Books · Entertainment · Movies

Hunger Games: Love it, hate it

A good movie in its own right. 

On my way to Bellingham, Wash., I made it a point to finish “The Hunger Games,” so I could be fully prepared for the movie’s release. I’m by no means a fast reader, I tend to read mostly at night to sleep. I’m just stretched thin in terms of things I like to do, but I digress.

Back to the blog at hand, I managed to finish the book, making it the second book in my history that I’ve been able to read in three days time — the first since I blitzed through the 600-plus page monster that’s called “Battle Royale” in 2004, which is what “The Hunger Games”has drawn numerous comparisons to.

Before I go on, I want to give everyone a fair chance to stop reading here. There will be spoilers and will be spoilers for “Battle Royale,” which I greatly suggest you watch just for a comparison on the difference between American and Japanese cinema. Also, I have not read “Catching Fire” or “Mockingjay.”

Alright, if you’re still reading, then I’ve assumed this A) you’ve seen or read the books or B) don’t plan on reading the book or seeing the movie.

Loved: Seeing the behind the scenes nature of “The Games”

One thing “The Hunger Games” book lacked was life outside of the world of the game. In the movie, we see the Gamemaster Seneca Crane, who in the book is a faceless person who controls what happens in the arena. Seeing how Crane worked is great for the movie because it gives Katniss and Peeta a bigger antagonist than Cato, who is really just a physical embodiment of the antagonist. We also got to see how Haymitch (who is played perfectly by Woody Harrelson) work his magic to get medicine for Katniss after she survives Crane’s man-made fire. It was also nice to see President Snow and Crane’s interactions on what the games need. It sets things up perfectly for the next two movies. Only thing I didn’t need to see: Gale’s reactions to Katniss playing the game. That’s something that can be touched on in later installments.

Hated: Blurry action scenes

Let’s face it, the PG-13 rating the movie received is for one reason and one reason only: straight cash homie. By doing so, it essentially neutered the impact of what was actually happening — teenagers killing each other because they’re told to do so and it’s the only way to survive. The cornucopia scene could have been one of those moments in movies where people ask, “Was it too much?” if the movie had received the R-rating. Instead, we received a fast-cut blur of action where we understood what was going on, but nothing was scene in great detail. The impact, supposedly, comes after the action ends when they show scenes of the deceased. OK, so it wasn’t as bad as it could be, but let’s face it, the book didn’t really temper these scenes right?

Disappointed: Character development sacrificed by pacing

Another gripe: pacing. It felt rushed for the first hour of the movie as if the director was trying to get us to the real show: The Games itself. One thing that was sacrificed by the incredible pacing is that we learn little of the of the character we needed to know about: Rue. Case in point, when Katniss faints after the trackerjacket attack, we learn that Rue healed her with leaves. Well, had I not read the book, I wouldn’t have known that Rue has a talent for healing with leaves because her district is known for agriculture. There is one thing I’m glad didn’t need explaining: Katniss’ connection to Rue. The movie did a good job at implying that Katniss cares for Rue because she reminds her of Prim. Other than that, the movie would have spent just a little bit more time giving Rue more of a presence, making her death mean a lot more instead of giving us a riot scene.

Conclusion: Battle Royale tops in book-movie convergence 

Don’t get me wrong. “The Hunger Games” is a good movie, you just have to do a much deeper job of separating book from movie. It tried to boil down the book into a focused effort. Unfortunately, it was missed the mark in that sense and instead felt more like it was setting up the next movie rather than giving us a feeling of conclusion. 
All of this brings me to “Battle Royale.” I loved the book and I loved the movie. The movie had to sacrifice the extremely rich character development that the book had, but it managed to give me a strong focused effort that put the frame on the main storyline — Shuya Nanahara and Noriko Nakagawa working with Shogo Kawada in hopes to survive the deadly game. 
If I had to rate “The Hunger Games” on a four-star scale, it would get 2 1/2 stars. Yup. I’m a tough critic sometimes.
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