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I’m approaching The Hunger Games the same way I did Harry Potter. See and enjoy the movies first THEN read the books and find out about all of the stuff that would have pissed me off about the movies. So far it’s working, because I really liked the movie. The lead character, the archery girl, has a real cunning and agility to her. An almost feline quality. A “catness,” if you will. [pause for applause] Thank you, thank you. I’ll be encasing myself in concrete now as to preserve the look on my face when I made the most perfectly crafted joke anyone has either spoken, written, read or heard aloud. Also because it will kill me, which should satisfy those of you that think I should die for that joke. I regret nothing. Except for drowning to death in concrete.

I wasn’t a complete Hunger Games virgin going in. I knew the basic premise and I had read a bit on Wikipedia to familiarize myself with some of the more fleshed out concepts of the world that would no doubt be left out of the cinematic offering for time and pacing reasons. I felt like the end result was a nice tight narrative that did a clever job of introducing you to its world while not smothering the plot. It was obvious that many characters that certainly had larger stories in the books had drastically reduced roles or were even relegated to background glimpses (further Wiki’ing confirmed this theory). You could see little threads of plot all over the place that the film wouldn’t have time to even address, much less resolve. I think that’s a good thing, because it gets casual observers like me more interested in reading the books and getting a full view of the world building within.

MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD: Regarding Mr. Kravitz portrayal of Cinna the stylist, there were some fucked up allusions going on with his wardrobe creations. The clothing was supposed to represent the district the tributes hailed from. District 12 is a coal mining area, where both Katniss and Peeta’s father’s were killed in a mine explosion, so Cinna dresses them in coal black clothing and SETS IT ON FIRE!? I’d say that isn’t appropriate or sensitive in the least, but these kids are being lead to their deaths in a child murder contest for the amusement of the home viewing audience, so what do I know? I was surprised at the amount of actual child murder that they showed. I was really expecting them to pull a few more punches and gaping blade wounds. The opening “scramble for supplies” scene was actually pretty disturbing to watch. Right about then the concept of children killing each other sinks in, followed by the concept that it is essentially for entertainment (as well as propaganda, control through fear and intimidation, etc). Back to the coal fire: did anyone else get the impression that Cinna drew inspiration from Centralia, the Pennsylvania town that’s been on fire for 50 years (or 150 by his time)? Maybe district 12 isn’t far from there.

My only real gripe with the movie (knowing a bit more than the average person about the book’s plot, but not nearly enough to get all that upset), the idea that hunger was a central theme of the story just didn’t come through at all. I never got the impression that anyone was starving. Poor? Sure. Starving? Not really. These kids are pretty and plump and muscular and heathly. When presented with multiple feasts, at no point does anyone gorge themselves like a person that has been living off of rations would. I get that they are terrified and tramatized, but the word “HUNGER” is in the freaking title of the movie. It seems like one of the most important themes of the book was just kind of swept under the rug. Also, the movie basically says that Katniss is faking her love for Peeta to garner favor with the audience, but gives the impression that by the end she is actually in love with him. This seemed odd, so I looked it up and, yup, she’s a faker and she totally and in cold blood breaks his heart at the end of the book. I guess they want us to be more sympathetic to her, but honestly in the situation she was in survival is the only thing that mattered. Also, just to clarify, the three finger salute means “Hey The Capitol! Read between the lines jackwads!” right?

COMMENTERS: Did you see The Hunger Games? What did you think? Were you a fan of the books already? PLEASE MARK ALL COMMENTS WITH SPOILERS AS SUCH. 

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  1. My gripe is that the movie came across as a sequence of vignettes. It ended up so chopped up and abbreviated that the sense of story was reduced to assumptions about character motivations instead of a discernable arc.

    That said, I think that the movie does capture some of the look and feel, just not enough of it.

    And Peetas dad wasn’t killed – he was the baker, right? And his family wasn’t hungry (or at least as hungy).

    And finally, in the book I always sensed that Katniss’ motivations at the end were mixed. She really did love Peeta, but denied him to avoid having children and to avoid the loss she experienced when her father was killed. This is also why she never commits to Gale either.

