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Thursday, March 29, 2012

"The Hunger Games"—From Print to Film

Since this is a book review blog, I've analyzed the film only as it relates to the book. For an in-depth look at the movie itself, click on the link below to go to Lisa Schwarzbaum's excellent critique that appeared in Entertainment Weekly magazine. Overall, I agree with Lisa and give the film an A-.

Click HERE to read Lisa's movie review in the 3/29/12 issue of Entertainment Weekly. Click HERE to read my reviews of all three books in the trilogy.
This comparison is NOT a microscopic analysis of every single discrepancy between the movie and the book. As we all know, a book's transformation into a movie requires certain adjustments. Film makers are forced to make compromises that frequently alter or eliminate certain detailseven characters and scenesas they write their screenplay. Keep in mind that Suzanne Collins was one of the screenwriters, so she approved, or at least consented to, all of the changes. Still, a reader/viewer is entitled to a divergent opinion. The points that I make here are ONLY those that seemed most important to me as I watched the movie.

Each of the pink links below will take you to the appropriate page on the Hunger Games Wiki.

                           THE PROS                           

Effie & Katniss

The casting is mostly perfect. Jennifer Lawrence does a great job as Katniss, getting her grit and uncertain social skills down perfectly. Three other standouts are Elizabeth Banks as Effie Trinket, Stanley Tucci as Caesar Flickerman, and Amandla Stenberg as fragile little Rue. Josh Hutcherson as Peeta and Liam Hemsworth as Gale are also well cast. We'll be seeing more of Hemsworth in the later movies. Alexander Ludwig is particularly good as Cato, the primary tribute villain. Woody Harrelson is O.K. as Haymitch, but his film Haymitch isn't as intensely mean-spirited as the book Haymitch. 

Trueness to the Book: 
The movie follows the book quite closely, but there are a few exceptions, mostly minor. For example, in the book, Madge, the mayor's daughter gives the famous mockingjay pin to Katniss, while in the movie Katniss herself gets the pin from Greasy Sae as a gift for Prim, who gives it back to Katniss as she leaves for the Capitol. Also, in the book the revolution in District 11 doesn't begin until after Katniss and Peeta stop there on their victory tour. 

The Violence:
Director Gary Ross wanted to keep this a PG-13 film, so he filmed the violence in an impressionistic way. There are no lingering, slow-motion shots of heads falling off shoulders or blood dripping down arms and faces. Sword slashes are seen as seconds-long flashes. You see blood, but the images are thrown at you so fast that you get just a horrific impression of the violence. For me, the initial Arena scene conveys the brutality in manner that is blood-curdling perfect.

The Capitol
The Look of the Capitol: 
The Capitol itself is stunning with its minimalist architecture and sweeping lines, and it fit with my mental image from the book. 

The Fiery Outfits: 
I admit that I doubted that the filmmakers could successfully portray the coal-fire chariot suits and Katniss' fiery interview dress, but the costume designers are apparently just as good as Cinna because the flaming costumes looked terrific.

The Gamemakers: 
Seneca's beard
In the movie, we get more details about the Gamemakers and their actions during the Arena time than we do in the book, and this is a huge improvement over the book. The vast room full of computerized gadgetry and emotionless technicians makes a great contrast to the mayhem that resulted from their actions. Plus...I love Seneca Crane's fancifully sculpted mustache and beard!

                     THE CONS                     

On the down side of the casting, I have trouble believing Donald Sutherland as President Snow. He just doesn't come across as evil enough, and his shaggy hair and beard definitely don't fit with President Snow's meticulously neat, rose-embellished persona. (I have to confessand this is NOT a political statementthat I have always pictured President Snow as looking exactly like Newt Gingrich. What do you think?)

Trueness to the Book: 
The story in the book has much more detail than a movie could ever include, so I strongly recommend that you read the book before seeing the film. Two areas that would have enhanced the film if they had been emphasized more are the scenes in the Hob with Greasy Sae and the scenes between Katniss and Rue. (Although, I must admit that teenage girls sitting near me were sobbing during the flowery death scene.) The mutts are handled differently in the movie than in the book, where they were dog-like apparitions of the dead tributes. That connection isn't made in the film, and that totally changes the meaning of the scene, making it a plain vanilla horror experience when it should have had a much deeper, and even more horrible, significance to the characters and the viewers alike.

The Look of the Capitol: 
The clothing, hair styles, and hair and make-up colors are somewhat true to the book, but the ensembles aren't nearly outrageous enough. They don't look much different from the styles shown at the recent New York fashion week, and the hats were quite similar to those seen at a certain British royal wedding. Plus...nobody has green skin.



       1.  Read the book first.
       2.  Then, enjoy a very good movie. 

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