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The Hunger Games (2012)


 
Promoted as the movie of the summer – and quite possibly, even the film of the year, after I read the novel this past winter (if you want the truth, curiosity got the best of me), I was left baffled by what the appeal of the story was. Still… that didn’t stop me from having a rental copy held the first day it was on DVD.

War tore apart a nation that was once “one.” Now, the nation of Panem keeps to a strict code among their divided 12 districts – each of which house people that survive by adhering to one source of employment. Every year, the Capitol picks two tributes from each district to participate in The Hunger Games – a battle to the death, as a means of reminding everyone the consequences of war. 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) has a load of responsibility on her shoulders. She is the one who puts food on the table, hunting with a bow and arrow along with her best friend Gale (Liam Hemsworth) while her mother is satisfied to sit at home listless since her husband’s death and her younger daughter, Prim (Willow Shields) is made to feel safe by Katniss.

On the day of the selection, all of the young people up to age eighteen line up to wait as the two names of the tributes are drawn and read aloud. This year, Katniss’ worst nightmare is realized when her sister’s name is the one chosen.  Volunteering, Katniss takes her place as tribute and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) is the second to represent district 12 – a boy with whom Katniss shares a past. In the shocked aftermath of the selection, Katniss and Peeta are whisked away to The Capitol for training. Winning will mean wealth and a new life for one… but for the rest of the tributes, it means death. The 74th Hunger Games are about to begin.
 

Before I ramble on in a gushing rave or any sort of ranting tirade, I should say upfront, that I am conflicted about this story. In my opinion, it’s one that had great potential but its glaring prospective was squandered – shamefully. Any of you who have read this blog for any length of time know I hold little ardor for The Hunger Games but I wasn’t going to not see the film after reading the book. The story, on film goes through a wide range of emotions and I “felt” those – it has the power to bring a smile or laughter and tears (I will just admit it… I cried) but most of all, it made me “mad” because of its flawed premise. Without further ado, my thoughts are as follows.

Visually, this movie is pretty. The sets are phenomenal. To see the tributes emerge from their stark frightened nature and desolate world into the elaborate Capitol to finally, the danger of the ‘games’ themselves is a wonder in and of itself. We don’t need words to understand how ghastly the districts are or how horrifying controlled 'game' location really is because the sets so beautifully emit that. Though it doesn’t make it a world I want to visit – nor is it one I want to live in. The filming is impressive but some of the flashback moments may confuse if you aren’t familiar with the material as the frame flashes onto the screen but doesn’t fit with what else is going on. My recommendation would be to read the book prior to seeing the movie so that you do understand the scope and know what is about to happen – your understanding is much better this way. The entire production quality is really quite impressive – the costumes are beautiful and perfectly a-line with the novel description and the ending is both “complete” though left open for those that know – and anticipate, there is more to come.
 

The film is not as complementary to the novel as some adaptations despite being co-scripted by the author but in this case, that was improvement. Though the script isn't word-for-word of the book, it's more reflective than conversational; countless shots of the camera focus on Katniss’ face in an attempt to convey what she is feeling. For the most part, in that regard I was impressed with its female protagonist. Lawrence makes Katniss a heroine with more empathy and easier to root for. She keeps true to her wooden personality but she also gives her more “feeling” so that we desire to get behind her. Where Katniss is blunt and fearless, there is the kind-hearted, generous Peeta whose only chance to survive may be obtaining the favor of sponsors. Josh and Jennifer have sweet chemistry while poor Liam never does get a fair chance to show off any acting talent since ninety percent of the time he is on-screen he never says a word. I'll fess up: I nearly melted when Katniss' kissed Peeta and he resolutely claimed he couldn't let her go (this is way better than the book and normally I wouldn't be so... mushy *wink*). Also, the scene when Katniss thinks she's lost Peeta is precious! Supporting cast is likewise phenomenal and consists of Elizabeth Banks, Stanley Tucci, Wes Bently and Donald Sutherland, and in the surprise performance of the movie, Woody Harrelson as Peeta and Kitniss’ mentor, Haymitch. Like Lawrence, he makes his drunk, loser of a character a great deal more considerate, and I was actually touched by some of their scenes.


