Monday, March 26, 2012

My Thoughts on The Hunger Games Movie

What did you think?

Similar to my state of mind after reading The Hunger Games, I was in a bit of shock after seeing the midnight showing of the movie last week - so many thoughts and feeling to sort through! So it's difficult to answer the question, "What did you think?" At least, it's difficult to answer such a question succinctly! So just like my "review" of the book, my movie review is not going to be short, sweet, and spoiler-free. But if you're looking for a quick response to whether or not you should see the movie, I'd suggest asking yourself the following question:

Why do I want to see the movie?

If you're just looking for entertainment, you might find it, but I think you'll be missing something vital. Yes, girls in the theater commented on the "hotness" of a certain male lead. But it bothers me to think that some younger people have and will see this movie as just another interesting, violent film with good-looking actors that they can watch with their friends.

Or you might be on the other end of the spectrum - you might be generally bothered by anything rated above PG. (I hear ya!) Yes, this movie does have some violent, disturbing content and a couple of swear words. But the "shaky" footage during some of the fighting scenes helps keep the emphasis off of the gore. This is not a horror movie.

So what kind of movie is The Hunger Games?

I think it is a well-made, thought-provoking movie about sacrifice, survival, and the desire for safety. It's an engrossing but terrifying look at a futuristic world that forces people to face evil and then decide what - if anything - they are going to do about it.

Note: The rest of my thoughts will include spoilers.

New Perspective

All of the books in this series are written from the heroine's (Katniss') point of view. This gives an intimate and immediate sense to the story. But what I love about the movie is that it begins and ends with a broader perspective. The movie starts with a brief background to the Hunger Games "tradition," and the first scene includes an interview regarding the games - all before we meet Katniss and her sister.

And throughout the movie we get to see what's going on "behind the scenes." The focus is on Katniss, the preparations for the games, and the events in the arena. But hovering in the not-so-distant background are the interactions between President Snow and the Head Gamemaker, as well as the interactions between the Head Gamemaker and those who are responsible for what goes on in the arena - not to mention the glimpses of various reactions to what the people of Panem see on T.V.

Because of this, we see the motivations of others besides Katniss. We see President Snow's controlled but still present fear of rebellion against the government. We see the Gamemaker's preoccupation with keeping viewers "entertained." We see Haymitch's awakening - from a reliance on the bottle to a desire to expose the evils of the Capital and help Katniss and Peeta survive. We see Gale's struggle as he sees the blossoming relationship between Katniss and Peeta. And we see the pain of District 11 upon watching Rue die - leading to a spark of rebellion generated by their frustration at feeling powerless.

Keeping it "Simple"

A main symbol in the books is the mockingjay - but this symbol takes on a slightly different meaning in the movie. The history of the mockinjay is explored in the books: it's a bird that was specially bred by the government in order to listen in on conversations and repeat them to government officials. But the people of Panem caught on to this and started feeding ridiculous information to the mockingjays - making them useless to the government. But they weren't useless to the people. The mockingjays would repeat their end-of-the-workday call in order to quickly communicate to all of the workers a sort of "Taps" tune. And the mockingjays could also repeat beautiful and soulful music.

But this history is never really talked about in the movie. And the mockingjay pin that Katniss wears - given to her by Madge in the book - is a gift between Katniss and Prim in the movie. So in the books the mockingjay is more of a symbol of rebellion, as it represents evil resulting in good, and it indicates the futility of dictatorial government control. But in the movie the mockingjay more basically symbolizes safety. Katniss tells Prim to wear the mockingjay pin at the Reaping to remind her that she'll be alright. And at the Reaping Katniss takes Prim's place - keeping Prim safe. Prim then gives the pin back to Katniss when they're saying goodbye, as she wants Katniss to be safe and to try hard to win. Also, when Katniss befriends Rue in the arena and they decide to work together, they use the four-note "All's well and I'll see you again soon" call - repeated to and by the mockingjays - when they are looking for each other after splitting up.

It's (Not So) Complicated

Katniss and Peeta - such a complicated relationship in the book! But it's not quite the same in the movie. Because we aren't really in Katniss' head in the movie like we are in the book, we don't see all of her reservations in trusting Peeta - although there are still hints of them. And in the movie, we don't specifically know if Peeta killed (or "finished off") the girl who starts a fire at the beginning of the games - in fact, the way Peeta is portrayed, it hardly seems likely. He seems even more innocent in the movie. From wishing out loud that he could have done more for Katniss in the past when he saw her starving outside of the bakery, to watching her with concern as the careers "trap" her in the tree - he shows himself to be utterly devoted to Katniss.

Also, because we aren't in Katniss' head, so to speak, we don't hear her thoughts about Gale. So while he is shown every once in a while, it never really seems like Katniss has the time or inclination to think about him. So it's just her and Peeta, really, until her glimpse of Gale at the very end. And she seems to genuinely care for Peeta, especially with her intense, emotional response to the berry situation when she thinks he had died.

So, What Did You Think?

