With so much hype, an excellent cast, and a bestselling book series as its source material, it’s no wonder The Hunger Games (2012) has been huge. It made 153 million its opening weekend at the box office, the third highest opening weekend in history. Critics gave the film stellar reviews before it opened, and many fans hoped that the film would be a faithful adaptation of the novels. The movie is enjoyable and certainly entertaining, but the big question remains: how well will the film do now that most fans of the novel have already seen it?
I read the series before seeing the film, but after seeing it with a few people who did not, I feel The Hunger Games is somewhat difficult to understand for those who are going into it with no prior knowledge. Like the Harry Potter films, The Hunger Games relies on the belief that those in the audience know some of the backstory. Past events Collins wrote into the novel, for example, are addressed only briefly onscreen, possibly leaving those who have not read the books confused. Some plot points that will be important in the upcoming films were left out entirely, which makes me wonder how certain events will unfold. However, The Hunger Games is a difficult novel to translate to the big screen. Because the book is told from Katniss’ point of view, it is hard to speculate about events she does not witness. Some of the descriptions Collins gives of the Capital and certain events in the arena are too challenging to recreate without coming across as cheesy or fake.
One of my major complaints about the movie is the camera work. The film employs the “shaky cam” technique popular in other movies like Cloverfield (2008) and Twister (1996). There were points where the camerawork was so bad it was difficult to watch without feeling nauseous. The reason behind the “shaky cam” is presumably to hide most of the violence, ensuring a PG-13 rating. Another reason may be to create a sense of chaos, particularly during the Reaping scene. Regardless, the camera work is problematic and made it hard for me to immerse myself in the story at times.
The Hunger Games has its strong points, however. The cast does a fantastic job bringing Collins’ characters to life. Jennifer Lawrence is a great Katinss and is able to convey the character’s independence, anger, and trust issues with subtle facial expressions and gestures. Elizabeth Banks is light and comedic–perfect for Effie. The added scenes showing the gamemakers manipulating the arena work well as a commentary on how reality television is not so realistic. Some scenes between Seneca and President Snow are new additions to the plot; these scenes help illustrate the underlying tension between the Capital and the districts while also stressing how dangerous President Snow is.
Overall, The Hunger Games is a good movie and tries its best to remain faithful to the novel. Suzanne Collins co-wrote the script, so it is unfair to blame issues solely on the screenwriter’s adaptation. Everyone has such high expectations and ideas of what the movie should be that it’s no surprise if it does not deliver for every fan. The movie is disturbing, sad, and thrilling—it provides a chilling commentary on our society and makes audiences think. If The Hunger Games encourages people to read the novels and think about the parallels between our society and the Capital, then it is more than worth watching.
Meghan Cannistra is a college student majoring in English. Along with watching movies, she loves to read and write and enjoys fairy tales, ghost stories, and comic books. When she isn’t busy chasing her two cats, Doom and Gloom, around the house she is browsing Netflix for something good to watch. Check out her Figment page, as well as her blog, Ink Stained Octopus.