This review is Spoiler Free
Gary Ross, Suzanne Collins, Billy Ray
Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson
Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Lenny Kravitz, and Elizabeth Banks
Set in a future where the Capitol selects a boy and girl from the twelve districts to fight to the death on live television, Katniss Everdeen volunteers to take her younger sister's place for the latest match. Based on the bestselling novel of the same name by Suzanne Collins.
As a fan of The Hunger Games trilogy I went into this movie, despite my best efforts, with very high hopes. Which of course always worries me because the higher the hope the lower the chances they will be met. This is almost always the case for me with book to movie adaptations despite my understanding that there will be necessary changes in the movie version. Scenes and characters will be changed or completely left out while others will be added to better adapt the story and sometimes I can live with the changes no problem but other times they will jump out and nag at me. To reduce the possibility of this occurring, from my experience, its best to always treat the movie as a separate entity and refrain from comparing it to the book. So the question isn't “was The Hunger Games movie as good as the book?” No, the question is “was the The Hunger Games a good movie?”
Judging from the reactions of the group of nine people I attended the movie with (only two of us actually having read the books) I would say that the majority of people (if not everyone) thought that the movie was very good. Kitten thought it was awesome, Reeshe, judging it as a movie alone, gave it a 4.5/5 and I have to agree with her. My little brother had already said he wanted to get the DVD before the movie was even finished and my little sister kept going over parts of the movie on our way home. Even my co-worker, who just saw it yesterday, said that The Hunger Games was one of the best movies he had seen in a long time.
What I really enjoyed about The Hunger Games is that it did not fail in engaging me. Maybe part of it is because I was already invested in the characters by reading the books but throughout the film, from beginning to end, the movie had me sitting still with tension, gasping in shock, laughing at shots of humour and crying with grief at heart-breaking moments. Even when I knew what was coming, apprehension would take over as I waited for a scene to play out; this I think had a lot to do with use of sound in the film.
Throughout the movie at particularly pivotal scenes there would be no background music at all telling us how to feel - just the characters, their dialogue and their actions. For many parts of the film I thought this technique worked very well to establish the atmosphere but at other times I thought it was overused and left a scene feeling awkward or incomplete. I haven't heard or read anyone else commenting on this particular aspect of the film, however, so this may have just been me seeing this as a problem. Something I have heard more than one person mention though, including myself, is the use of the shaky cam. I don't like this technique very much; it makes it very hard to focus on a scene and if it's over used it can move from irritating to headache inducing. Thankfully the shaky cam in the film did not become that severe of an issue for me and I will admit there were many times where its use made me feel like I was right in the middle of the action. But, like the "lack of sound" technique when overused I did find the shaking camera irritating when it made it difficult for me to tell what was happening in a scene, particularly in a fight.
Thankfully though these issues were minor when you look at the movie as a whole and focus on what did work. The casting for the movie, in my opinion, was spot on. Jennifer Lawrence was Katniss Everdeen; the emotions she displayed through just her facial expressions spoke volumes. The games puts their contestants through a lot of torment even before the actual fighting begins and the way Jennifer played in every single scene felt positively genuine. She could be vulnerable and caring while also being strong and determined. Another favourite was Josh Hutcherson, who played the charming and manipulative Peeta Mellark, for me he was another actor who became the character. It's also I think important to mention that although each of these supporting actors only had a handful of scenes - Woody Harrelson, Lenny Kravitz, and Elizabeth Banks that each of their roles stood out to me and are not easily forgotten.
Judging as an Adaptation
In the hands of someone else who might not have respected this series I could easily see this movie just be a shallow story about children killing children on reality TV but the core of the book is much more than that and I think that the movie captured it perfectly. There were changes of course, a character was removed, and scenes were added while others were left out but I was fine with all of them. I even think that the movie was better for it. There is one vital aspect from the book however near the end that was left out, and I had not remembered it until Reeshe had mentioned it that may affect how the future movies are made. I think though that the change still has time to be salvaged if they address it in the second movie so we'll see what happens when Catching Fire comes out so I still give the movie as an adaptation a 4.5/5. Reeshe on the other hand was not happy with a few of the changes made, particularly ones that had to do with portrayal of the character personalities and development and rates the movie, as an adaptation, a 3/5.