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The Hunger Games (film) – A Review

August 7, 2012

So, it turns out eleven hour flights across the Atlantic have their perks. I never got to see The Hunger Games in the cinema, despite absolutely adoring the book as you will remember from my previous review . So, when presented with the opportunity to watch it during my flight, as soon as the entertainment became available, I was there hammering away at the touch screen getting it to load.

I’d heard mixed things about the adaptation of The Hunger Games. People who’d read the book absolutely raved about it, and of the people who hadn’t, some really liked it and some just didn’t quite “get it”. Personally, I loved it. I was bound to – I couldn’t get enough of the books and love everything about them. However, it does seem to be an adaptation made very much with the book in mind – there are a lot of occasions where, if you aren’t already on very familiar terms with the first novel in Suzanne Collins’ trilogy, unexplained gaps of knowledge open up. For example, you know that Katniss’s father is dead, but none of the detail about how he died is made apparent in the film. In itself it’s not an important detail, but when you consider it in the context of Katniss’s relationship with Gale and how their friendship came about, it feels as important to their character development in the film series as it is in the books.

In fact, flimsy relationships between characters is one of the biggest flaws of this film. Having read the book, I’m able to fill in the gaps and ignore it because I know what should be there, but for a person watching this film on its own merit, it does just looks superficial. Do I care though? Not really. I love The Hunger Games.

The other problem I have with this film is how the trailer portrays it compared to how it actually is. The trailer sells the film as really action packed and intense, which, let’s face it, just isn’t how it is. The Hunger Games is a slow burn. There’s a lot that happens before Katniss and Peeta get into the arena – a lot of important stuff, but not running through burning forests or killing other tributes stuff. Those things happen all quite intensely in a short space of time, and some of what could have been the best action scenes in the film are sort of glossed over because everything is told from Katniss’s perspective and the audience sees what she sees. And, at the end of the day, this film is only a 12A certificate and the novel lives in the teen reading section of bookshops, so for a target audience of 11-16 year olds the level of action and violence is fine. The premise of children being pitted against children and made to fight to the death isn’t the most politically correct of topics but when your whole production hinges on how you depict it… Do you want to show children stabbing each other, shooting each other, beating each other to death? Do you want to condone those sort of acts or in any way suggest that that sort of behaviour is acceptable? Of course not. So, you do what you have to do.

On reflection, this doesn’t seem like I’m giving The Hunger Games a very good review. That isn’t what I’ve intended at all because I really, really do like this film. I think it’s a fantastic adaptation from the original novel and I cannot wait for my pre-ordered Blu-ray copy to arrive in the post sometime in September. Nor can I wait to see what they do with Catching Fire. I really hope that this trilogy goes in a similar way to the Twilight saga, where each film has been bigger than the previous and has turned out to be something of a phenomenon. There is an extraordinary amount that can be done when adapting these novels, even within the restrictions posed by creating child-on-child violence for a teenage target audience. It’s already been announced that Mockingjay will be split into two, as seems to be the fashion in Hollywood these days, and hopefully that means they’re planning to do something really spectacular. I mentioned before that The Hunger Games is, plotwise, a slow burn. Let’s just hope that the same can be said of it from the production side too and what comes next proves just how sensational this set of stories is.

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