3 Kissed Fingers to The Hunger Games Movie

Posted Mar 29 2012, 7:00 am in , , , , , ,

My Bookhungry book club formed over a year ago around The Hunger Games book – in fact, it was our first book review. So, what better tribute (ha ha, pun intended) than to review the movie? Warning! Spoilers ahead.

"The Hunger Games Movie Poster"

We saw the movie during its opening weekend and discussed it. I took my son even though he’d seen it on opening night.

Brief aside: Karla, Abby, and Kelly, thank you so much for letting my son join our discussion. He really enjoyed talking to all of you.

As a book club member and an author, you can well imagine what a book worm I am. It’s not often a movie adaptation pleases me. The Twilight movies kinda sucked… pretty boys to look at notwithstanding. The Harry Potter movies were excellent, as were The Lord of the Rings… but even still, there is usually so much story slashed out of the scripts that the movies suffer.

I did not find that to be true for The Hunger Games. This movie remained very true to the book.

My son and I talked about the groups of people who would see this movie. In one group, there are the book fans – The Purists. This is the group that read all three books and fell in love with the story, the characters, before a movie studio executive even heard about them. The Purists are a movie’s harshest audience. Then, you’ve got your After-The-Fact Readers. This is the group that will pick up the book after they’ve seen the movie, only because it was a movie. They’re usually easy to please. And last, you’ve got your Movie-Only people who have no interest in books at all. This group is also hard to please because the movie has to stand on its own merits so that they understand all the nuances and character flaws and subplots as they’re portrayed on screen with no inside hints.

I classify myself as a Purist.

When I learned about movie plans, I worried. Please God, don’t let it be another Twilight. I LOVE the Twilight books; I’ve read them all more than once. But the movie? Meh, even though it had Robert Pattinson. (I’m a big fan!) When the cast of The Hunger Games was announced, I was immediately pleased. Jennifer Lawrence was nominated for an Academy Award for her last role so YIPEE! our Katniss can act. As for Peeta and Gale, I was less concerned with the final selections for their roles because for me, the movie — like the book it was based on — is all about Katniss. I am neither Team Gale nor Team Peeta… I didn’t really care who she ended up with – only that she survived.

Purists understand Katniss is a strong, brave, determined and fiercely loyal girl. We also understand she’s a teenager. This is a tough balancing act – creating a hero who is at once brave but afraid, strong but vulnerable, tough but kind. Jennifer Lawrence couldn’t BE more perfect in this role. I had to clap a hand over my mouth to prevent my sobs from disturbing other theater-goers during The Reaping scene. I’d already forgotten she was an actor – to me, she WAS Katniss, protecting her sister. But the most potent scene in the movie was in the moments before Katniss must enter the tube that will transport her to the game arena. She talks to Cinna, quivering in her shoes, and can barely speak. Her tension and fear were so palpable, I wasn’t at all surprised to discover I was also shaking and struggling to breathe.

The movie did the book proud. The scenes where the movie deviated from the book worked well. The book is told in Katniss’s first person POV but the movie treated us to the Game Makers’ behind-the-scenes strategizing, which further drives home the Capitol’s horrifying persecution of the very people that support it. However, for the Movie-Only crowd, I’m afraid some of the subtleties were lost, like why Katniss’s mother is so unemotional, or why Haymitch is barely sober. There were a few glaring issues for me – first is that Katniss used the wrong hand to salute Rue after her death. The three-kissed-fingers salute uses the left hand according to the book, yet she used her right. But overall, the deviations didn’t detract from the story. As proof, read Kelly’s review: her husband has not read the books but found the movie enjoyable in its own right.

If forced to find fault, I’d pick the shaky cam action — it actually made me ill. And also, the lack of on-screen violence. Remember, this is a horribly violent story. Kids are competing to the death and they do die. But the battles were pretty sanitized in order to win that PG13 rating. Some members of the team thought it was better to force us to imagine these gruesome ends instead of witness them. I agree, but I do think we should have seen at least the survivors’ reactions to these deaths. Twenty-four enter but only one leaves. This has GOT to be a terrifying thing to know.  To support my argument, the scene where Rue catches a spear through the stomach is out-freakin’-standing… one of the most well-acted and poignant moments in a movie for me.

Like the book before it, I give the Hunger Games movie three kissed fingers of the LEFT hand and a standing O.


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4 responses to “3 Kissed Fingers to The Hunger Games Movie”

  1. well said. i loved the movie. yes, there were things that were missed. like you said, backstory on haymitch and katniss’ mom. but all in all it was a great movie! can’t wait for Catching Fire

    ps…i will admit it. i am the one who liked the glossed over violence bit for exactly why you said. but, hey that’s me.

  2. abby mumford says:

    i’ve said it before and i’ll say it again, patty, i ADORE the way you rate things. this rating is particularly poignant because the three fingered salute is so powerful. i actually got chills reading it because i could picture the scenes in the movie where that happens…

    anyways, the rating was just the beginning, as your review is outstanding. i love your reasoning behind not being team gale or team peeta, but rather team katniss. your review makes me want to see this again!

    p.s. we’re glad chris was able to join the discussion! he’s always got great insights.

  3. I liked this movie, but I wanted to love it. I can’t quite work out why I didn’t. The cast were excellent, even those in minor roles, the additional scenes worked well, and the movie stayed reasonably true to the book. I just didn’t get the wow factor that I was hoping for, and I don’t know why.

  4. Kelly Breakey says:

    Like you I loved the moment right before she is launched into the games. Her reaction to saying what she believes to be Goodbye to Cinna was so spot on perfect that you had to feel it. In that moment I was the one rising to the surface, I was the one shaking and sweating and mentally preparing myself for what come next, even though I already knew it. While there were parts of the book that I did miss, I think my biggest problem is I started to get the other books mixed up with the first one. I had decided not to re read the book before the movie preview, because I didn’t want to be disappointed in case to much was left out. I will not do that next time. I will be reading the night before we go to the movies so I don’t get confused again.