Like the rest of America, I’m a HUGE fan of the Hunger Games series. I’ve read each of the books … twice. I’m actually surprised I haven’t hit them a third time yet. I will.
For months and months, I’ve been following the making of the movie very closely. I follow entirely too many fan sites on Twitter, such as The Hob Org, Mockingjay.Net and Hunger Games: Down With the Capitol. Long before Jennifer Lawrence was cast as our beloved Katniss, I looked through pages and pages of fan art trying to picture how she’d look.
In many ways, I’m glad I read all three books before the movie was cast. Although, by the time I re-read them, I knew who the cast was, and it was really fun to picture certain actors as some of my favorite characters, particularly Haymitch, Cinna and of course, Effie.
Despite the fact that DadJovi was out of town, there was no way I missing seeing “Hunger Games” on opening night. Even if I had to bring E. and blindfold her and earmuff her during the scary parts, I was going. I have issues.
Thankfully, my friend who has a daughter E’s age (and is her current BFF) let me drop E. off for a few hours so that Katy and I could go see it. We lined up amongst the teeny boppers (and some surprisingly young moviegoers), ready to cheer on our girl Katniss.
OK, here’s where things get spoilery. If you haven’t read the books but plan to someday, stop reading. If you haven’t seen the movie yet but plan to, stop reading … for now. Then, come back after the movie and weigh in with your thoughts!
Like any book-to-movie adaption, it’s always equal parts thrilling and equal parts groan-worthy to see the world you pictured in your mind brought to the big screen. There are going to be script deviations. It’s inevitable.
As much as I tell myself to “stop it, stop it right now,” I have the hardest time during the movie avoiding comparisons. I do it with all the Harry Potters, Twilights and others, like The Help. It’s an illness. I can’t help myself.
And, of course, the “Hunger Games” was no different.
Before I even start with my
dork-girl well-reasoned criticisms, let me just say from the get-go that I LOVED the movie. I truly, truly did and I will be seeing it at least one more time in theaters. It was gorgeous, the entire cast was amazing, and, for the most part, it was very true to the spirit and heart of the books. I started crying at the Reaping and didn’t stop throughout a lot of the movie.
But if I’m going to nitpick (and you know I will), here were some of my biggest problems with the film:
— The Mockingjay Pin
The Mockingjay is at the heart of EVERYTHING in the series. Everything. The movie makes it seem like some random coincidence. I understand having to cut some characters for timing. I do. But the very reason that the mayor’s daughter gave the pin to Katniss is for what it represented. Even if Katniss didn’t know what it represented, others throughout the Districts did. It was a signal of who she was and what she was capable of. The movie did a good job of making it a tangible link between Katniss and her reason for fighting — Prim. But I still think Katniss randomly picking it up out of a bin in the Hob deludes its true meaning.
Don’t get me wrong, Woody Harrelson is brilliant in this role. The character was seemingly written for him. But, the whole time, I kept thinking that his portrayal was entirely too, what’s the word — clear-headed? I think they missed a key moment for showing just how out-of-control Haymitch is by not showing him falling off the stage during the Reaping. And then he seems to get his act together entirely too quickly. Again, I know that the story has got to move. But this Haymitch is way too sober.
— Cato’s death.
They let Cato get off way too easy in this movie. Now, I’m not saying I was actually WANTING to see his long, tortured death. But in the book, it’s a slow, horrendous process. And I think that did so much mentally to getting Katniss and Peeta to their decision to eat the nightlock. They knew that a Capitol that would so mercilessly torture someone like Cato would do no favors to them.
And speaking of the nightlock, the movie gives the impression that Katniss knows exactly what she’s doing. That she knows she’s calling the Capitol’s bluff. I admit it’s been awhile since I read the books, but that’s not the impression that I got from the book. I think she thought there was a chance they’d stop them, but her overriding feeling was that she was done. Done with everything. Done with the killing. Done with the Capitol. And she’d rather them both die than for the two of them to give the Capitol a Victor. Am I wrong?
**Edited after a very important Twitter conversation with Michelle:
a) what happened to Peeta’s badly injured leg? Michelle reminded me that it was so badly injured that they had to amputate it after Peeta and Katniss were removed from the arena. And his bum leg becomes a big part of Catching Fire, when Peeta’s trying to keep up during the Quarter Quell Games. Are they just going to forget about all that?
and b) Going back to the nightlock/Cato’s death above. As I was watching the movie and Claudius made the announcement that there could, in fact, only be one winner, I was waiting for the moment when Katniss raised her bow and arrow to Peeta because she thought he might attack. And he threw his knife away. That was a HUGE moment in their relationship. Again, I hate to nitpick, but that speaks a lot to the nature of their relationship and how they each viewed the Games.
