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Home » Movies

THE HUNGER GAMES: A Movie Discussion from Three POVs

Submitted by on March 26, 2012 – 2:05 am 24 Comments

Life’s been so busy, I haven’t had a chance to blog in about a week, a fact that probably only three of you noticed. But I managed to finish my work on time last Friday to take in a screening of The Hunger Games, which made $155 mil at the box office this past weekend. I’ve never read any of the books by Suzanne Collins because the idea of adults manipulating children into killing each other for sport is horrific to me. I can’t even watch gladiator movies, and still remember how much William Golding’s Lord of the Flies and Richard Connell’s short story “The Most Dangerous Game” shocked me when I read them as a teen.

**Spoilers**

 

But Mr. PCN wanted to see the movie, having devoured the books, so off we went. I was stunned by the violence, despite the PG-13 treatment, but I was also greatly moved. Rue’s death had me sobbing into my snack tray. It left me wanting to discuss it afterward, so I asked two other people—my regular contributor, Eric Edwards; and my YA reviewer/10-year-old niece, Mena Dolinh—to participate in a Q&A.

We’d come at it from three different POVs: me as the adult approaching the movie cold, Eric as the adult who’s familiar with the novels, and Mena representing the books’ first and most ardent fans—the tweens and tribute-aged kids.

Pop Culture Nerd: How did the movie compare to the book?

Mena Dolinh: I thought it was good and covered all the main parts of the book, but sometimes I wished they would go into more detail on something, like how Katniss hated Prim’s cat, Buttercup. I suppose it they included every detail the movie would be really long.

I really liked how they added the Gamemakers controlling the arena so you could see how they could manipulate all the tributes and see the game really coming together. In the book, you could only see everything from Katniss’s perspective. I thought that the changes in the movie were necessary because if the whole movie was completely the same as the book then it just wouldn’t be very exciting at all.

Eric Edwards: I was surprised by how bleak the movie was. I figured the filmmakers would make it less disturbing than the text. Even the editing for the film was lean and cold. The movie gives you only hints of exposition instead of drawing it out in the beginning so in that sense, it sticks to the tone of the book.

PCN: One of the reasons I resisted reading these books is because the subject matter is so disturbing. I’m a wuss when it comes to kids and violence. What drew you to the stories, and why do you think they’re so popular?

MD: My older sister got the books for her birthday and was engrossed in them so I was curious. I like the characters and read all three books to find out what happened to them. The first one is the best. By the end of Mockingjay, the story was more focused on the rebellion than the characters and it went on too long. I can’t speak for my friends or why other people like the books.

EE: The book is unapologetic in the way it shows us Katniss’s world and life amongst the populace of District 12 versus the residents of Capitol City. What kept me reading was the lean prose. There isn’t a lot of frou-frou, which makes it a page-turner.

PCN: I thought Jennifer Lawrence did a remarkable job, so strong and steady, and with excellent archery technique. I also enjoyed Woody Harrelson’s performance as Haymitch. The Capitol costumes were dazzling and fun. Did the look of the movie come close to how you imagined everything? Was anything just wrong or done better in the movie?

MD: Most of the things in the movie were pretty close to what I imagined. The only thing I was expecting was a big golden Cornucopia instead of a black one. Some of the fight scenes were a little too rushed and I couldn’t really tell what was going on. I was really impressed with the casting. I really liked the costumes because the Capitol is supposed to have all these outrageous costumes but they weren’t too exaggerated.

There weren’t any parts that were just completely wrong but I thought Effie and Haymitch could have been included in more scenes. In the books, they were the main characters who actually trained Katniss and Peeta and guided them, but in the movie, the only times you saw them was at dinner or when they were giving the tributes [survival] tips.

I really liked Seneca Crane’s beard because it looked like someone just said, “Hey, this guy looks too normal. Let’s use a stencil to make his beard look weird.” I found out his beard has its own Facebook page!

EE: District 12 and the Capitol were as described in the book, but Katniss’s community was bleaker and more squalid than I had imagined, and the Capitol even more plastic and fake.

Also, in the book, the view of what happens within the games is more from Katniss’s point of view. We never get to see the gleeful attitude the Gamemakers have in the creation/manipulation of the obstacles and contestants. It was strange to see how proud they were of the mutts they created. In the book, those beasts were contestants who had been killed already, then genetically altered into a kind of wolf-human hybrid. Kinda like werewolves, I guess.

PCN: Was there anything left out from the book that you missed seeing?

MD: I wished they had included the avoxes in the movie. In the beginning when the hovercraft was passing through, I expected the avox girl to get caught then so when Katniss goes to the Capitol, she would recognize her. I also wished they had included Peeta losing his leg while fighting the mutts because it affected him throughout the whole trilogy. When the movie ended, I expected to see Katniss and Peeta in the hovercraft having their cuts or injuries being tended to, but you don’t see that at all.

EE: The ships that hovered over the dead contestants and spirited them somewhere else. The three-fingered salute was never explained in the movie. And I know this is going to sound silly, but I miss Madge.

PCN: I was so tense during the whole movie, watching through my fingers at times. Did it manage to be suspenseful or surprising for you?