    My two cents…

  2. Spoilers? Probs.

    Unless they changed it in the movie & I missed it, Peeta's father didn't die in the explosion, but Gale's did. Peeta's dad still runs the bakery with his mom. I think they just never really mentioned him in the movie.

    Also, the whole "Girl on Fire" thing was kinda more to represent what the coal was used for. Since each District provides different things for Panem (fish, electronics, electricity, lumber, etc.) they usually dress up in something that represents that, & it's usually pretty cheesy except for tributes from the upper Districts. Cinna decided to show a different aspect of coal & to try & show the fire that Katniss had inside of her.

    I thought the movie was pretty good, except I wish they had spent a little more time building up some minor characters' backgrounds (Effie, Haymitch, & even Rue. There's some conversations that her & Katniss have that makes it even more depressing when she dies).

    • In addition with the "Girl on Fire" dress. Panem is supposed to be North America and the area they describe for district 12 is in line with Appalachia so it could have made an inadvertent reference to real places.

  3. Okay yeah the District 12 principal actors could have looked a little more hungry. Also their skin was flawless.

    My biggest gripe? HOLD THE FUCKING CAMERA STILL FOR 10 FUCKING MINUTES PLEASE! I bet the cinematographer for Hunger Games just called Star Trek's Cinematographer and said "Your move, asshole!"

    • The lack of steady cams in modern films is one of my biggest gripes. A little bit of movement can give things a different feel (Firefly did this quite well) and make them feel less like a movie. But at some point it crosses a line where it detracts from the experience, and I wish this line wasn't crossed so often. It's hard to follow a movie when the camera isn't still for things it needs to be still for.

      • I had that same problem with BSG, both in space battles and in the ships. They'd make me ask "Who just got blown up? Should I care? What the F$#@ is going on in that room? Is the camera man having an epileptic fit?"

    • They should have been dirty/grimy before the Capitol. In the book, they made their skin flawless. And they removed all body hair (part of that's shown, but they all get the real deal). Also, after winning, while they're healing from all their wounds, the Capitol was totally gonna give Katniss a boob job, but Haymitch pitched a bitch and put an end to that.

  4. I haven't seen the movie (it's out IN A MONTH here in Italy, dammit!), but I've just finished reading the book. It seems to me that, from your description, there's not much missing. Hunger is one of the themes of the book, but it's never THAT central. They don't gorge themselves when shown good food (but once, and just to piss Effie off for fun). There's a whole chapter about thirst, but I doubt it could translate well into a movie.

    Also, she's not a faker… she starts as one, but she just doesn't know what she really feels at the end. Peeta not knowing she was kind of faking at the beginning gets upset and that's what "ruins" the "happy ending" for them.

    Still most of what goes on in Katniss's mind is known to the reader because she's the narrator of the book (in present tense too!)… I really can't imagine how they did that in the movie. I'm curious.

  5. Spoilers within

    My gripe with the movie was small as well. I loved the movie overall but the idea that this oppressive government would let the games stream completely live is a little absurd. Put that on an hour or two tape delay to edit out things like the three finger salute that Katniss throws back for the benefit of Rue's district. I'd have cut that out and made her care less about Rue's death when the outer districts see it, that practically inspired their revolt.

    otherwise I thought it was fantastic.

    • I don't understand the gripe. That's exactly what happened in the book, isn't it? At the very least, the salute made it into the video feed, so even if it WAS on a delay they certainly didn't stop people from seeing it.

      • I haven't yet read the book, though I have started it. It wouldn't make sense either way. Obviously they have editors, they can't show all the tributes doing all the things at once. If I were in charge just before they show her doing that salute I would have edited the feed that gets on tv to show some other tribute doing something. She walks away,then turns back to camera. Cut from her walking away. My point is that if you want control you don't want to show interdistrict unity which was what that showed. "Yes, she died, but it's a pity, she's still important to me." That was the flaw in the system. SO I suppose it's isn't a gripe with the movie so much as with the way their government does what it is trying to do. IF they want to retain control you don't give that much hope. Just a little bit.

        • Yeah I'm with you on that. I totally agree that it doesn't make sense in either the book or the film. If anything, the book makes less sense, *because* we know they edit it. Maybe the people in the Capitol didn't realize what that salute meant? Perhaps they thought it was an insult of some sort? I'm trying to remember if they showed her arranging flowers on the body. I'm pretty sure that part, at least, was cut out of the broadcast, wasn't it?