Man I’m a dork.
— The ending.
Oh the ending. Why does it end like this? How could they take such a perfect ending (a perfectly, expertly written cliffhanger of an ending that made me buy book 2 on my Kindle at 2 a.m. on a worknight!) and botch it so badly?
The movie’s ending doesn’t come close to illustrating the pain and heartbreak Peeta feels when he realizes that Katniss was just acting. And Katniss seemingly doesn’t have the realization that she wasn’t just acting but perhaps does have true (complicated, but true) feelings for Peeta. Instead, if you’re relying soley on the movie, you think she doesn’t have feelings for him and while he may not be OK with it, he knows that, too.
And wasn’t there also some major drama involving Katniss, Peeta and Haymitch and finding out who was trying to keep whom alive? And who knew the “plan” and who didn’t? Or am I thinking too much of book 2?
OK, before I talk myself out of LOVING this movie, let me point out a couple of things that the movie nailed.
— Ceaser Flickerman
Hands down, he was my favorite character in the movie. He stole the show. From his Colbert-style video screens behind him showing every facial expression possible to the way he tried to Oprah the Tributes by getting to their emotional motivations, he was amazing. Plus, being able to hear him and Claudius Templesmith (with another scene-stealing performance from Toby Jones) provide color commentary of the Games was an excellent, unexpected bonus to the movie version.
— Seneca Crane and President Snow
Oh, these two do evil and creepy very, very well. The movie jumped ahead a couple books to show us things we only learn about later (such as Seneca’s death for failing to contain the Girl on Fire and President Snow’s fear of everything she represents). I loved seeing them in action, particularly the Gamemakers’ control room. From a technical standpoint, that may have been one of the best part of the movie. I had such high hopes for Katniss’ and Peeta’s fiery costumes. I only thought they were a so-so (although I loved her red dress and its on-demand flames). But the control room more than delivered with some very cool technologies.
— Random Disney cameo!
Speaking of the Control Room, I think I’ve officially hit my Disney tipping point. About halfway through the movie, I leaned over to Katy and said, “I recognize that Gamemaker. I think she’s in the pre-ride video for Test Track at Epcot.” Katy then told me I go to Disney too often.
I haven’t been able to confirm it online yet, but I’d be willing to bet money I’m right.
OK, I’m done. I know it doesn’t seem like it, but I promise, I LOVED the movie. I can’t praise Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson’s performances enough. And I can’t wait for the next two … although I’m already dreading the lack of Peeta in book 3. Perhaps it’ll be like this movie version and we’ll see a lot more of him in the Capitol than we did in the book.
And I’m dying to know who will play Finnick and Beetee!
Now it’s your turn! What did you love and perhaps not love as much about the movie?
Hi , i like you review and i agree with some poins love ceasar , peeta , katnis , maybe im not a purist so i dont bother some things that you dont like it , but i have a problem with the final because for me is not very clear if peeta knows the true about the romance in the games . So i dont know how the next movie is gonna start .
I agree. They really muddled the ending, making it seem as if Peeta knew the whole time Katniss was faking. When, in the books, he thought she had developed feelings for her. The next one should be interesting.
Thanks for the comment!
I am FINALLY home and I can comment — even though these thoughts are scattered.
Obviously, I feel the same way as you for most of this. I wasn’t so worried about the pin, because I figured they can still spin a similar story to who it belonged to when the time comes — or they won’t bring it up at all, which is fine. I think if they had furthered that storyline in the books I would be more concerned — but it never really goes anywhere.
I am REALLY aggravated about the ending. I feel like by not including the scene that was written made Peeta seem like a big p*ssy. Well, maybe I felt like that in general. I surprisingly loved Josh Hutcherson as Peeta (the scene where they leave District 12 and he’s crying but trying not to look like he’s crying kinda kills me). He has the charisma and the acting chops to play the role, but I feel like they purposely played down his character — and angled the “love triangle” oddly (and truthfully, I never felt like there was a well developed love triangle in the books – but it’s like they are pushing it for the Twilight crowd – umm not including you :)). I’ve read a lot of reviews bashing him as Peeta – but I really think he did a great job with what he was given. It’s hard when he’s much more involved in the book — AND you know what Katniss is thinking about him. In the movie, she’s just kinda a bitch to him and he still would do anything for her — and you just want to tell him to strap on a sack.