MD: Yes, because even though I knew what would happen, I didn’t know when or how. Like the mutts scene in the jungle. I knew it was coming but when the mutts just appeared, I was really startled. And you also see the movie from a different perspective than [Katniss’s] in the book, so when the Gamemakers started a fire or placed an animal into the arena, I was still wondering, “What is Katniss going to do?” I thought the reaping was suspenseful because even though I knew that Katniss would volunteer in her sister’s place, I didn’t know what her reaction was going to be at the moment she decided to make that sacrifice.

EE: Seeing it reimagined on the big screen made it more intense overall. I didn’t expect the movie to have that effect on me.

PCN: For people who have only seen the movie, would you recommend we go back and read the book? Or should we just read the second and third books since we already know what happened in the first? I actually want to read them now, which is weird because I didn’t originally. And I usually read books before the movie adaptations.

MD: I think you should read them all because the last two books make references to things that happened in the first one. You should read all the parts that weren’t included in the movie. It could also help you picture things differently and you can compare them.

EE: A resounding YES for me.

Thanks, Eric and Mena, for chatting with me!

What did you all think of the movie?

Photos: Murray Close/Lionsgate

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24 Comments »

  • Lauren says:

    Love this post, E, what a great idea/premise! As someone who has read the books, it was so fun to get the perspectives from you and M, which I can’t share. I, too, recommend that you go back and read the books. And I can’t wait to see the movie.

  • le0pard13 says:

    Great post, guys. I took my daughter to this yesterday. I cold to book, never read a one (though very familiar with the 2000 Japanese film ‘Battle Royale’ (Batoru rouaiaru) by Kinji Fukasaku (and based upon the novel of the same name by Koushun Takami), and my daughter who devoured all three books a couple of months back. I was entertained, though the subject bleak and familiar, and my daughter thought it was solid adaptation. Although, she did express much the same as Mena about its transference to film.

    I’d also agree that Jennifer Lawrence and Woody Harrelson were pretty remarkable in the film. JL’s archery technique was good. As a former archer, I notice these things (and the ancient weapon seems to be making a comeback on screen what with this and Pixar’s upcoming BRAVE showcasing it). I still find it interesting that Suzanne Collins says she wasn’t influenced by ‘Battle Royale’, the film or source novel. Certainly, there is enough difference between both to make that claim, but the central core of young people being placed in an isolated killing arena, with only one survivor making it out is a little too coincidental.

    Studios must have taken note in that ‘Battle Royale’, the film, simultaneously was released (first time) in the U.S. last week (I’ve only seen that movie by obtaining foreign discs). Hmm… Anyway, great discussion by all involved. Many thanks.

    • Pop Culture Nerd says:

      I used to do archery, too! That’s why I noticed her technique. It’s harder than it looks. I’ve seen pics of fans at screenings posing as Katniss with bow and arrow and their form is off. I’m looking forward to BRAVE. The trailer is wonderful.

      If I’d known you’d seen BR, I would’ve asked you to provide the fourth perspective: How does this movie adaptation compare to that one? Have you read BR?

      • le0pard13 says:

        ‘Battle Royale’ is bleaker (and bloodier) and may be more culturally relevant to many things uniquely Japanese. That’s why ‘The Hunger Games’ can lay claim to be a different story altogether, especially with its sci-fi future dystopian framing. Still, that young people killing off each other for an ultimate winner, and all captured on television for the audience’s viewing pleasure theme is still central to both.

        I’ve not read the novel, but its proponents say the novel is superior to the BK film (and especially the inferior sequel). Check out my blogging friend Novroz’s post on the subject. HTH

        p.s., you guys didn’t need me as this was a great discussion and post.

        • Christine says:

          Our local art house theater had 4 showings of BATTLE ROYALE recently. I considered going, but I watched the trailer the Belcourt’s website. Needless to say, I was sufficiently freaked out by just viewing that! And the fact that 2 were midnight showings and the other two at 9:15 put a nail in that viewing coffin. Maybe if there had been an 11 am showing so I’d have time to go out in the sunshine, hit the zoo and watch back-to-back Disney or Pixar flicks afterward. Maybe… *shudder*

          • Lauren says:

            Oooh, this makes me even more torn about whether to see this one. There are some movies from Japan and Korea (i.e., Oldboy) that are really really good, but man, even I can’t take the level of violence. The last Korean film I really wanted to see I had to stop about 20 minutes in. Which is strange for me, I’m usually ok with film violence/gore. Maybe it has something to do with getting older, but I find I’m more resistant/sensitive to those things these days.

            • le0pard13 says:

              Yes, some of the violence in the films of Japan and Korea of late can be very hard to take. I think the last one I screened, I Saw the Devil was a difficult one to watch no matter the prep. Still, I do recommend The Man From Nowhere by Korean director Jeong-beom Lee. Great action, violence, but with a story more uplifting that the devastating ones of late. Just a thought.

            • Christine says:

              For that movie trailer, it was the violent children angle that was pegging the creep meter for me-seriously, cover ears & cover eyes stuff. I remember feeling anxious during violence in Pulp Fiction, but the worst was the sadistic 17 yo, Gogo that really kicked it up.