          Either way, not the best job by the oppressive government.

        • SPOILERS

          In the book there are hovercraft that come to pick up the bodies. Every pickup of a body is automatically televised, so Katniss figures that her goodbye, the song, and the three-finger salute might get cut, but that they have to show Rue's body when the hovercraft comes to dispose of it. Katniss knows that Rue covered in flowers will be automatically televised and that the people of District 11 will know she did it for Rue.

          • Which is, again, a reason for a tape delay. It would give them time to quickly pick up the flowers and such, re-approach the body and pick her up without the flowers

  6. Spoilers (maybe?)

    I haven't seen the movie, but in the book, Katniss is a surprisingly well drawn character, considering 16 year old girls are most often given the emotional range of teaspoons, that range being sad, sadder and shoes (teaspoons are the most depressed of all cutlery). She is very conflicted about her feelings for Peeta, and the book does a pretty excellent job of showing that without being schmaltzy.

    Also, Katniss and Peeta are fairly well fed by Panem standards because she is an excellent hunter and poacher and he is the son of a baker.

    I just read the first book in the triology last week and was surprised by then interesting concepts it put out there. I wasn't expecting as much in terms of Orwellian mythology because it was a YA novel, but it really gave an interesting slant to where our increasingly voyeuristic, complacent society could lead to in extreme worst case scenario mode.

  7. Am I the only one on this planet who actually disliked the book? I mean I am not going to hate anyone who has a different opinion then me, I just tons of people enjoy the book, and am left wondering what did I miss? To be fair, I read adult (reading level) sci-fi fantasy, so that might be where the discombobulation comes from. Keep up the comics Joel.

  8. The movie was just kinda meh for me. Definitely worth seeing one time but never again after that. I will say that my favorite part of the movie was Jennifer Lawrence's performance, especially after Rue's death. Also, whenever I'm in the hospital, I'm going to demand that they bring in supplies for the doctor via tiny parachutes. Unless people don't like me. Oh shit.

  9. I haven't seen the movie yet, but have read the books. The first book was really good, the second was less so, and the third was "eh"….I expect the movies will be the same in dwindling quality, as trilogies often are.

    My preference in the past was to always read the book first, and see the movie second, because it was hard to spend hours reading a book when you already know the plot, vs. spending 2 hours watching a movie. Changed my mind recently after watching Game of Thrones, which was awesome from start to finish. A mini series is of course much more of a time investment than a movie. Anyways borrowed the first book soon after, and while I desperately wanted to know what came next I have made the decision that I'd rather be surprised. Also I enjoy George Martin's writing style, so it's not difficult to invest time into reading them.

    What I find interesting is when the tv series/movie is soooo much better than the books. Dexter and True Blood are both good examples of this. Maybe I don't read enough pap, but I'm surprised that Charlaine Harris is a published author. The quality of her writing is awful, though some of her ideas are good. Well at least she hasn't turned her books into porn and totally ruined her characters, like Laurel K. Hamilton. The writers of True Blood really improved the Sookie Stackhouse book plots and developed many new characters. The first two Dexter books were well written, but the third was ridiculous, and the writers of the tv series have not used it as material.


    Katniss isn't a faker. She doesn't break his heart in cold blood. She actually doesn't know herself how she feels, but she definitely starts to have feelings for him by the end of Book 1. Denying him is not cold blooded,nor is it because she doesn't care or him at all.

    • I agree… SPOILERS In the book, after she volunteers, she keeps thinking something along the lines of "not him, not him" as they call Peeta forth. Ever since the bread incident she's had some feelings for Peeta, and the games just make her more confused.

  11. I definitely agree that the shaky cam was too much, although just a little bit in some action sequences (i.e. running through the forest) would have been good to add to the tension or realism or whatever they're trying to achieve by making me mildly nauseous.

    After seeing the movie, the only reason I'd read the books would be to figure out what led to the whole "Hunger Games" situation and why exactly no-one seems to have rebelled or tried to rebel in 73 years of kids killing each other for the nation's amusement.