So what do my thoughts boil down to? I did like the movie. I watched part of it, shut it off and pondered while making some dinner before settling in to watch the second half. There is something “catching” about the movie and I actually cried when a certain beloved character died (I never do that!) but I am not sure that its pull is strong enough to be so… addictive. Its premise bothers me and there is really no way around that. I loved that the movie opens up to new perspectives and we aren’t limited to Karniss’ POV, especially enlightening is one scene with President Snow when he questions the games keeper as to why there is a victor – his analysis is that the only thing stronger than fear is hope. The “logic” of this story is twisted to me: Despite it supposedly being about “courage and honor,” I see self-defense killing for sport a horrible thing for young people to get behind. What this says about our culture doesn’t seem at all flattering.

What were your thoughts about The Hunger Games? Have you seen it? Are you going to? Start typing, friends!

(Parental review: Many people die in the first seconds of the games as tributes race to get weapons. Each kill is just out of camera range but there is blood spatter in some instances. Characters are hurt. Arrows, spears and knives pierce fellow competitors in the games. There are a few minor profanities, da*n. One character is a drunk and is rarely seen without a bottle in his hand. The film is rated PG13.) 
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Rissi
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18 comments:

  1. Nice review! I agree about the great quality of the movie, as well as the story's thought-provoking nature. It certainly seems to open up a lot of discussion! And there are definitely some disturbing assumptions and elements... But I appreciate that it prompts discussion about important issues.

    Here's my review of The Hunger Games (just the first book):

    http://seasonsofhumility.blogspot.com/2012/01/my-thoughts-on-hunger-games.html

    Here's my review of The Hunger Games book series (contains spoilers if you haven't read the whole series):

    http://seasonsofhumility.blogspot.com/2012/01/books-that-were-on-fire-my-thoughts-on.html

    And here's my review of the movie:

    http://seasonsofhumility.blogspot.com/2012/03/my-thoughts-on-hunger-games-movie.html

    I'm not sure yet if I'm going to see the movie again. Since my dad read the first book, I think he's interested in watching it just to see how they adapted the book to film. So maybe we'll rent it...?

    ~Amber

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  2. Thanks, Amber. I think more than anything else, this story IS thought-provoking BUT it isn't a positive conclusion in my opinion.

    I cannot say that you should or shouldn't give this movie a second viewing BUT I will say, I think my thoughts will shift with a second run through, although I don't know that they will be any more positive... just different.

    Thank you for the links. :-) I am probably going to be writing a rambling post with this film as its centerpiece. So... I should get on that!

    Thanks for stopping in - I am so glad you did! :-)

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  3. I'm anxious to see this film again -- my pre-order is supposed to be delivered from Amazon sometime this week!

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  4. oh gosh, i can never say enough about the hunger games. loved the book. love the movie! and even though a lot of people didn't like jhutch for peeta, i just adore him!!
    need to get that movie asap!!!
    xo TJ

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  5. My thoughts on this series are as complicated as a 1000 piece puzzle. Its premise is barbaric and it's storyline is twisted and the writing is fantastic.

    To cut my rampant short, I don't think I could ever in good conscience *own* either the series or the movies.

    I did like seeing the movie though. But I hated the last two books.

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  6. I love this movie! But I am quite heartbroken over Gale. He is just so sad at the end of the movie.:( I can't wait for Catching Fire!


    http://jumping4jesus.blogspot.com/

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  7. Ruth - hope you enjoy it the second time through! :-) I bought this last week at Wal-Mart via a price match ($14.99) but am still deciding if I'll keep or return it (I rented it first). I would re-watch it... possibly more than just once but... we'll see!

    Such a dilemma. ;-D

    TJ - I guess I didn't really think about Josh being right or wrong for the part but I thought he was just fine. I did think Jennifer was grand as Katniss! In fact, she was an improvement as a character! Hooray for that!

