Before I get too far into this, let’s just all agree that there will be spoilers in this post, both about the movie and about the book. You have been warned.
I don’t even know how to talk about it. Several people I know, both online and off, have said that it’s probably the best book-to-film adaptation they’ve ever seen and I have to agree. In most films that are based on my favorite books (the Harry Potter films come to mind), I always come away enjoying them, but feeling as if something was missing, something was lacking. Not this time.
I’ll start off with the (very few) complaints I had, although they are extremely minor. I went to the movie with my husband, who has not read the book. I needed someone who was going in with no expectations, not really knowing much about the story, except for what you get to see in the trailer. He had some complaints, mostly saying that there seemed to be a lot of backstory that was missing. And that is true. The greater backstory was one of the things that had to be sacrificed. We are given just enough to know what’s going on and that’s about it. Also left out were some of the more brutal, disturbing parts of the games, particularly the huge beasts created from the remains of the fallen tributes. The beasts are there, but they are basically just big dogs. Still scary as hell, but not as twisted as the version in the book.
There was also a lot of relying on the shaky hand-held camera to soften some of the violence, or at least make it harder to see clearly. Because there is definitely violence. A lot of it. I think they just barely got the PG-13 rating. The shaky camera is incredibly hard to watch at times because it is incredibly disorienting. This is not a bad thing in smaller doses, since we are supposed to feel disoriented and scared through the Games, but I think it was overused just a bit.
Now the good stuff. I’ll start with the casting. In a word – AWESOME! Jennifer Lawrence was perfect as Katniss. She seemed to just get it. You could see how emotionally invested she was in the part with every movement, every glance, every word. Also good was Josh Hutcherson as Peeta. He was sweet and adorable, but had also had a gravity to him. You could see how much he cared about Katniss and how desperate their situation was. I thought the two of them together worked very well. Other standouts: Woody Harrelson as Haymitch and Lenny Kravitz as Cinna. I wish we had seen more of them. I also loved Stanley Tucci as the game show host Cesar Flickerman and Amandla Stenberg as sweet little Rue.
The movie was visually stunning as well. It was easy to see and feel the grittiness of District 12, contrasted with the luxurious, sleek and colorful Capitol. Another thing that was nice was that we got to see outside the Games, which was impossible in the book since we stay in Katniss’ head the whole time. We got to see the Gameroom, which was just amazing. It was a bit chilling to see how technical the whole thing was to those people. When they initiate a wall of fire in order to either kill Katniss or, at least, chase her back to the other Tributes, the Head Gamemaker simply says, “Get ready for another cannon.” (For anyone who hasn’t read the book, they fire a cannon shot every time someone dies.) He was so matter-of-fact about it. We also got to see some of the reactions of the people in the Districts, the beginnings of the revolution that Katniss will find herself in the middle of.
The terrors of the games themselves had to be more understated than in the book, but it was very, very close to what I pictured. Because of this, the movie was very hard to watch at times. I spent most of the time very tense, because even though I knew what was coming, I didn’t exactly know what to expect. I knew that the swarm of tracker-jackers was going to attack (and I have a bee phobia, which was fun). I knew Rue was going to die and she was so adorable, I didn’t want to watch it. I will be seeing the movie again this weekend, and it will be easier now because I know how these things were handled.
So overall, I would definitely recommend this movie to both fans of the book and people who haven’t read the book yet. My husband also enjoyed the movie and will be going to see it with me again this weekend. He has also agreed to read the book, although my copy now has a waiting list (my mother, her housemate, another friend, then maybe my husband).