I saw the Hunger Games movie last night, and I have to admit I was pretty impressed. It was a very faithful rendering of the book. I only noticed minor changes that had very little effect on the total outcome. I was especially impressed with Josh Hutcherson’s portrayal of Peeta, and I thought Jennifer Lawrence did a very good job capturing the bewilderment and uncertainty Katniss feels as the threat of death looms before her. And the moment Katniss volunteers to replace her sister? Ah, that gets me every time I see the preview.
I was also very impressed with how Hollywood managed to keep a violent movie taken from a violent book from becoming disgustingly graphic. I maintain the same warning I gave in my book review; this is not a story for kids. (I’d recommend age 14.) It is the fight to the death between twenty-four kids, and it is horrifying. Yet, it is violence that condemns violence, if that makes any sense at all. It is disturbing watching packs of teenagers hunt down and kill others with joy and abandon, but I thought producers exercised a good deal of restraint. And the result certainly makes a statement about a society that would condone such a tournament.
It is this extreme setting that makes the relationships within the story so powerful, and it is here I was the most disappointed with the movie. I understand it takes about ten hours to read the book, and only two hours are granted film-makers to tell the same story, but here is where the movie suffers. The special friendship between Gale and Katniss is very abbreviated. Gale hardly features in this one at all. And I was disappointed at how little screen time Rue, one of my favorite characters, receives. And Thresh only shows up once or twice. I thought only the relationship with Peeta was given enough time to develop, and its complexity isn’t sufficiently captured, not by any means.
Overall, I enjoyed this movie, but it felt a little void of emotion. The book horrified me. It brought me to tears. It made me cheer; it made me ache. In the end, it left me drained and completely awe-struck. The first Narnia movie left me with the same feeling. So did the first Lord of the Rings. But I was curiously emotionless when I left the theater last night. It’s enjoyable, and I’m anticipating the next one, but the movie, I found, has planted in me the desire to re-experience the story back among the pages of the book.