe is North America; it is now called Panem, after an uprising.
The land is divided into twelve districts, each with specific trades: coal mining, engineering, agriculture, etc. They all surround the Capitol. As a reminder for the country's uprising years ago, the Capital holds an annual event in which two Tributes, one boy and one girl, are forced to fight to the death, until only ONE remains. It’s mandatory viewing for the districts and is known as The Hunger Games.
I was fortunate enough to have been part of a roundtable last week with producer, Nina Jacobson, so I knew the adaption was to be loyal to the book, with minor adjustments to the storyline due to time constraints and the necessity to build relationships quickly.
When 12-year old Primrose Everdeen is selected through The Hunger Games lottery, her sister, 16 year old Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) volunteers as the Tribute. She will represent District 12, one of the poorest districts in the land. Like the book, the movie follows Katniss from her barely-getting-by life at home with her Mom, sister and best friend, Gale (Liam Hemsworth), through her journey to the eccentric Capital and into the action-packed arena where she must do all she can to survive.
The looming question remains. Was director Gary Ross able to pull it off? Was he able to bring the book to life to meet the visual Suzanne Collins wrote so well and deliver the same powerful emotional TKO?
I read the book. And to be fair, it was still fresh in my mind, finishing it one week before the film’s release. I still found the movie exciting. There were moments I was on the edge of my seat. Like the book, Ross was able to take a moment, build the tension, and then capture it all with perfection.
I cried. Okay, more than once I cried.
I laughed. Outloud.
My hand was to my mouth in dread as Katniss was sucked up the tube for the entrance into the arena. There was the moment with Cinna (Lenny Kravitz) and then Wham! Life as she knew it was over as she stood on the stand, in the arena, waiting for the gong.
Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), the male Tribute from District 12, was likable. I shot him the stink eye when I saw him in the pack and then my heart melted and raced during the scenes between Peeta and Katniss…starting on the train ride to the Capital right up to the end.
We all know the book is violent. Here, on the big screen, there is gore. It’s done minimally. The camera becomes part of the action as if we are in its place taking it all in within seconds. This is not to say it’s not there. More than 20 deaths took the screen and there was violence and bloodshed. I didn’t, nor after seeing it, would I, take my kiddos to the film.
Jennifer Lawrence did an outstanding job of capturing the spirit of Katniss. She brought her to life and, for me, gave her much more dimension and warmth than I read in the pages.
One of the things that really wowed me was the all-star cast of The Hunger Games. Maybe I was just so caught up in the excitement that I had no idea I’d be seeing Woody Harrelson (Haymitch), and Elizabeth Banks (Effie). I was impressed by Donald Sutherland’s interpretation of President Snow and Wes Bentley was among my favorites as Games Maker, Seneca Crane. They all were stellar in those roles.
There were a few changes between the book and the film, as I’ve mentioned. Some I loved like being able to leave the arena from Katniss’ perspective and see what’s happening as a whole within the Districts, The Capital, and even among the other Tributes. Some of the changes I wasn’t a fan of, like the moments leading up to Rue’s death (SPOILER ALERT)–I missed Katniss screaming she was coming to let the Tributes know she was coming for them. To me this was such a powerful statement in the book. It symbolized so much for Katniss, in my opinion. I was saddened to see it omitted. I also didn’t think the ending was as powerful when Cato comes from the forest nor the Cornucopia battle.
I am impressed the movie was loyal to the book. The music was minimal. There was silence when you could just imagine what was going through Katniss’ mind. It was a thrilling movie that served the book’s characters well.
I’m eagerly awaiting the sequel…and The Hunger Games did an outstanding job in setting up that story line!