    I don't love either the movie or book but I liked the film a LOT more! I'd watch the movie more than once... not sure about re-reading the book again though I probably would even if for no other reason than to re-fresh my memory before watching the movie. :-)

    Hope you can pick this up on DVD - or Blu Ray. ;-)

    As always, I am glad you stopped by, TJ.

    Rosie - great way to sum up thoughts about this series. I plan on writing a blog post with HG being the "center," so I will probably be rambling on and on about various aspects of the story. The premise had LOTS of potential - or I see it that way, but it pretty much crashes.

    I own all the books as well as the movie... right now. I've heard bad things about the last two books but overall, the movie was a far better prospect that its written counter-part.

    Brooke - so glad you enjoyed it! The second movie is set to begin filming next month and will be out late next year - hopefully it too will improve on the second novel. :-)

    Thank you ALL for commenting and sharing your opinions - I so enjoy getting all of your feedback. *smile* Anyone else interested in discussing this popular series, please go ahead, add your thoughts to the mix.

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  8. I had no emotional reaction to the film whatsoever, which is odd since I'm a weepy sort of girl when it comes to movies. I thought none of the leads had any chemistry together, I didn't cry when THAT happened, etc. I just felt it was all so... empty, meaningless, and pointless, just like the novel. But I'll give it a rewatch at some point, I'm sure.

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  9. I have yet to see this movie!! I so want to though;)

    Found your blog through Natalie at Heart Stirrings!

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  10. Charity - I understand perfectly what you are saying. I was VERY surprised that I was so... "emotional" watching *that* one scene or that I felt excited seeing how worried Katniss was that Peeta could have been killed. It just seemed to flow well. All in all, this was a MUCH richer experience for me than the novel BUT I still am "bothered" by the concept.

    The story is... meaningless in many ways but the film was well made.

    Ginanorma - I hope you enjoy it! The visual aspects of the film are lovely though, like the novel, the script leaves much to be desired.

    THANK you so much for all your feedback in the comments - I so appreciate them, and hope you continue to drop by. (Thanks also for the follow.) Natalie is so kind and a blogger who takes her posts seriously (a compliment to her!) - that is great to know that is how you found me! Thanks for sharing. :-)

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  11. I loved the books (the first one in particular), and the movie was one of the best teenage-books-to-films adaptions in the last few years (although I liked the first Twilight movie).

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  12. This is one book, movie I cannot make myself watch/ read. I've heard a lot about it though.

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  13. Hi Rissi! Great review! I confess, I haven't seen the movie or read the book yet, but I'm going to take your advice and read the book first. I hate it when movies do that confusing flash-back thing. :-)

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  14. Mette - really? I think the film is WAY better than the book. It improved on the story in areas where the novel just felt... flat.

    Thanks bunches for stopping by!

    Miss Jack - I hear you. I didn't have to force myself to finish the book but it isn't a "pleasant" story either. Its concept is a strange one.

    Gwendolyn - yes, definitely read the book first if you plan to see the film. That would be my recombination. Most the time flashback scenes are very well done and though these aren't poorly filmed, if you are unfamiliar with the story, you may question what you are seeing.

    As always, love the feedback, readers!

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  15. I finally watched this . I didn't really like it. Kids killing for sport was disturbing and hard to watch for me.
    I did like some of the Characters, though. Who do you like better, Petta or Gale?

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    1. I agree, Ella. That was the main point of contention for me - killing for the amusement of the district government was not my cup of tea. However, oddly enough, I thought this was better than the book.

      Katniss was a better character - more easily liked in the film also which was a big improvement. As for the Peeta vs. Gale debate. Hmm... I think right now I am edging towards Peeta, just because he spent the most time with Katniss and therefore as a viewer/reader, we get to know him best. How about you?

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  16. I have to say that I like Gale much better. Peeta was the main male character in this movie so I see why more people liked him.

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    Replies
    1. I think on the surface, yes, I would root for Gale also (much of this has to do with the casting *grin*) but as far as looking deeper and getting to know the character, I feel as if I don't really "know" Gale well enough to wish he and Katniss together. That being said, I look forward to that changing - learning more about Gale, once I read book two. :)

      Delete

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