Writing this post feels a little silly, simply because The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins is a worldwide phenomenon and hardly needs to be recommended to anyone at this point. However, since I neglected to discuss the series this summer when I finally read it for the first time, and since the movie was absolutely fantastic, I couldn’t resist the urge to chat about the series and all its forms with all of you!
Let’s start from the beginning: the books. I’m not going to summarize the plots, since (1) you can find dozens of well-written synopsi elsewhere on the web and (2) I don’t want to reveal any spoilers. I wouldn’t call myself a diehard fan of the series – maybe more like avid. My level of admiration for The Hunger Games is nowhere near my Harry Potter devotion, but is definitely greater than my basic enjoyment of the Twilight saga. I couldn’t put the first book (The Hunger Games) down. I found the idea of a dystopian future interesting and the concept of the Hunger Games disturbing yet weirdly fascinating. All the characters are well-developed, revealing their humanity through both their strengths and weaknesses despite the troubling nature of their society. I really admire Katniss as a heroine, as she is smart, strong, independent, and caring. I also found the story itself to be particularly action-packed. I found the second book, Catching Fire, to be just as engaging and action-driven. I really liked the increasing complexity of the relationships between various characters and the growing questions about the society and its government. I still have trouble deciding which of the first two books I like more. I do know, at least after my initial reading of the series, that the third and final book, Mockingjay, was my least favorite (a sentiment several of my friends share). However, once I started to really think about it, I think it was because I was expecting Mockingjay’s action to be as driven by survival and manipulation as the first two books, where as it is actually much more driven by the political storyline of the trilogy. I think if I had known before reading it that Mockingjay‘s focus was going to be more political (for lack of a better word) than The Hunger Games and Catching Fire, I would have enjoyed it more. Probably just as much! Overall, I was pretty satisfied with how everything played out and how Mockingjay ended. I’d really like to read the whole series over again sometime soon – I feel like it’s one of those series you enjoy more and more with each reading.
Now: the movie. As I’ve noted, I enjoy most movies I see. This fact is especially true if the movie is based off of a book or some other story of which I am already a fan. The Hunger Games was no exception to this rule, though I truly feel the movie was an excellent adaptation of the book. Erin of Forever Young Adult summed it up especially well: “I thought it made a solid (though too long) movie from a book that spends a lot of time in the main character’s head.” (However, I disagree about the length. While it was a little over 2.5 hours, it didn’t drag.)
The movie was extremely well-casted. Jennifer Lawrence was just brillant. I can’t imagine another young actress who could play Katniss Everdeen as well as she did, especially considering how complex of a character Katniss starts off as and continues to become throughout the series. I was at first skeptical of Josh Hutcherson as Peeta Mellark, but after seeing the movie, feel as though he is a perfect fit for the character and had great chemistry with all of his castmates. Gale Hawthorne, played by Liam Hemsworth, does not have that large of a role in the first installment of the series, so I don’t have much to say about Hemsworth’s performance other than it was pleasantly done. Elizabeth Banks, Lenny Kravitz, and Woody Harrelson, as Effie Trinket, Cinna, and Haymitch Abernathy, respectively, were all impressive in their roles (especially Banks). I’m excited to see their performances as their characters develop further in the series. The young supporting cast members were also superb, particularly Willow Shields as Primrose Everdeen (Katniss’s younger sister), Amandla Stenberg as Rue, and Alexander Ludwig as Cato. Oh, and it pretty much goes without saying that Donald Sutherland (as President Snow) and Stanley Tucci (as Caesar Flickerman) were excellent, per usual.
Aside from the wonderful casting (which truly made the movie), I liked the overall atmosphere and style of the film (the cinematography, the score, the color palette, make-up, costume design, etc.), as it all contributed to how engaging the film was. The only complaint I had about the film was in regards to its handling of the love triangle between Peeta, Katniss, and Gale. Without giving too much away for anyone reading this who is unfamiliar with the book or movie, I basically wish the movie could have portrayed Katniss’s inner monologue on the issue a bit more. I think it was portrayed pretty well considering there’s no narration in the movie (which would have been weird) and satisfyingly enough if you’ve already read the books, but I feel it may cause people who only see the movies to draw different conclusions about the love triangle than people who have read. I concede it’s a pretty strange point to be picky over, but as my friends and I discussed this week, there seems to be a consistent pattern in YA media in which a female protagonist has to be in love (or some sort of love triangle, apparently), and I think the books do a great job of making the romance issue a more complex, organic, and connected to the overall storyline than a basic teenage love story.
In any case, I can’t wait to see the next installments of the film series! I expect I’ll be visiting the theater another time or two in the next few weeks in attempt to tide myself over ; )
Have you read The Hunger Games series? What did you think of it? Did you like the movie?