Title: The Hunger Games [John’s Take]
Released: 2012

Source Material
Title: The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games #1)
Suzanne Collins
The Hunger Games


See Also: Sarah’s Take

Hello to everyone!!! The lovely Sarah invited me to share my impressions of the Hunger Games film and that is what I have come to do. I even decided not to read any reviews of the film before I post this! And this is coming from someone who reads recaps of TV shows that he NEVER intends to watch. I usually devour reviews of films I like.

I humbly present to you one dude’s review. Funny thing is, I was going to turn up here and be all like “I like this thing because I’m a boy and I wanted more of the killing and stuff!” but it just didn’t really apply. Which means either that the Hunger Games film was aimed at boys, or it’s just a good film that evades my clumsy attempts to write a blog post about it in character. I have decided it was the latter. Yay!

First things first. I need to be honest with you all. Because, you know, we’re friends now. Like best friends. Forever. Like in that film Single White Female. Just like that. That was a lovely film about friendship. It’s all about honesty. I had preconceptions going in to see the film. I may as well lay them out here.

  • The film overall probably wasn’t going to be that good.
  • Lenny Kravitz was a terrible choice for Cinna (or for anything, really).
  • The actors picked for Gale and Peeta were terrible.
  • Harrelson doesn’t quite fit as Haymitch.
  • Elizabeth Banks and Stanley Tucci are BOSSING IT in the trailers.
  • I love Donald Sutherland in everything.

I know, that’s a lot of baggage to bring into a film, right? Just to clarify, while I’m at it, I enjoyed the books very much indeed. Perhaps my enthusiasm dimmed a little towards the end of Mockingjay, but overall I really thought the books were wonderful. In particular, I like the message that Collins presses throughout her story. You know, advocating tolerance and compassion and freedom in the face of oppression and all that good stuff? But I digress. Let’s get back to my preconceptions.

Lenny Kravitz was indeed awful.

I’m sorry. I really thought he stank the place up, although he wasn’t around much. Cinna has a pretty brief role. It’s almost as if he’s only there to keep fans happy. He has the moment with Katniss before she goes up into the Arena but otherwise… Maybe I’m misremembering the first book but I feel like he was a really, REALLY important character and expected some more screen time. His team of stylists didn’t make the cut at all, though personally I was rather relieved by that decision. All in all, it was really for the best from my point of view. I don’t give a monkeys about all the fashion stuff in the books and I thought Kravitz was terrible. He just kind of stands there and does a good impression of Lenny Kravitz. At one point I was overcome with the notion that he was about to break into “Are you gonna go my way.” This might have made me like his portrayal more. All I really remember about his character is gold eyeliner, which is a pity.

The actor playing Gale was in the film for about thirty seconds, but that thirty seconds leads me to believe he is crap at acting, although very good at having big arms, which to be fair was the impression I had of the character from the books (has big arms, doesn’t do much before becoming a possibly unwitting mass murderer). Gale… well, I won’t talk too much about him because it’s not fair. He’s barely in the film. The actor playing Peeta, however, really wasn’t all that bad. In fact, the character didn’t annoy me as much as he does in the books. Although, there’s more to come! I will say that Peeta was nowhere near as irritating in the film as I found him in all three books. The actor did a decent job, and overall it worked, although the rivalry between them early on in the story was mostly glossed over. Frankly, that whole subplot had me rolling my eyes anyway, so again, solid result for me! I suppose if there was anything critical I could say about Peeta as he’s portrayed in the film, I would say that the love story came across as an equally emphatic waste of time as it did in the book. Their little moments in the cave were the only points in the film where I felt time distinctly drag. Also, Peeta was in shape in this film. Wasn’t he supposed to be a bit… doughy, starting out?

Woody Harrelson does a pretty good job. 

To be fair, I love Woody Harrelson. I’ve been watching Cheers recently. Go and watch Woody-era Cheers. It’s great. He was an awful lot better than I thought he would be as Haymitch. Then again, I do like Woody Harrelson a lot. The decision to make his motivation and his pain more clear earlier on was an interesting one. I like it, although I was surprised at how quickly he got off the booze. I suppose it might have made the character too much to deal with. Before I saw the movie, I had concerns about his hair and his overall youthfulness, but he came out of it reasonably well. Although… well, I really liked Haymitch as a character. He had a lot of resonance, he’s a vital mentor in every sense to Katniss, and his own personal demons made him one of the most well realized characters in the series. So… it was a bit odd that he suddenly kicks the drink and becomes the magical in charge of getting things done man.