After all of these comparisons and contrasts between the books and the movie, my final word on The Hunger Games movie is this: It's very, very good. It's hard to say "I loved it!" when it comes to a movie entailing kids killing other kids, no matter the reason for such disturbing content. But as far as being a thought-provoking, creative, powerful, and well-made adaptation of a thought-provoking, creative, powerful, and well-written book goes, this movie is excellent and unique. The chariot/parade scene didn't quite work for me - not as stunning and convincing as it seemed in the book - but otherwise the quality is great. And the acting is superb!

Just like the book, the movie shows the deep desire for "something more" - for the preservation of good, for freedom from evil, and for love that never dies. (Click HERE to read more of my thoughts on "The Hunger Games" book series.) It honors sacrifice and condemns corruption. It depicts the power of hope and the quest for the definition and realization of safety.

Also like the book, the ending is "satisfying" on some level, but still a sort of cliffhanger. The rebellion has only just begun. And while the movie illustrates growth through "fire" and persevering inner strength, it doesn't answer many of the questions it raises. In that way, it's more beneficial for pointing out important issues (like the theme of true "safety" vs. constant outward danger, and struggling awareness vs. uncaring oblivion) than for giving us set definitions and resolutions.

Do I recommend the movie to you? Well, that depends. If you're looking for a fun diversion, this movie - with its dark premise, violence, and flip-flopping emotions - might leave you feeling empty. But ideally, this is a movie that should be approached with maturity. In that case, it provides plenty of food for thought and discussion - and if that's what you're looking for, The Hunger Games has a lot to offer. And it's definitely intense! Be prepared to get emotional if you're anything like me!

Did you see the movie? If so, what did you think? If not, are you planning on seeing it sometime?

(Movie poster image from Moviefone.com. Movie stills from The Hunger Games movie website.)

20 comments:

Christina B said...

I really enjoyed your book review of The Hunger Games, and so found your thoughtful break down here very interesting as well. I like how you compare some of the book to movie aspects, as well as your own personal opinions.

I've yet to read the books, but probably won't until after I watch the movie. For some reason, I enjoy a movie adaptation more if I don't read the book it's based on first. (I think I get irritated by what they leave out on the cutting room floor and it tends to ruin the film for me. ) :)

Anyhow, I really look forward to seeing The Hunger Games for myself, but it probably won't be till the dvd comes out-since I don't make it to the theatre very often these days.

I know you'd been looking forward to THG movie, so I'm really glad it seemed to meet most of your expectations. :) Thanks again, for sharing this wonderful, insightful, review Amber!

Juju at Tales of Whimsy.com said...

Awesome review.

The shakiness bothered me at first but I quickly adapted and it added to the feeling that we are their in the woods with her.

I do miss the way we could see into her feelings for Peeta and Gale.

I feel like Gale's feelings and devotion are translating well but Peeta and Katniss' feelings aren't.

Overall though I loved it.

Faye said...

It's tough when movies aren't like the books. I think it's especially hard for the movies to compare when the book was written in first person, because that really get's lost in a movie. Great thoughts!

Amber S. said...

Christina,

Thank you so much for taking the time to read my thoughts on the books and the movie! I'm afraid my thoughts on the movie aren't as organized as my thoughts on the book series... I think I was too eager to get my post up and to write down my observations, and I wanted to sound smart and clever. :P Instead, I didn't quite seem to get across what I really thought about all of those various observations! But I hope you were able to make some sense out of it. :)

This story really sparks a lot of questions and discussion! I thought the movie turned out great, but definitely intense and probably not for everyone. I understand what you mean about watching the movie first - I'll be curious to hear your thoughts on it, as well! :) One thing I did appreciate about reading the book first is that I was more prepared to deal with the content of the movie...but as long as you're aware of the plot, that should help!

Thank you again for stopping by! :)

~Amber

Amber S. said...

Juju,

Thank you so much for reading my review, and for sharing your thoughts! I agree with you on the shakiness - it does seem to bring the viewer into the scene, and I appreciated the lack of focus in regards to the fighting. (But I did cover my eyes in some parts, so I might not have received the full effect...)

And there does certainly seem to be a good connection between Katniss and Gale. However, I did really like how Peeta was portrayed - maybe I imposed a connection on them from reading the books. ;) He came across as really sweet and dedicated, and I loved Katniss' reaction in the berry scene! And I think it helped Peeta's cause to not hear all of Katniss' thoughts... Either way, they all did a great job acting! :)

Glad you loved the movie!

~Amber

Amber S. said...

Faye,

Yes, first-person POV doesn't quite translate very well in movies! I think it worked in this case, though, as I really liked the broader perspective. :)

Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

~Amber

Bluerose said...

With all the hype it's been given, I've been wanting to see the movie. But, after reading your post, I'm asking myself "Why?". I don't want to read the books because I don't think I can handle the violence, so I imagine the movie would be the same!
"The Lottery" gave me nightmares and kept me up at night when I was a teenager, (and it really wasn't that violent) so I typically stay away from entertainment in that form. (killing and torture, not necessarily violence at all)

As always, great post! :) You've given me things to think about!

