Over the weekend, The Hunger Games arrived at Redbox. Having read most of the trilogy, I was excited to see how the first book translated to the silver screen. My interest in the books waned about halfway through the second book and I never did finish the third.
I find it difficult to say I liked the first book, or the movie for that matter. Enjoyable is another term I hesitate to use. For those who aren’t familiar, the story is set in the future where, after some sort of major calamity, the United States has been broken into 13 districts. District 1 is where the ruling elite live in the lap of luxury, never wanting for anything. As you go further from that district, the people get poorer and poorer. By District 12, citizens live in a state of abject poverty. With me so far? Ok, so about 75 years ago, several of the districts attempted to rebel against District 1…and failed. As punishment, each year two delegates, called “tributes,” are sent from each district to compete in what they call The Hunger Games. These tributes, always one male and one female, range in age from 12 to 17. The Hunger Games is something akin to an elaborate gladiator match, wherein the tributes are to kill each other until there is only one left standing. It is televised 24/7 across the country and is considered to be the epitome of entertainment.
Kids killing kids. For entertainment.
So, while I think the movie was well done, I can’t really say I loved it. Or even liked it.
Here’s a more in depth plot review, for those who’ve not read the book.
Katniss Everdeen is a teenage girl living in District 12. Her father having died at some time prior, she supports her mother and young sister through hunting. She trades excess meat for staples and other necessities. The movie opens on the day when the tributes are to be selected for this year’s Hunger Games. Her sister, Prim, is now 12 years old and this is the first year her name will be put in the hat, so to speak. She is terrified she’ll be picked but Katniss assures her she’ll be fine.
I’m not spoiling anything by saying that Prim’s name is indeed chosen. Katniss immediately volunteers to take her place so as to save Prim’s life. Her male counterpart is Peeta, who is the son of the local baker.
Katniss and Peeta are introduced to their mentor, Haymitch (played by Woody Harrelson in an inspired bit of casting). He is the only living person in District 12 who has won The Hunger Games. He’s a drunk, but is quickly set straight by his new charges. Haymitch guides them through their training and media appearances prior to the official start of the games.
It is during this short training period that Katniss impresses the judges with her archery and attitude, while Peeta is shown to have tremendous physical strength as well as a talent for gaining public affection.
When the games officially start, it is with a bloodbath, an orgy of violence, where about eight of the tributes are slaughtered by their competitors. While the onscreen violence is relatively brief, the savagery of this battle is readily apparent.
To go into much detail about the remainder of the film would inevitably spoil things for those who’ve not read the books. Suffice to say though there are a few twists and turns along the way to the climax.
Overall, I thought the movie remained mostly faithful to the source material. They obviously had to cut quite a bit to even get to a running time of about 2:20. And some of those cuts may leave people scratching their heads briefly here and there. But I think most viewers will get the gist of what’s going on without too much trouble.
The casting was well done and the scenery once they hit the woods was breathtaking. I’m seriously considering a family trip to DuPont State Forest in North Carolina to see some of it in person.
All in all, it was one of the better book-to-movie translations I’ve seen. Hollywood has a long history of turning great books into utter drivel on the screen. That certainly wasn’t the case here.