In general, the additions/changes did make sense though, although the shaky cam was giving me seizures with the little outbreak in District 11. I had no idea what was going on. You could have told me they broke out into a spontaneous rave and I’d believe you. In addition to that, I don’t know… I didn’t envision the people of District 11 having a tender moment watching Katniss on TV and then instantly rebelling against the power of the Capitol. Like, not that exact second, you know? But hey, not a major issue. At all. It just felt a little weird.

While I’m at it… So. Much. Shaky. Cam. Shaky. What the eff? Maybe I’m just getting old, but I had no idea what was going on at times. I actually remember thinking “thank God they’re leaving District Shaky Cam” when they got on the train, having assumed that it was some kind of narrative device to highlight how down and dirty District 12 is. However, the camera kept shaking! Seriously, I got really frustrated at times. There were action scenes where I had no idea what was going on. When Thresh saves Katniss, I actually thought to myself “Gee, I’m glad I read the book.” It’s weird, too. I’d understand if it was a way of getting around the PG-13, but man there was plenty of child murder in this film.

Elizabeth Banks and Stanley Tucci BOSS IT. They. BOSS. IT.

I really thought Elizabeth Banks was great, although she was coping with fairly limited time on screen. She nails Effie, weird fashion and all, and she helped me get past it. I had been fairly concerned that the movie would just turn me off completely aesthetically from the start, but Banks helped to sell this bizarre appearance as something that fit perfectly well. Stanley Tucci was also marvelous and may even have saved the film. Seriously, he made those cheesy commentator-on-tv spots late on seem worthwhile. I wasn’t expecting to enjoy the interview sessions very much but they ended up being a major highlight of the film, for me. Tucci was magnificent as Flickerman, the embodiment of vacuous Capitol entertainment culture but hugely likeable all the same. Beneath all of the cynicism, the vacuous cruelty of the capitol, people are good underneath. Tucci expressed this perfectly as the spokesperson for this evil contraption designed to hold people down. He really leaves you thinking that deep down Flickerman is a human being just trying to hang on and cope as best he can. Ok, way deep down. But it’s there. Tucci brought a ton of depth to parts of the film I wasn’t sure would work at all.

Donald Sutherland is wonderful. 

Honestly, during one of his scenes I was convinced I could smell that awful scent that Snow carries around with him. He makes exposition riveting. Utterly fantastic, another lovely bit of casting. One of my biggest concerns was proven completely unfounded. Strong performances outweighed weak ones overall. In the main, characters were believable, and you have to be proud of them for this: bringing these characters to life without falling into ridiculousness is easier said than done.

Oftentimes it felt like there was a bit of maneuvering around the source material to make it work. The bigger role for Seneca Crane was interesting for example, although it was weird that he was a bigger character than Cinna. Wes Bentley did a good job despite the silly facial hair, and who DID order that pig? Did he ever find out?

The relationship with Rue was done right, and that was major. 

Cato was a great bad guy, which was also extremely important. The careers in general… oh man. It was chilling to see them strolling around in the woods and chatting like the teenagers they are, except that rather than discussing attractive people or music they’ll hate in three years they are planning mass murder.

Perhaps I am just influenced by the fact that the changes that were made suited my personal tastes, but the film as a whole struck me as a fabulous interpretation of the book. I do wonder what the film is like for people who haven’t read the books though. There were several occasions where I felt like I was fitting in the blanks. I gave up on the Harry Potter films about two installments ago because I had just lost all interest and felt completely lost. People who have read the books can’t get enough of it though. I went to see Hunger Games with four people, each of whom had read the books. I’d love to hear more from people who haven’t read the book but gave the film a shot.

So there we go. Overall, I liked the film very much. I really thought they did a wonderful job. I’ve been reading here and there that it was a bit long, but I thought they did a remarkable job pacing the story as a whole. I had forgotten just how much information was in the book to start with, actually. Within minutes of the film starting, I felt relief. Then I felt Lenny Kravitz. Then Stanley Tucci took over and it was plain sailing from there.

About the Contributor:

This post was written by John Harney.

This post was written by a guest writer or former contributor for Forever Young Adult.