I think cutting down the violence was necessary (the parts they showed was enough for me), but by doing so they also cut out why it’s so terrifying. I’m not sure how they would have shown the mutts with the tributes eyes – but since it’s so haunting you’d think they would have at least mentioned it. And then Peeta’s leg is a weird exclusion – and contributes to a major death in CF — so I don’t get it! I seem to remember a few other little things they cut out (hello – lamb stew — and the medicine that knocks P out in the cave), but I was willing to overlook them.
Things I did like — JLaw (everything about her), Prim during the reaping scene – that was just so well done, Cinna (was really worried about Lenny – but he was great and definitely had a connection with Jennifer Lawrence), Caesar & Effie (between the two of them — they added some much needed humor to the movie — Effie’s line about dessert killed me), the trackerjackers/hallucinations (things were shiny — very important for later!) and seeing how the games where manipulated in the control room. I felt like that actually added the much needed “sci-fi” element to this story. And while I did love Woody Harrelson – he needs to be much, much drunker in Catching Fire. Much.
I could really go on and on. Like you, despite these inconsistencies I loved the movie and think they completely nailed the majority of the book — and I didn’t even mind the additional scenes. I am ridiculously excited about Catching Fire (my favorite of the 3) and looking forward to seeing more Gale in Mockingjay. Liam Hemsworth might have had like 5 lines in the whole movie, but man is he pretty.
I’m pretty sure none of this made sense. 🙂
Spencer Koch says
This is the best hunger games review I’ve seen so far. I’m impressed. I plan on seeing it today.
Thank you Spencer. That’s very nice of you! Enjoy the movie!
Spencer Koch says
Ok, I snuck out and watched the movie. My quick review is that I really liked all of the characters, the wardrobe, and the overall feel of the movie. I think all of the casting was perfect, but the story didn’t quite come together I had it in my head.
BTW, I can’t remember how I found your blog, but my daughter is a similar age as yours, and I think most of the posts are funny and spot on.
Thanks Spencer! Glad to hear you loved the movie too. I agree that the cast was perfect and they go a long way for me in helping smooth over some of my bigger issues with the movie version! And I’m glad you found my blog. There’s a joy in sharing our similar trials in raising toddlers, huh? I know I feel so much better reading other blogs written by parents of 4-year-olds — it helps me think maybe I’m not alone in some of the crazier things that happen!
Just saw it this afternoon – overall I really liked it. I am never a fan of super long movies, so I did get a little fidgety, but still entertained the whole time.
I did not like: the aforementioned lack of Peeta/Katniss game plan/who knows what, etc. , how compressed Katniss’ relationships were with Gale and Rue, how close it was to the book (I like a little more wiggle in movie adaptations).
I did like: Jennifer Lawrence – omg, so good! My hubby did not read the books and only knew a little about the plot going in. He was meh about the movie but LOVED her. She is so stunning onscreen but also has the acting chops to just be a force on screen. I thought everyone else did awesome as well although I did feel Gale/Liam’s acting was lacking compared to others, but maybe when we see him more he will grow on me. I also loved the game room, super cool, and the arena looked just as I pictured it.
Jennifer was so great. You forget that she’s in nearly every frame of the movie … and more than carries it! She was fantastic. I think Liam/Gale will just continue to get better. They didn’t give him much to work with in this first installment. But at least he was easy on the eyes every time we did see him. Man, Miley was smart to snap him up three years ago!
It’s funny I never pictured a dome ceiling over the arena. I sort of thought that it was more of an invisible force field (probably because of the events in Catching Fire) but it surprisingly worked for me in this movie. Can’t wait to see how they do the next arena!
Thanks for the comment!
Carolina @ Peas in a Blog says
Great review Jackie, it’s spot on! I too loved the movie though I agree with you, as every movie version of a movie does, it did not include a lot of key points. The two major things I wish they would of incorporated were explaining the mutts with the tributes eyes & the avox, both of these were such powerful in the books! I also don’t understand why they ended it the way they did, it doesn’t really set it up too well for Catching Fire & pretty much the rest of the trilogy (Peeta’s leg, Peeta’s realization that Katniss was acting the entire time, etc); I’m curious to see how they attack that in the next installment.
