From Adults to Teens and Everything In Between

From Adults to Teens and Everything In Between

Monday, April 2, 2012

Why I Loved the Hunger Games Movie (Spoilers Ahead)

I'm a sucker for book-to-film adaptations. I can't really explain why this is. I think it has something to do with my fascination of translating a story from one medium to another. Whatever the reason, ever since they started turning Harry Potter into movies over a decade ago, I've felt this need to watch the movie version of any book I read that has been translated to film.

That being said, I was obscenely excited when they announced that Hunger Games was going to be made into a movie. I followed the casting announcements, read all the set reports, watched the interviews, counted down to the trailers, bought my midnight premiere tickets a week after they went on sale. I was so excited for this movie that I went to the midnight showing in costume as Katniss and had a Hunger Games-inspired dinner party with a few of my friends before we left for the theatre Thursday night. I speculated and obsessed with the rest of the Hunger Games fans about what scenes would be cut, what scenes we would be most excited to see, what scenes we hoped they just wouldn't screw up.

And then the night of March 22 came and I went to the midnight premiere. The second the movie was over, I wanted to see it again. And again. And again. I couldn't get the amazingness off my mind no matter how hard I tried.

Here are the things I MOST LOVED about the Hunger Games movie.

  • The Opening: Oh, yes, I'm like that. The way the movie opened was perfect for setting up the situation and the world and explaining everything without Katniss's inner monologue that you get in the books. At the movie's opening, we simply get white words on a black screen--an excerpt from Panem's Treaty of Treason, stating exactly what the Hunger Games are. And then it cuts straight into Caesar Flickerman and Gamemaker Seneca Crane discussing the history of the Games in front of an audience. Perfection.
  • The Relationship Between Katniss and Gale: I'm glad they didn't go all Twilight love triangle on us (because while there is a triangle, it's not supposed to be the focus), but Katniss's and Gale's relationship is so vital to the whole story. From the first second we see them interact in the woods, you get that brother-sister, best friend bantering. And then, during the Reaping, their silent exchanges with each other are both important to see how close they are, and how incredibly tired they are of attending the Reaping year to year.
  • The Boy with the Bread: In the book, Katniss reveals the story of Peeta giving her burnt bread the second after his name is called in the Reaping. It cuts away from the central story in a flashback-like fashion and we get the whole memory in one fell swoop. The movie doesn't do this. In the movie, we get bits and pieces over the course of several scenes. I think this works perfectly for the movie audience, in that you're not pulled completely out of the story.
  • Haymitch and Effie: Perfect. There are no other words for how perfectly Woody Harrelson and Elizabeth Banks portrayed these two characters. From the subtle arguments to the attitudes...everything about these two was just great.
  • The Interview Dress: In the book, Katniss's interview dress is described as being LIKE on fire. When she moves, the fabric and beading makes it look like she's engulfed in flames again. In the movie, when she twirls, the bottom part of the skirt actually bursts into fake flame. I liked this, not because it was lovely and easier to explain, but because it so perfectly sets up another interview dress for the second movie.
  • Behind the Scenes: I particularly loved that they didn't just show everything from Katniss's perspective. This is effective for the book, because I think having the story from a single perspective in writing brings more immediacy to it. But for the movie, I loved that we got to see everything--what was going on in the Districts, how the Gamemakers were running the show, what Haymitch was doing to help. Not only was it fascinating for me to watch as a viewer, but it was also kind of like getting bonus now I know what was going on elsewhere in the book.
  • President Snow and a Spark: Oh, Donald Sutherland. They could not have found a more perfect President Snow. That dude is CREEPY. But what I loved were the additional scenes between him and Seneca that were added. In particular, the scene where he speaks to Seneca about giving the districts hope. He says something about a spark being a good thing, as long as it's contained. This, also, sets up the second movie and a certain speech he gives to Katniss about her being a spark.
  • District 11: After a *cough* certain character's death, the story flashes over to District 11. While I wasn't surprised by this, I WAS pleasantly surprised about what happened after. District 11 rebelled. They set things on fire, beat up Peacekeepers, knocked over cargo holds and stage lights. And why did I like this so much? Because, once again, it set up for the next movie so perfectly that I couldn't even fully contain myself.
  • The Cast: I've mentioned Donald Sutherland, Woody Harrelson, and Elizabeth Banks, but in truth the whole cast was astounding. Jennifer Lawrence IS Katniss, Josh Hutcherson IS Peeta. Each Tribute, even the ones that died within the first five minutes after the Games started, was fascinating to watch. I was so impressed with all of them.
  • Cato's Speech: This was one thing I hadn't been anticipating AT ALL. At the climax of the movie, they wrote in this amazing speech for Cato. In essence, he talks about how this is all he knows how to do--kill. He was never good for anything else. And he always knew he was going to die. And then he shouts up at the sky, where he assumes a camera might be, asking for the Capitol's confirmation of this. In the books, Cato is nothing more than a cold-hearted killer. This speech brought so much humanity to the character that I was almost sad when he got killed thirty seconds later.
  • The Ending: In the book, it ends with Peeta and Katniss, now at odds with each other, returning home to District 12. While it made me want to read the next book, it gave no indication of what the next book could hold. It was just an ending. But in the movie, they didn't end with Peeta and Katniss. They ended with President Snow watching footage of the two returning home to an excited crowd. President Snows watches this for a moment--dramatic music swelling--and then, without a single word, turns and walks away. It's so ominous, so obvious that President Snow sees these two teenagers as his biggest threat, that how could you NOT want to watch the next movie?

And there was so much more, but these were the things I was most impressed by. I honestly think this might be one of the best book-to-film adaptations I've seen yet. The changes weren't just because. Every single one of them had a point. And the spirit of the story wasn't trifled with one bit. I can't wait to see what they do with the other two stories in this series.


  1. While my daughter and I loved the movie, we spent the whole ride home discussing what was left out or who Katniss got her mockingjay pin from, the girl who got her tongue cut out, Katniss not getting the bread from District 11...
    Anyway, that's what I find distracting about movies adapted from books. No matter what a good job they do with the movie, the book is always better:)

    1. See...I attribute it to the fact that I watch way too many book-to-film adaptations, but leaving stuff out has, for the most part, never bothered me that much. I've always been able to go into a movie and see it as a completely separate medium from the they don't relate at all. Of course, with books I'm a huge fan of, I might have scenes that I'm really excited to see on film, but if they don't end up in the movie I rarely even notice. (Also, it may have helped that I had known about the mockingjay pin and Avox changes months ago.)

      In fact, I can only think of one book-to-film adaptation that has ever really gotten under my skin due to changes, but it wasn't so much what was taken's the stupid, irrelevant crap that was put in instead.

  2. Would you be interested in coming on the Huffington Post's video news network, HuffPost Live tonight, Dec. 10, 2012 to talk to Hunger Games director Gary Ross? If so, e-mail me at and I will better fill you in with the details. Thanks!

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