Monday, March 26, 2012

Review: "The Hunger Games"

Over the past three days, I’ve had three questions tossed at me: 
  1.  Should I read The Hunger Games before I see the movie?
  2.  Should I take my kids to see "The Hunger Games" in the theatre?
  3.  And finally, after catching "The Hunger Games" on the big screen last night during opening weekend, “How was the movie?” 

Since it’s hard to review a movie without tossing lots of spoilers in (and spoilers really aren’t fair when you’re one of the only people you know who snuck out to see it opening weekend), I figure I’ll catch these instead!

Should You Read the Book First?

Let me start off by saying that I’ve had a dozen people ask me this since I scooted out to see the movie last night, and I’m no closer to being able to answer it than I was before.

It should be noted that I’m a dedicated book snob. 9.8 times out of 10 the book is much-much-much better than the movie. Things move at a slower pace. You get a better look at the inside of the characters’ heads. There’s an opportunity for more detail, smaller events, that can set the tone for the story but would take up too much time in the movie.

When I heard that The Hunger Games was coming out on film, I told my kids if they’d read the book first I’d take them to see the movie. After watching the movie, I’m not sure if I made the right call there. On one hand, there are giant gaps in the movie that don’t make a great deal of sense if you haven’t read the book. The screenwriter clearly counted on their audience already being familiar with the book. (I spent most of the first twenty minutes leaning over whispering explanations in my husband’s ear-I suspect he was ready to duct tape my mouth shut before it was all said and done.)

Not having a clue what was going on would have made parts of the movie extremely frustrating. It definitely loses something in translation. On the other hand, as with most book adaptations, there were giant parts of the story that were cut out. It hopped between major plot points without lingering too long over any of them, leaving huge gaps in the action, in events and in the characters’ thoughts that the book would close. So if you haven’t already read the book, think of it as…one of those really awesome movie companions. You get to see all kinds of cool and interesting things that didn’t happen on screen.

So should you read the book before you see the movie? Honestly, I’d say it’s up to you.

Should You Take Your Kids to See "The Hunger Games"?

By the end of the first day, "The Hunger Games" had made a splash. For what? For an excess of death, blood and violence in a story primarily intended for kids.

24 go in. 1 comes out. What exactly did they expect? If you’ve read the book, you know that the entire story is a testament to one young woman’s will to stay alive at any cost. There’s blood. There’s violence. But for the amount of death that takes place in a book like The Hunger Games, the gore was kept to a minimum. It was much more PG than I was expecting it to be.

My 9 and 11 year old went to see it, and I was fine with that. There were a few points where the kids jumped, and I think my daughter covered her eyes at one point. The makers did a good job keeping the more grisly aspects of the games to a minimum. If your kids are prone to nightmares, are easily frightened or flinch from the violence in television shows and cartoons intended for older children, this is a movie best watched at home-or when they’re a little older. On the other hand, if they’re fine with all of that, they’ll probably be okay.

At the point, the question is whether or not you’re okay with your children watching the Games play out on the big screen.

So How Was It, Really?

This is the part where I have to roast a film that had a $214 million opening weekend. The screenwriter who created "The Hunger Games" was guilty of the same crime as the people who created the first (and the last, if we’re going to be honest) adaptations of the Twilight books. They coasted on the success of the book, without putting nearly enough effort into creating a film designed to stand on its own.

The movie itself was 2.5 hours long; obviously some concessions had to be made for time. Despite that, I felt that parts of the movie that should have been allowed to play out were cut short, and parts that should have been cut short (or ignored altogether) dragged on for eternity. Some of the best moments in the book, moments that cemented your relationship with the characters, were nowhere to be seen.

Overall, I’d give "The Hunger Games" three stars. It wasn’t a bad movie. My kidlets both loved it. And we’ll probably go see the second one when it comes out. But unless you’re a die-hard fan of The Hunger Games and absolutely, positively can’t wait to see it on the big screen, I’d say you won’t lose a thing by waiting for it to come out on DVD.

Did you go see “The Hunger Games”? What did you think?


Anonymous said...

Think I will pass, saw trailer. I'm prone to nightmares.

Dan O. said...

Take away the hullabaloo surrounding the film adaptation of Suzanne Collins’ best-selling young adult book and what you have is an absorbing film with a dire premise that stands pretty much on its own. Lawrence is also the stand-out here as Katniss and makes her seem like a real person rather than just another book character brought to life on film. Good review Rae.