But overall I was satisfied, they kept the spirit of the book alive & well & that’s all a fan can ask for in 2 hours. Can’t wait for the next one!
Totally agree with you on the mutts. The fact that Katniss and Peeta thought at first that they actually were the fallen Tributes is one of the most terrifying parts of the book. I think they could have easily handled that with a line or two from those two without even having to chance the ways the mutts looked (although I pictured them more as werewolves than giant dogs, but that didn’t bother me too much).
I had already read that they minimized the role of the avoxes for timing purposes so I was prepared for it. But I wonder what will happen in future installments when the avoxes get bigger roles?
I had one MAJOR disappointment though … what was up with the Breaking Dawn trailer being so short? I was almost as excited for that as the movie and I felt so robbed. It was more like a trailer for the trailer. No cool Summit. Not cool.
I generally liked it, but here’s what i didn’t like:
1. The whole thing about Katniss playing up her affection for Peeta so they’d get sponsors was not in there at all. In general, I didn’t like how they didn’t emphasize that this is a tv show. In the book, Katniss did a lot of things for the camera and this wasn’t shown.
2. I also didn’t think Haymitch was drunk enough. In the first scene in the train, yes, but he was supposed to be like that the entire time.
3. No story at all about Katniss and Gale. I’d think you’d think he was her boyfriend if you didn’t know better.
The ending didn’t bother me though. But, I don’t quite remember what happened in the book ending. I forgot about Peeta’s leg being amputated in the book until you mentioned it.
Yes, yes, yes! They did a good job of showing from the Capitol’s perspective that it was a tv extravaganza … but the other side of the coin was missing. You don’t get the sense from the movie that Katniss knows she HAS to play to the TV audience to stay alive and that everything she starts to do is calculated to what she thinks Haymitch wants her to do, not what she wants to do.
Oh well. And yeah, they totally give the impression that Katniss and Gale are dating, although I guess they have the line about her never wanting kids. Maybe that was their way of saying they’re not really dating. We’ll see in Catching Fire how they play it all out. Poor Peeta. I’m sad for him already!
Jocelyn | ScooterMarie says
I TOTALLY agree with all your points! Loved, loved, loved the movie and experienced the entire range of emotions throughout it – laughed, cried, jumped in my seat, etc. But all the things you pointed out above were exactly what I thought odd too – the Mockingjay pin was all wrong, Haymitch’s role was way too underplayed, certain tributes and their scenarios were again underplayed (yes, I get the whole time limit thing, but still), and the ending was completely weird. It’s funny though, for the life of me I could NOT remember who Seneca was during the entire movie! I went with a group of about 10 girlfriends, and the one next to whom I was sitting and I just couldn’t figure out his name. Even when one of the other girls told me who he was afterward I still had a hard time picturing his character in the book. Not until I saw you type out his full name here did I fully remember. Duh!
I actually didn’t read any of the books until after I’d seen the trailer for this first movie, so I always had this cast of characters pictured as I was reading. I kind of liked it that way, even though it was weird having pre-pictured people to go along with the book. I don’t think that’s ever happened for me before. But now I really want to reread books 2 and 3 before the next movies, so I don’t forget any characters or details for those!
The reason you don’t remember Seneca is that he’s barely in the book! I think his name may be mentioned but it’s not until the later books that we even learned President Snow had him killed after the Games. So, you’re right to think, “Who the heck is he?” I just happened to (dork alert) read too many fan sites’ news about the casting/production, so I knew to expect a lot from him.
But I’m so glad he was in it so much. I think it added so much cool stuff to the movie!
I’m fighting the urge to re-read Catching Fire and Mockingjay right now! I just re-read them in December, so I think I should wait … at least a couple months!
Kerry Ann (aka vinobaby) says
You TOTALLY go to Disney too often! I loved the movie. The MockingJay pin bugged me a bit, but luckily I read the books a while ago, so I forgot many of the little details. I find I enjoy the movies much more that way.
Well I couldnt agree more in everything you say, the mocking jay pin is soooo important and who didn’t read the books has no clue of what it represents. Other thing I was hoping to see is that part when the game makers announce that can be to victors from the same district that katniss can’t control herself and screams PEETA, in the movie she barely whispers.