RT Reviews: The First Hunger Games Movie
The RT web team has just returned from seeing The Hunger Games, the film adaptation of the first of Suzanne Collins' wildly popular dystopian YA series.
In case you've been living under a rock, Hunger Games was released in 2008, with Catching Fire and Mockingjay released in the subsequent years. The books follow the adventures of Katniss Everdeen who steps up to take her sister's place in the titular Hunger Games, a televised competition where 24 teens fight to the death. However, Katniss' act of love for her sister Prim, sets flame to the embers of rebellion that have been in the hearts and minds of the downtrodden society. But will they be able to throw off the oppressive rule of the Capitol — and can Katniss survive the "game"?
The complete series won the September 2010 RT Seal of Excellence and it's undeniable that part of the books' appeal is that the story is about so many different things: the power of love (both romantic and between family members), determination, perseverance in the face of insurmountable difficulty, control of one's image in the public eye and of course, the way that one person can make a huge difference.
With all that in mind, any movie would have a tough act to follow after the crater-sized impact the series has made on the genre and the reading public. So how did this one do?
**SPOILERS AHEAD: STOP READING HERE IF YOU WANT TO BE TOTALLY SURPRISED BY EVERYTHING YOU WILL SEE ON SCREEN WHEN YOU GO SEE THE MOVIE (OR IF YOU WANT TO BE SURPRISED BY WHAT IS ON THE PAGE IF YOU HAVEN’T READ THE BOOK)**
Okay, back to the blog post at hand, the RT web team said that this movie deserves an RT rating of 4 ½ Top Pick Gold! The film is a keeper in every sense of the word. It’s a story that any one can fall in love with, whether or not you’ve read the book. And the fans were out in droves to see this movie — and some even came out in costume.
RT’s Whitney spotted these well-dressed ladies from the Capitol!
In order to give you the most accurate feeling for just how much you’ll love this movie, the three members of the RT web team each took a different tact for reading the first book in the series before we went to see The Hunger Games this morning.
RT’s Elisa was halfway through the book before seeing the film, and had this to say about the adaptation:
The only big difference in the first half of the story for me is how Katniss gets the famous mockingjay pin. And I thought that this really worked because it formed a closer bond between Katniss and her sister. I thought that the story was pretty true to the book — caveat, I haven’t finished yet and can’t get to get back to the book to see what it’s like reading the ending vs watching it. But let me tell you, it didn’t feel like I sat in the theater for three hours!
I also really liked the district 11 uprising; it looked very realistic and I really felt the pain of these destitute people. I also particularly liked the way that Katniss and Rue’s relationship was portrayed on screen. The way that she was so respectful of her death and the young girl’s burial were very moving.
That being said, in comparison to the book, the only small problems I had were the following: one, I didn’t like the way that the other 22 tributes didn’t get a lot of back story or screen time, with the exception of Rue and Cato. They seemed less significant and more complicit in the capitol’s agenda. And my other gripe was that I also didn’t think that Katniss looked as poor as she was described in the book.
RT’s Morgan read the series just before the final book was released in 2010, and she opted not to re-read the story. Here’s what she had to say about the movie:
I may have read the series two years ago, but these books really stay with you, so I went into the movie with high hopes. And the film absolutely met them. I felt like it hit every single emotional point that was important to me. There were no “info dumps” and instead all of the series’ exposition was integrated into the movie. Additionally, every single moment meant something, the plotting way layered and complex. So fans will definitely want to go to the bathroom before the movie starts because you don’t want to miss a minute of the show!
I was particularly pleased with Jennifer Lawrence’s performance. When the news came that she had been cast for the role, I couldn’t see her playing the part. But, I was blown away by this actress’ ability to really become the Katniss that I had read about. Quite simply, she was Katniss, body and soul.
And a word to the wise, bring tissues! I cried several times. (But there are also scenes that had the whole audience giggling, so don’t expect this story to be a downer!)
Meanwhile, RT’s Whitney reread the novel earlier this week, so she provides a really close look at some of the film adaptation’s minutiae.
I adored this movie! It’s rare that a film adaptation so completely captures a book’s true sense of adventure, excitement and emotional resonance. There were things that I was sad to see missing, like an explanation of the capitol’s “muttations”, characters who had to be left out due to the movie’s length and the way that at the end of the story Peeta and Katniss neither sit on a loveseat or split the crown. However, those smaller details were more than balanced out by the moments where this movie went above and beyond my expectations.
All of the casting was fantastic, but Gale aka Liam Hemsworth, absolutely stole my breath. He was such a present character and the way that the movie included cuts to him as Peeta and Katnis were connecting? It was heart-wrenching in the best of ways. It was no shock that Lenny Kravitz was the perfect choice for the artistic and loving Cinna. But I was surprised to see Elizabeth Banks carry off the roll of Effie as well as she did. But her interpretation of the character really gave Effie a chance to shine with comedic zingers, and went a long way to showing the way that people from the capitol interact with tributes. Banks’ Effie did a lot to make up for the lack of screen time given to Katniss’ prep team, which were some of my favorite scenes in the book.
And my very favorite scenes in the movie? Undoubtedly the moments in the capitol! There is so much to look at, so many different characters in a sea of costumes. I felt like I could watch the movie a hundred times and still see new faces and costumes jump out at me.
In all, I think that The Hunger Games is an excellent homage to Suzanne Collins’ series starter. You should definitely read the book in order to get maximum enjoyment out of all the little moments in the movie that are there for fans who have read the books. But my very final thought is, when will the film adaptation of the series second be in theaters?
So wether you've read all three books in the series, just Hunger Games, or are waiting until after you see the movie, we bet you'll love the film version, The Hunger Games! And in case that news didn't put a smile on your face, we're sure that this final shot of Hunger Games series fans will do the trick.
Spotted: Three young ladies sporting Katniss-inspired braids at the theater.
Want to learn about more great YA series? Check out our Everything Young Adult Page. If you're curious about other books being adpted for the screen, read about other upcoming TV and film adaptations here.