P.s. I was crying during a PREVIEW for the movie, so I can't imagine how many tissues I would need for the whole thing. ;)

Julie said...

Amber you are so good at putting into words exactly what I feel! I really liked the movie and the books because they are so thought-provoking. They are disturbing, yes, but still thought-provoking. The movement of the camera bothered my daughter and I a lot. My daughter had to go throw up! Ack! I think we were sitting too close. We were in the 4th row. So where most people were bothered for only a short time, both of us were nauseated throughout the whole movie. I would like to see it again because I missed parts of it since I had to keep my eyes closed. Both of us have agree though that we will wait for the DVD and hopefully on our own TV it won't cause us to get that way. :)

Again, you always have such a way of putting your thoughts into words. I love it! Great review!

Julie @ My Favorite Pastime

Ruth said...

Great review, Amber! I thought the novel was extremely well-done and thought-provoking, so I'm really looking forward to the film!

Amber S. said...

Bluerose,

A blogger couldn't ask for a better compliment. :) I'm so glad this post was helpful to you!

Some people might have expected the movie to be more violent, but for someone like me...it was definitely violent enough. I covered my eyes in some parts. And yeah...I think tears - or at least intense emotion - can be expected! ;)

I don't want to say one way or the other whether or not you should watch the movie - definitely up to you to decide! But thank you so much for your kind comment! :)

~Amber

Amber S. said...

Julie,

That is so nice of you to say! I'm honored you would feel that way about my review. :)

And I'm sorry to hear about your movie experience!! I guess I got used to the shakiness...and I did cover my eyes a little bit off and on because of the violence. That's a bummer that you were both nauseated - I hope that your DVD experience is better!

~Amber

Amber S. said...

Ruth,

Thank you! I'm glad you liked the book - I loved your review of it! Hope you like the movie for the same reasons, as well! :)

~Amber

Joy Tamsin David said...

I think they did such a great job with this movie....waaaaay better than the cheesy first Twilight adaptation. I know they're totally different stories, but I couldn't help but compare them b/c both book series turned this otherwise normal middle aged mom into a raving squealing fan girl. :)

I agree with you and Juju, the nuances of Katniss and Peeta's complicated relationship didn't translate onto the screen. Such a pity. But otherwise, it was a fantastic film.

My favorite character was Lenny Kravitz's Cynna. I liked him on the screen even better than in the book.

Amber S. said...

Joy,

I think it was a very good adaptation! :) I haven't seen or read Twilight, so I guess I can't really say anything on that subject, LOL!

Hmmm... I really liked Katniss and Peeta in the movie, but yeah, definitely not the complicated relationship it was in the books! I thought it was sweet, though, and it made me like Katniss a bit more, I think. :)

And yes, Cynna/Cinna was great in the movie! Rather intense and yet likeable, which perhaps sets the stage for movies to come...?

~Amber

Rissi said...

"It's an engrossing but terrifying look at a futuristic world that forces people to face evil and then decide what - if anything - they are going to do about it."

Well said, Amber! Thank you for your review links - I appreciate that!

My thoughts are conflicted (even from reading the book) about this cultural craze. I think a second viewing will change/alter some of my initial impressions but beyond that... I don't see this ever becoming my fave movie.

Amber S. said...

Rissi,

Thank you! And you're welcome. :) Thanks for reading my review!

And I know what you mean about conflicted thoughts...as well as the idea that repeat viewings often change our opinions in some ways. But I also agree that this isn't exactly an enjoyable, eating-popcorn-and-relaxing type movie that I would return to very often.

~Amber

Rissi said...

Sure! I liked that this wasn't just Katniss' POV (a film wouldn't be) because it opens more doors and makes these 'games' more "understandable" though still impossible to accept.

*gasp*

I forgot to mention a couple of things about Peeta and Katniss' relationship that reading your comments/review reminded me of! YIKES! Must re-vise part of my review - and (great!) make it longer yet. ;-)

Hey! I was wondering if you'd mind if I "borrowed" some of your quotes for a blog post. I would, of course give you full credit...

If you do, I understand perfectly and will not take offense if you prefer I not use any of your writing.

Amber S. said...

Rissi,

Yeah, it was nice to have a broader perspective and to see "behind the scenes," so to speak. The movie was well-done in that sense.

And hahaha, sorry about that! ;) Although I think that's great that you put a lot of thought into your reviews!

As for quoting me, that's totally fine! I'm honored you thought something I said was worth quoting, LOL! :) Were you thinking of using quotes from this particular post, or from something else? Just curious. :)

~Amber

Rissi said...

Actually, yes, it is this post.

I am trying to start writing some more "serious" posts that aren't just reviews, so I am going to be writing one on entertainment and use this film as a basis (you raise some interesting points). Should be... interesting. :-)

Amber S. said...

Rissi,

Cool! Sounds like you have some great ideas you're pondering - hope this review helps in some way! :)

Looking forward to seeing what you come up with!

~Amber