Movies: ‘Hunger Games’ Well Worth It ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ◊

The Hunger Games (film)

The Hunger Games is worth the price of admission. ... (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Any time a book is made into a film, there are two ways to approach an evaluation of the film’s quality: how it fared as a book adaptation, and how it rates as a piece of entertainment in and of itself. By both measurements, The Hunger Games stacks up well.

In comparing the two forms of The Hunger Games, the movie closely follows the book, and this is a good thing. I understand that certain changes are sometimes necessary when converting book to movie, but sometimes “creative license” goes too far, as with the ending of the film version of Stephen King’s The Mist. I’m a firm believer that filmmakers should stick to the book as much as humanly possible, and that any necessary changes should be as far from drastic as possible; otherwise, it’s not really the same story, is it?

The most common book-to-movie change is the elimination of various background/description segments—things that may be okay in a novel (though even then they’re often unnecessary) but bog down a movie. If you’ve read my book reviews on The Hunger Games, you’ll know that the only significant problem I had with the book was that after a fast start, it hits a lull that’s a bit prolonged before picking up the pace the rest of the way. This is one of the few instances in which the movie didn’t follow the book, and for that I’m glad.

As far as the movie as a piece of entertainment in and of itself, apart from any comparisons to the book, The Hunger Games lives up to the hype. The acting is good on the whole, especially Jennifer Lawrence as heroine Katniss Everdeen; she plays the role perfectly, maintaining the character’s balance of “driven, no-nonsense, got-no-time-for-love-because-I-must-survive-for-my-family’s-sake-at-all-costs go-getter” and “I-didn’t-ask-for-this-and-I-wish-I-could-have-a-normal-life romantic at heart.” Stealing just a bit of the show was 13-year-old Amandla Stenberg (yes, that’s the correct spelling) as Katniss-competitor-turned-ally Rue, who’s as cute as a button and becomes Katniss’ surrogate sister during the Games.

The filmmakers did a fantastic job illustrating the absurdity of the tyrannical Capitol—the flamboyant, colorful appearance of its citizens belying their inhumane, merciless hearts—and masterfully give the story, especially the beginning, the depressing, 1984 feel it would undoubtedly have if it were real. The scenery in the arena, where most of the movie takes place, is a beautiful, stark contrast to the barbarism of the society in which the characters live, and reinforces my belief that the remote, sparsely populated wilderness is the place to be.

Sticking with my diamond method for rating books, I give The Hunger Games movie four out of five diamonds, the less-than-perfect score owing to the fact that in spite of all its positives, my favorite stories are those that have a “killer moment”—a twist ending, for example, or a mind-blowing concept, or a super-intriguing mystery to solve—and The Hunger Games doesn’t have that. But that’s okay; it’s a faithful adaptation of the source material, and a great piece of entertainment, not to mention that outside of the violence it’s family friendly (no cussing, no sex). I give it a strong recommendation.

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