              That said, the only Japanese movies I can say I’ve ever watched were in the Godzilla genre when I was a kid on Sunday afternoon. 😉

              • Pop Culture Nerd says:

                Vietnam had no movie ratings system when I was living there (not sure about now), so going to the movies was a crapshoot. I was accidentally exposed to violent films as a kid that freaked me out, so as an adult, I stay away from gory, hard-R movies.

                I never saw PULP FICTION until the sanitized version aired on TV and I couldn’t understand what was going on because so much of it was cut out. Didn’t know why Ving Rhames became so mad and Mr. PCN had to explain!

  • I love the three perspectives and agree with much of what Mena says. I, too, think the first book was by far the best, and I was incredibly pleased with the adaption (in fact, if you check out my post from yesterday, I get a bit gushy).

    I was totally like you, PCN, and had my hands over my ears (as opposed to overmy eyes…who knows?) most of the time. My cousins made fun of me, but it was disturbing. The wolf things actually made me almost jump in my cousin’s lap, but it was ok because she nearly jumped in mine as well.

    As Eric mentioned, I was really not expecting it to be as bleak as it was. It really hit home more than anything that this is our society, just under much different circumstances. Unlike a lot of sci-fi it was so relateable because it looked like Dust Bowl era US. Then Effie’s color and luxury stands out even more. It was stark, and I was really impressed.

    All in all, I think it was a fabulous adaptation. Even though the trilogy wasn’t my favorite as a whole, this book/film is really fantastic.

    • Pop Culture Nerd says:

      I will check out your post as I continue catching up with my blogging activities. What you said about this resembling our society is another reason I don’t read dystopian fiction. The real world is so troubled now, some dystopian societies don’t seem that far off and that’s too disturbing for me. It’d feel like I’m being fast-forwarded to that environment.

  • EIREGO says:

    I saw it over the weekend and read all 3 books back to back, but I want to watch Battle Royale before I comment on this. The 3 person POV is pretty cool, PCN.

  • Eddy says:

    Just read the first book a few weeks ago. Plan to see the movie this weekend. My daughter went to the midnight showing last Thursday/Friday. She liked it. She said that it stayed true to the book in the important ways.

    A buddy of mine has been telling me about “Battle Royale” for years. He is going to lend me his copy, so I’ll be able to make some comparisons.

    I too am an archer. Recurve, not compound. Back in the day when colleges required P.E. credits, one semester I found myself taking both archery and fencing. I told everyone that I was majoring in Robin Hood.

  • Christine says:

    I’ve not read the books yet either, PCN. As it worked out seeing the first 4 Harry Potter films before reading any of the novels, I’m thinking I’m safe to see the film first. Just from the trailers, I had high expectations of Jennifer Lawrence in that role.

    Love the three POV review! Well done, all!

    • Christine says:

      So, finally saw the film yesterday. Brian and I both really liked it! (It’s so nice to leave a theater and not feel like you should have just waited for it to come to movie channel.) In fact, we went straight to B&N afterward so I could pick up the book. Brian had already read it, but he borrowed it on his Kindle. He’s since bought the other ebooks. Btw, Brian leaned over in the beginning to whisper how much he was hating that jostling camera work. AGREED! We had considered going to see the film on IMAX, but I think I would have seriously ill during those scenes! The only time I think it was really needed was the initial violence at the start of the games. Scenes where children are vicious are just so disturbing and hard to watch. I thought that it was interesting that I felt most anxious when they were getting ready and then arriving for the Reaping, even though I knew what was going to happen from the trailers. Scene with Rue..tears! I continue to be a Jennifer Lawrence fan. I wonder how big the up tic in archery classes will be because of this and BRAVE? I’ll admit I was considering it on the way out of the theater. 😉

  • Eddy says:

    I just finished watching Battle Royale. First off, I recommend seeing it. It starts off slowly and it is very bloody (but not Rob Zombie bloody), but I got caught up in the story, rooting for and against various combatants.

    Second, I can see where some people might be persuaded that the movie (or the book) influenced The Hunger Games. There is some similarity in some of the plot points. (I, for one, choose to take Suzanne Collins at her word.)

    Now I want to read the book.

    • Pop Culture Nerd says:

      Mr. PCN received BATTLE ROYALE 2 from Netflix last week because there’s a long wait for the first BR. He said it was unwatchable and stopped after about 15 minutes.

      I choose to believe Collins, too. There aren’t that many original ideas; similarities between books/movies will occur at times. Of course I’m saying this without having experienced BR at all, but I haven’t heard anyone say HG is a complete rip-off in that it follows BR’s story point by point.

      • Eddy says:

        Definitely not a point-by-point lift of the story. For instance, the announcement of the winner is a media event, but the whole competition wasn’t telecast. And, most of the combatants were classmates and knew each other. Also, despite the media coverage, at first the combatants didn’t seem to know what was happening to them.

        One (non-spoiler) similarity was the announcing of the names the ones who died.

        I have heard that the second one was pretty bad. The script wasn’t based on a book like the first movie was, and the director died just as filming began and his son (the screenwriter) finished the movie.

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