Review: The Hunger Games on DVD

Ok… I’ll admit it, I’m a sap… I am a crazy sap particularly when it comes to things like watching Katniss cry over the death of Rue, or watching her care for Peeta or even at the top of the film when she goes for her little sister Prim when Prim’s name was picked from the dish and volunteers to be Tribute of District 12.

But I am getting way ahead of myself. If you have read my reviews for the first two books of the Hunger Games Trilogy (The Hunger Games, Catching Fire) then you know that I am way late in the game with this particular book series and that I was presently surprised at how much I enjoyed the series as a whole. Sure there were times when I felt that the series was a bit predictable and several moments felt forced, but for the most part it was a rather enjoyable series.

The same seems to happen here with the first movie adaptation of the series, I am way behind the times… however, when I finally got around to watching the movie I found that I am much more drawn to the movie version of Katniss than I was with the book version.

Let’s look at what I said about the book version of Katniss:

There were times when I wanted to scream at Katniss for being so damn strong, but then again understood as to why. For someone who had to grow up rather quickly and rather young in life, you can’t help but have a harden outlook on life. However, for some reason Katniss is almost too hardened to be relate-able in any way… and it is those few moments where she lets her guard down and does something straight from the heart that people latch onto and find themselves drawn to where Katniss finds her audience. I suppose by having those extremes in her personality, that is how her more “real” moments become more than special for the reader.

Somehow, Jennifer Lawrence’s portrayal of Katniss was so palatable that I can’t help but be drawn to Katniss while watching the movie and wanting to see every little bit of the novel being portrayed on screen as opposed to the necessary condensation of the novel for the screen. If anything this is the primary improvement of the novels to the movie for me, how Katniss is portrayed to the audience. We already know that Katniss had to be strong for the reader so that the reader could understand why she had to be the strength of the family, but for some reason what felt like an extreme in the novels is perfectly balanced in the movie.

Sure I can understand the racial backlash when it came to various character, but look at the wider picture, I think the Hunger Games has done a semi-decent job in including some diversity in the cast… most of which makes a lot of sense. If you are in the district of agriculture it is natural that you would be outside every single day, and because of the sun your skin is going to get crazy dark over time. So that casting made a lot of sense to me. At the same token I think there are other districts that are primarily outdoors so the skin colors are expected to be darker.

In District 12, Katniss is suppose to be olive-toned which would fit more in the Italian coloring… and Jennifer even made a point of tanning a bit to fit the character. So why so much hate? I am not even going to fathom that… not my place.

Since I was more drawn to Katniss how did I feel about the other characters? I felt that Haymitch was a bit more sober than I would have liked which kind of killed the fun of the character for me. Then again he did sober up to help Peeta and Katniss survive in the arena… so really it isn’t all that bad. I felt that casting Woody Harrelson as Haymitch was almost too obvious of a choice, to the point that I think he was being typecast. Not always a good thing, but hey, it’s Woody… are we really all that surprised?

Because the beginning was rushed so much we weren’t really able to see that connection between Gale and Katniss before Katniss was whisked away to the Capitol. However, their first opening conversation was barely enough to understand that there is something between the two of them, a connection of sorts but we nor they know what it could be. Granted the one thing that annoyed me was when they were showing the scenes of Katniss and Peeta growing closer together… they HAD to cut away to Gale watching that scene unfold on television… way too predictable. Though seeing the moment of Gale on the hill when the countdown to the start of the games was going on was a poignant moment and one when you realized he had to be going through all the “what if” scenarios in his head. One can’t help but sympathize with him.

Peeta appeared to be rather weak to me in this movie adaptation… in the book I was really drawn to Peeta and his story and in the movie he has had his moments but I felt this was because Katniss was supporting him a fair portion of the way version Peeta being the calming force for Katniss. I like the balance between Peeta and Katniss, but at the same time there were moments when it felt like they were just two persons revolving around one another. I understand the need to create the love triangle between Peeta, Gale and Katniss… but at the same time it just felt way too rushed throughout the movie for me to want to push for one couple or the other.

Unfortunately I would go so far as to say that Twilight did a far better job in developing the love triangle between Jacob, Edward and Bella than the Hunger Games did with Peeta, Gale and Katniss. Ah well… perhaps upon second watch it would be better… though I highly doubt.

This is a pity, because I really like Josh Hutcherson as an actor, I remember him from the Polar Express. As for Gale Hawthorne aka Liam Hemsworth, what’s not to like? It is just unfortunate that he didn’t have a lot of meat in this film except what little he had to play with he really knocked it out of the park for me.

Donald Sutherland was almost a no brainer as President Snow, when it comes to conniving and manipulating who else could you choose? Effie in the books drove me nuts, and Elizabeth Banks in the movie was almost too much but somehow made the character easier to swallow (how’s that possible?). Lenny Kravitz as Cinna was a stroke of genius for me because he actually got me into wondering what more is there going on with him… I am that drawn to him.

But the scene stealer for this movie was little Amandla Stenberg as Rue… when I saw that little girl hanging from the rafters with the dagger of one of “The Careers” I knew that this was someone special. I found myself rewatching scenes that had little Rue there, because it was just so much fun seeing Rue interacting with Katniss and seeing that chemistry between of the two of them blossom and thrive… A pity that there is such a backlash with this casting by the reading public… but I am going to stop now before I accidentally get on my soapbox.

All in all this is not a bad adaptation, but I think I will stick with the books for the most part… I am more in love with the books than the movie… but depending on how the second movie in the series pans out will determine how I feel about the movie trilogy for the most part… I hope.