The Hunger Games Movie Review: 142 Minutes of Pure Emotional Genius

hunger games movie poster

Last night as Bob and I sat chowing down on a very large tub of popcorn (free refill AND used $2 off Regal mobile coupon, TYVM), I watched a man standing in front of the seating area. “Hmm… Movie reviewer much?” I said as I spied a clipboard, stack of IMDB printouts and gaggle of freshly sharpened #2 pencils tucked into his pocket protector.  Bob, who knew I wouldn’t be able to resist the urge to pound out a review of my own, gave him a glance and then asked me if I felt under-prepared.  Puh-leaze.  I got this.

I have now read The Hunger Games twice.  I can count on one hand the number of books that I have graced with multiple readings.  This is a special, coveted literary honor.  Whenever possible, I try to read a book before seeing the movie version.  Upon entering the theater last evening, I was brimming with Katniss-y Mellark-ish Hob-themed events and could not wait to see how the live action version measured up to the written word.

Let’s cut to the chase – in short, the movie was a brilliant adaptation.  No, really. Fan-freaking-tastic.  I’m not really aware of any film out there that fully lives up to its book version.  But I thought that this one made a good attempt.  The film remained loyal to the book, but took a few creative deviations that I thought worked well.

Glaringly obvious differences from the book…

Origin of Mockingjay pin – In the book, Katniss receives this pin as a gift from the Mayor of District 12’s daughter, Madge.  Each tribute is permitted to bring one “token” from his/her district into the area and the pin is Katniss’s token.  In the film, Katniss finds the pin from a vendor at the Hob (black market).  She gives the pin to Prim before the reaping and tells her it will keep her safe.  In their brief meeting to say goodbye before leaving for the Capitol, Prim gives the pin back to Katniss.  Cinna cleverly hides the pin in Katniss’s Hunger Games outfit.

Water is found waaaaay too easily – In the book, the start of The Games focuses extensively on Katniss’s search for water.  There is a point where it looks like she is going to die from dehydration.  Finding water is a BIG deal.  In the film, she finds water almost instantly.  She fills up her bottle and is off to go spear a squirrel.

Herb Schmerb - In the book, herbs and edible plants play a pivotal role in keeping Katniss alive throughout The Games.  Prim and her mother are local apothecaries and specialize in using plants and natural remedies for healing.  Katniss herself is a whiz when it comes to identifying edible vs. poisonous vegetation.  In the film, none of this is given much mention.

What Failed to Impress Me…

Green Screen from Hell – For the most part, the special effects in this movie are very well done.  However in one of the most memorable scenes from the book, I felt that the effects fell short of spectacular.  Katniss and Peeta make their grand entrance into the Capitol via horse-drawn chariot.  The close ups on the chariots just looked über fake to me.  The green screen effect was glaringly obvious – much like the very first Quidditch scenes in Harry Potter.  I was also really disappointed in their “suits on fire” during the same scenes.  I thought the flames looked ridiculously fake and computerized.

Tracker Jackers were Too Small – Yes, I know how silly that sounds.  But I pictured those bad boys to be huge.. like praying mantis large.  Instead they were just run-0f-the-mill wasps.  BOR-ING.

What Made the Movie ROCK…

The Cast – Instead of listing every last character, I will make this a blanket statement: the casting for this movie was PHENOMENAL.  Jennifer Lawrence was stunningly brilliant.  She played Katniss to sheer perfection.  My other favorite casting choice goes to Woody Harrelson who played Haymitch.  He. was. SPOT. ON.

Soundtrack and Costumes – Self explanatory.  They enhanced without hindering.

Behind the Scenes with the Gamemakers – The book version is actually told in first person by Katniss.  Since the movie is told in third person, it allowed the audience to bear witness to the Gamemakers during the games.  I thought this was FANTASTIC.  The Gamemakers are basically sitting in this NASA-mission-control-but-futureque room using these iPads from HELL to create everything from fireball-launching forest fires to the sounds of a cannon boom that announces tribute deaths.  You get an insider’s edge on why and how the arena is constantly evolving.

Another piece of information that you are entitled to learn early in the movie is that President Snow is well-aware from the get-go that Katniss has serious rebellion-poster-girl potential.  He knows that she is just a stone’s throw from turning into a bad ass revolution rebel rouser.  We get to spy on several conversations that Snow has with head Gamemaker Seneca Craine where Craine is warned not to make a martyr out of Katniss.  This was a very interesting twist, as you don’t learn the full height of just how pissed the Capitol is at Katniss until the very very end of the book version.