    Side note: I thought Peeta's name was spelled "Pita" like the bread, which would have been a fun little reference to the whole baker/son of baker thing.

    • Well in the books, its let on that before the rebellion that sparked the hunger games there were 13 districts, and that the capitol wiped 123 off the map as a lesson to the other 12

  12. Having watched and, in an appalled way, enjoyed the movie Battle Royale many moons ago, am I wrong in feeling that this is a case of been there done that? I haven't read the Hunger Games books but there are a ton of spoilers out there, and it feels like I can skip this version. It's encouraging to read that the books are better written than Twiblight and that Katniss is way more proactive than Mary Sue Bella. No wombsplosions in the Hunger Games either.

    • Pretty much every story/film borrows from what has come before it. It's like that episode of South Park (Simpson's did it!). Being a fan of Battle Royale myself, I can say that the basic premise has a lot of paralells, but the story as a whole is very different. I like them both. You should check out HG and if you still feel like its a rip off then good on ya! But you might just get a good experience out of it! 🙂

      • Yeah, one of the things I like most about the Hunger Games, in contrast with a lot of female roles in literature, is that YOU DO NOT F*** WITH KATNISS! She will put an ARROW in your F***ING EYEBALL!
        Instead of twisting her ankle and lying there waiting for some strong man to save her, she is humbly putting holes in her enemies.

  13. I'm all for future dystopias where kids are killed, which is why I wish someone would make Stephen King's The Long Walk into a movie. I had read about the hunger games, and even though it's a bit different (kids killing each other) as opposed to what happens in the long walk, I just see King's short story as a better narrative on how messed up society can get in the future. Plus, The Running Man is in the same book as The Long Walk, so I guess I'm a little jaded about how good a book about people killing each other for sport in the future can be.

  14. I both read the books (thank you, influenza) and saw the movie. And before critiquing the movie, I have to keep reminding myself that I was not the target demographic.

    That said, I wish they'd given Rue more screen time so that her death could've been as devastating as it was when I read the books.

    I did like the "ghost in the machine" bit they did with Seneca Crane, but they could've done better. They could've pushed it a bit more just by showing them manipulating the temperature changes, or drying up the water. The games themselves felt really short, as if they were only in the arena a couple of days. I wish they'd hit more on the gladiatorial aspect. That is, I wish they didn't just show the crowds during the pre-slaughter pagentry, but shown how this was simply entertainment for the people of the capitol (panem et circuses), but required watching for the rest of Panem.

  15. Completely off topic, I watched the Blue Champagne episode of "Welcome to paradox" on the Syfy channel because I am a John Varley Fan (except for the recent YA Rocket books). It was awful, but since the story was mainly about emotions, it wasn't the easiest to adapt. It got me thinking, wouldn't it be amazing if there could be a Gaea trilogy of movies with the tough Cirocco Jones character?

  16. I thought it was one of the best adaptations I've seen (not even counting Lord of the Rings, which is in a class all its own). It covered as much as it could, streamlined what it couldn't, but still included all the most important things. Did I wish they could have gone a bit more in depth with Cinna' and Katniss's relationship as it developed? Yes. Did I wish some other stuff, too? Yes. But all in all, it was already a 2 1/2 hour movie and therefore has limitations. I hope it makes people want to read the book to flesh out what they missed, but I really enjoyed what they did.

    As for the shaky cam, it took a bit of getting used to, but I actually liked the confusion it lent to the whole feel of the games. It conveyed a lot of the inner dialogue you get from Katniss in the books (her confusion, the chaos, etc). The only time it really bugged me was (SPOILERS) was when Peeta and Cato were fighting on the cornucopia at the end. They look WAY too similar for that to work. I even knew from the books what was happening and I was confused as balls. Which are notoriously the most confused body part.

    Also I really loved the "behind-the-scenes" of the game making. It was a cool way to show that Seneca, et al were really manipulating every aspect of the games without any more heavy-handed Caesar Flickerman (omg how good was Stanley Tucci?!) monologuing.

    Oh! And the reason Katniss and Peeta aren't all scrawny is that Katniss hunts and gathers every day so her family is more well-fed than most, and Peeta is the son of the baker (one of the more wealthy families in the district), so he got regular meals as well. The book and the movie have actually very little to do with "hunger" and more to do with deprivation in general and the Capitol's power and control over everything.

