The Hunger Games
Note: This will be a buy-1-free-1 novel cum film adaptation review, so expect a little spoiler content.
Weeks before today, I dutifully, like many others, picked up the book The Hunger Games to read, before watching the movie. The book was a brilliantly addictive read. Sadistic, violent, epic-ly laid out, and a moving tale of young love thrown into a ruthless arena in which 24 enter, and only 1 will survive. Did the movie do the book proud? Sadly but typically, no.
The Hunger Games starts right before the 74th Hunger Games, an annual survivor-ish spectacle in which each of the 12 districts surrounding the capitol city must offer up a male and female tribute in a fight to the death, in memory of the uprising held many years ago in which a failed revolution resulted in the annihilation of a 13th district.
The Games, held in a large man-made arena (each year is held in a different arena) in which the 24 tributes are pitted against each other, are a show of the Capitol’s power and technology, and serves as a grim reminder of how easily the Capitol can punish and kill the districts if they ever dare revolt again. These Games are televised ‘live’ across the nation ala Survivor meets The Kardashians.
The protagonist, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), comes from District 12, a coal mining district, and one of the poorest. Her younger sister Primrose was selected initially, but to save her, Katniss volunteered herself. Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), a baker’s son, who happens to have a huge crush on Katniss, rounds up the tributes from District 12.
They have to contend against 22 other teens, some of whom have trained their entire lives for this event, and then volunteered themselves. They are known as The Careers, and typically come from Districts 1 and 2. Being a reality show, they also have to play to the audience, and make themselves as likeable as they can, in the hopes of getting themselves some sponsors. Sponsors play an important role during the games, as they can send in valuable resources such as medicine or food.
Reading the novel, the violence was brutal and raw. But because the film was aimed at mostly teens, the violence was severely dumbed down, that in the end, what it delivered was 2.5 hours of Wipeout instead of Battle Royale.
The novel was also written from a 1st person perspective of Katniss, in which many of her actions were justified through lots of internal dialogue in her mind. This was never going to translate well on film, and it shows. Some of her actions, without prior knowledge gleamed from the books, would seem just weird and out of character.
This places us, the audience, more in the 3rd person perspective, which isn’t much in a film like this. If they had instead made a bold move to place us in the Capitol or President Snow’s position, at least there’s an angle in which to anchor the film on.
The other frightening aspect of The Hunger Games, as the title suggests, is hunger. Many of the tributes over the years have succumbed not to the fights, but the grueling demands of nature. Hunger, thirst, cold, wild animals and poisonous plants are as much a threat as the other tributes, but the way Katniss hops along suggests that this was merely McRitchie Reservoir, with food and drinks a mere 5 minute cab ride away.
The feeling of danger lurking at every corner in the Arena simply wasn’t there.
A massive disappointment, the film adaptation, or did I just rack my expectations sky high with the book?
Another massive disappointment, at least in my opinion, and I don’t know why they chose to not adapt this faithfully, was the fact that Katniss took A LOT of showers. Naked. Before the reaping. After the reaping. At the Capitol. During the Games. In book 1 alone, she probably showered naked no less than 10 times.
And in the movie, they only showed her showering like once. And even then, you only saw above the neck. Colossal disappointment there.
That said, Jennifer Lawrence did a great job at playing Katniss. Peeta Mellark in the book was a smart boy who had his wits and a way with words. In Josh Hutcherson’s hands, he became simply lovelorn.
Liam Hemsworth, in a small role as Katniss’s best friend in District 12 and possible lover Gale, does a decent job at standing around looking hot.
Oh, shout-out to Elizabeth Banks who does a wonderful job as Effie Trinket, District 12’s chaperon in the Hunger Games.
Book Rating: 8/10
Film Rating: 5/10