Gory factor = low – Let’s face it – this story is morbid.  Teenagers fight to the death in a  very Roman Colosseum atmosphere.  There is a ton of killing and bloodshed in the book.  The movie really did not focus on the actual blood and guts.  You are fully aware of the death and destruction, but it’s a tad more discreet and implied versus in-your-face.

Sob Factor – High

I am not a big crier.  But this movie literally runs you through every emotion possible and back again.

Eyes filling up and threatening to spill over – various times, especially during the reaping and right after when Prim is screaming for Katniss.

Full on tears cascading down face – Rue’s death scene.  Tragically beautiful the way it played out; and even though I knew what was coming from the book, the movie still managed to tug at the heartstrings.  The clincher was when Katniss gives the three fingered salute and the film pans to District 11 and the ensuing uprising that happens there.  This entire montage was extremely powerful.

Would I see it again?  YEP

Would I recommend this movie to others?  Without a doubt

It is important that you keep in mind that this review is based solely on my own very humble opinion.  This is a non-biased review of the film loaded with MY OPINIONS and should never be a substitute for your own.  You might think the movie sucked – that’s your choice to make.  The review above was written based 100% on my own opinions and I was not compensated in any way to share my thoughts.

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  • Donna Hup

    I love your review! I loved the books and want to see the movie (have not yet) and was worried about it being true to the book. Thanks! I’m even more excited to see it now! :)

    • Anonymous

      Thank you! I’d love to hear what you think after seeing it!

  • Outofthoughts1

    I agree with some of this. I am a huge fan of the books and was very eager to see this movie. I was totally disappointed by the tracker hackers. I imagined huge golden flying wasps with sharp stingers. I really thought Peeta was the best actor in this movie, he came across very well for me. I felt Katness had great points….. But there were some bad acting spots that she lost me. I felt that they should have spent way more money making this film what it could have been.

    • Anonymous

      Great comments, thanks. I’m glad someone else agrees about the Tracker Jackers! LOL!

      The whole time I was watching this, I just kept comparing it to the Twilight series in terms of acting and budget/special effects. While I like the Twilight books alright, I find the movies borderline painful to watch. The acting, the cheesy special effects – all of it just screams “low low low budget film” to me. In that respect, I did like that the Hunger Games filmmakers gave this one a big enough budget to give it a fighting chance against the book version. While the book version was still tops in my mind, I found this movie to be a well-enough-done movie that I could enjoy it without being disgusted. I felt the same way about the Harry Potter movies – I was a big fan of the books first, but felt that the movies were very well done and I enjoy watching them. It will be interesting to see how this trilogy plays out… they have a least set a good standard to follow with subsequent films!

  • Sheena

    I totally agree with most all of your review. I loved the movie….but loved to books more. I feel that there were some important parts left out, however completely understand time played a hindering factor. I would have liked to have seen the romance played up a little bit more than it was…honestly it didn’t consume me like it did in the book. With that said I did love the movie and I will see it again and own it when it come out. I am hoping though that the “Catching Fire” will improve in spots that were lacking in “Hunger Games”. Just like I found with “Twilight” movie each movie after did get better in my opinion. I have high hopes.

    • Anonymous

      Already wrote you back on FB – but yes, definitely agree.. would have been nice to see a little more of the romance. I look forward to Catching Fire!

  • http://www.themomoftheyear.net/ Meredith

    I am so, so glad you did this review. I am not going until Thurs., and was seriously looking for a non-news take. Thank you!

    • Anonymous

      Glad you enjoyed it – have fun at the movies this week!

      • http://www.themomoftheyear.net/ Meredith

        Saw it on Thurs. and was IN LOVE. I thought they totally aced it out and was very impressed–the acting, costumes, cinematography, etc. So nice to be so very pleased. Go Hollywood! :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/janet.krawczyk1 Janet Krawczyk

    Loved the book and the movie! I agree 100% with your review. I might add one more thing…I pictured Cinna in the book as more outrageously dressed, etc. but loved his look in the movie. Movie Cinna helped keep Kat grounded in the Capitol before entering the Arena and his appearance was a little Capitol-ish (gold eyeshadow) but keeping him simple allowed him to be truly differentiated from the other bloodthirsty residents.

    • Anonymous

      YES – I VERY much agree with that. I really liked his toned-down self b/c I thought that it kept him apart from the other Capitol peeps. It helped reinforce that he’s truly concerned for and supportive of Katniss.

  • Suehesser

    Lol..I wish I hadn’t read the book first..I found myself anticipating things that never happened.. I wish Gale was cuter.. Because it looks like he will have a leading role in the sequel..I wish Lenny kravitz had more face time..enjoyed it with my 17 yr old.. Reading the second book now!