    Congrats if you made it through all that.

  17. Spoilers I suppose?

    I enjoyed the movie; it was a solid adaptation of the book. Not perfect, but quite good. I agree with many of the complaints mentioned above, like the shaking cams, ect., but the thing which disappointed me the most were the mutts at the end of the story. Each one was supposed to resemble a fallen tribute, enough so that Katniss thinks that they stole the dogs' eyes from the children's bodies. Did not get that creepy a vibe from them in the movie.

    Also, in the next books it becomes more and more obvious that she is suffering from PTSD. I wonder how they are going to convey this in a film? it works well in a first person narrative, but on screen?

  18. Spoiler!!! Peeta's dad was a baker not a miner. And they're not miners they are coal. You can't really judge the movies without the books I think. It was a decent flick and probably made people read the books to catch what they'd missed.

  19. I havent seen the movie or read the books, in fact the first time I heard about these books is these past few weeks of promotion for the movie. But from what Ive heard about the plot, namely people kill each other for entertainment to keep the populace happy and distracted was the plot of an arnold schwarzenegger movie from the '80s. So what is all the hubub about? Its not exactly an original plot. Just goes to show you that the '80s, for better or for worse, define american culture. And of course Ahhnold is the prime export.

  20. For those of you pointing out that Peeta's dad was not a miner, I think I was misremembering an article I read that mentioned that both Katniss and Gale's fathers died in the mine. Is that correct?

  21. Potentially spoilers but mostly just looking for some feedback on an idea. (plz plz plz feedback, I rly want to know opinions!)…and may be really long

    I've seen some other websites and comment sections talking about this movie, and comparisons to the "Battle Royale" movie. I haven't seen "Battle Royale" so please tell me if I'm incorrect about any of my assumptions. The thing that bugged me about the comparisons between HG and BR was the idea that "Well Battle Royale had actual blood and guts and violence. Hunger Games wussed (polite phrasing) out to keep their rating lower so more kids could watch. I am not entertained".
    My impression is to wonder why in the name of whatever deity you believe in you would WANT to see more horrific scenes where a bunch of kids are forced to kill each other. I'm not saying it shouldn't have violence, and I'm not saying people don't have the license to explore what happens to these characters in these situations. That's entertaining. What I am saying is you can stab someone and not show their intestines falling out. That's gratuitous. You can set a death trap, have it go off and kill someone, and use clever and creative camera work to show the dramatic effects without going for the gross-out.
    See for example Joker's scene in Dark Knight where we assume he cuts into the gangster's face. We don't have to see Joker cutting his face, we can imagine it and that makes it more horrific and real for us. Wanting to see more violence, more gore, just to me makes me wonder if we're like the people in the Capitol. It's not enough these kids fight to the death and then kill each other; it has to be drawn out

    So I guess long story short, was the "lessening" of the violence according to some a deliberate attempt on the filmmaker's part to comment on the movie going audience?

    Other than that, the shakey cam worked for me. Dunno about you guys but if I was standing in that space close enough to watch I'd be shaking and running the hell away too. I thought it conveyed the frantic energy of a teenager in a situation too horrific to deal with. And perhaps the violence should be nausea inducing, considering these kids are all 18 and under and killing each other.

    • What I read was that BR was actually being optioned for a US remake before The HG, but no studio would touch it because if the movie ever got related to real teen-on-teen violence they could have a huge law suit on their hands. The HG producers knew this risk and worked very carefully in their advertising and cinematography to not glorify the violence of teens killing each other. I personally think they handled the violence well.

  22. I thought the movie was pretty good, it was far more heartfelt and had far more emotional impact than I expected. Most of its problems are in the adaptation of the book, because certain scenes and characters are lifted (I imagine) verbatim when they're not actually necessary at all (a good example would be Effie Trinket, who serves no purpose and actually is never named).

  23. Joel, I'm not gonna harp on you or anyone else here for liking the Hunger Games movie or books, but the movies promotion turned me away by claiming to be THE MOVIE EVENT OF THE YEAR, despite having The Avengers, The Amazing Spider-Man, Prometheus, and The Dark F&$^ing Knight Rises to look forward to this summer. The hubris! How long have the books been around, compared to the source material for the movies I just named? This guy can explain it better than I can:
    Another thing, a yearly teenagers-fight-to-the-death tournament makes no sense as a method of population control. Isn't that what condemned criminals and enemy POWs are for as gladiators to quench the people's thirst for blood? Or did I just describe the set-up for future dystopian Spartacus? Actually that sounds pretty kick-ass. Somebody should write that. Also, it's likely from my warped imagination, but that 3-fingered hand signal looks 1 finger and 30 degrees away from the Hitler salute! I don't mind being refuted here; debates are just what comment sections are for.

    • They billed it as the movie event of the year because the books sold incredibly well and it is competing directly for the delicious Twilight monies from the tweens. Marketing is marketing. It's still a pretty good movie.

      And the games arent for population control. Their purpose is to remind the citizens that the last time they challenged the goverment, we started forcing your kids to kill each other. Do it again and see what happens.

      The idea that they are played off as noble or as entertainment is equal parts commentary on the government for being so brutal and to the public for watching it and probably secretly enjoying it.

      In the end it's all about control through fear. There is a constant looming threat over every citizen that they or their children may be taken away and at best forced to murder and at worst murdered themselves.

      • I didn't think they made the point very clear in the movie, but the people in the Districts HAVE to watch the Games by law. And a government that will take your children and murder them just to make a point, probably won't look too kindly on people refusing to watch. So, there's definitely a commentary being made about the audiences' blood lust (and reality TV), but it's more the people in the Capitol that are guilty of it.

  24. Well, it IS Hollywood, they'd rather cut off their own arm than not have an actual, non faked romantic solution by the end. All in the name of desperatly getting that magical mainstream dollar.

  25. I was dragged (literally at one point) to see this movie with a date on its opening night. I went into the theater fully expecting to hate this movie. The fact that the entire bottom section of the theater was packed with tweens and younger teenaged girls did nothing to dispel that notion.

    And then the violence started.

    I've got to admit any movie that can get an entire row to say "Holy shit!" simultaneously might have something going for it.

    I hated telling my date how much I ended up enjoying the movie, and not just because of the graphic violence. (It did help though, ain't gonna lie.) But The Hunger Games there was actually a story there, unlike the Twilight movies I've also been shanghaied into watching.

  26. I thought the film was fantastic. The performances were great, the violence was terrifying and the costumes were freakin' cool. And the filmmakers did an excellent job of making you remember, at every step of the way, that these are *children* killing each other.

    Also, Joel, I really like your take on books-into-films: Films-as-teasers-for-the-books. I'll try to look at them that way more often.

  27. I'll admit the camera shaking drove me completely bonkers. But pretty soon I realized that that was the only cinematic technique that the director could feasibly use to change the movie from NC-17 to PG-13.
    It was frustratingly hard to see what was really going on, but ultimately, I don't REALLY want to see exactly what's going on.
    Shaky camera + screaming from something + subsequent cannon shots = Thanks, I figured it out.

  28. After I was forced to watch the first stupid Twilight movie, I have shied away from anything geared at teens (cause they're morons). But after the glowing reviews came out, I went to Hunger Games and I loved it! Then I read the book, and saw the movie again, and I loved it more! I think this is an example of a really great book-to-movie adaptation because the book itself is surprisingly thin on detail. It's all told from Katniss' perspective, so everything you see in the movie that takes place in the city or in the districts is extrapolated from things suggested in the book but never expressly stated. And, frankly, Katniss is kind of a bitch (which she needs to be to survive), so I think she's less sympathetic when you hear her every thought.

    I was also thrown by the amount of violence and blood that they actually show, considering how young they are, but it was very effective. I found several scenes in the film truly chilling and haunting, and that's exactly what it needed.

    Also, the Hunger theme is much more present in the book – for example, Katniss makes a point of stuffing herself in the 2 weeks in the capitol in order to put on some weight before being thrown into the arena. Some critics commented that Jennifer Lawrence looked too plump, but whatever – I'm sick of anorexic actresses anyway. Plus, you're supposed to get the sense that she and Gale are able to keep their families better fed than most, so they wouldn't look emaciated.

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