Thursday, March 29, 2012

Book Hungry VS Movie Hungry: THE HUNGER GAMES

Long ago (July 2010 to be exact), in a land far, far away (the Twitterverse), amidst the myriad conversations all cropping up around them, a pack of Twitterific gals gabbed about a certain book.  One that inspired passionate responses from those who had read it and more than a little uncertainty from those who hadn't. 

After much discussion, the gals who had read this book had browbeat the others into jumping into the world of THE HUNGER GAMES.  Thus, our virtual book club, very aptly named Book Hungry was born.  Now more than a year later, the movie is out, and we all thought, what better way to celebrate our book-clubdom than to review the movie version of the book that launched such a great little group?

This is the part where I normally give you the deets on what the book movie was all about.  But, considering you'd have to be an alien from the darkest recesses of deep space to not have heard a little bit about THE HUNGER GAMES, I'm going to just launch right into my thoughts on the movie.

I will admit that I'm a pretty harsh critic when it comes to books being made into movies.  For me, the movie almost always falls far short of the book.  Undue emphasis is placed on (in my opinion) inconsequential subplots.  Major themes get lost in translation.  The whole feel just ends up as something completely different.

This was so not the case with THE HUNGER GAMES.  In fact, I spent about 95% of the movie thinking, "This is exactly how I pictured it!"  How the producers hijacked the images in my brain is beyond me, but I'm so glad they did.  From the opening scenes as Katniss is skittering through District 12, through the unmanned, unpowered fence, and into the woods beyond, I was thrilled with how closely the reality of life in the district matched my own inner imaginings. 

Then, the Reaping.  Exactly.  As.  I.  Pictured. IT.  GUH.  Best scene of the...beginning of the movie.  Honestly, there were so many great moments that I couldn't pick just one favorite.  Or could I?

Okay.  Okay.  You twisted my arm. 

*spoiler alert*  If you haven't read the books (I'm not naming any names but her initials are Linda Grimes) or seen the movie yet, you may want to avert your eyes for this next little bit.  Sorry.

Rue's farewell scene.  Double...no, no...TRIPLE GUH.  I mean, we all know it's coming.  We think we're ready for it.  But, in reality, we're not really.  And when it actually happens?  Holy tear tracks, Batman.  Diehard HG fans might bemoan the loss of the pivotal "bread" scene that comes hot on the heels of this one in the book, but I think there was a great trade-off with the District 11 response to Katniss' actions that was portrayed in the movie.

Which makes a nice segue for my next discussion point.  The books were written in first person.  While this is by far my favorite perspective to read in, it can be very limiting.  The reader only knows as much as the MC.  This was where the movie really shined for me.  Not only do we get to see everything that happens with Katniss in the arena, but we get glimpses into the behind the scenes action, what goes into decisions made and how the game is controlled.  Not just that, but we also get to see how the people, both in the Capitol and in the Districts, see the Games play out.  I love that.  I also love how they explain little things, like the Tracker Jackers with the Games' announcer's commentary while the action is happening.  Perfect for those who are seeing the movie without benefit of having devoured the books first. 

As for the cast.  I have to admit that I was both excited and concerned about some of the casting choices.  But after seeing the movie, here are my thoughts.
  • Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss: Girl turned it out.  From her volunteering as tribute to the scene with Cinna just before the beginning of the Games to her interactions with Peeta, I believed every emotion she felt.  I worried for her.  I cheered for her.  I just loved her as Katniss.
  • Josh Hutcherson as Peeta Mellark: Honestly, this was the one that worried me.  While reading HG, I always pictured Peeta as brawnier, what with his having to lug those heavy flour sacks all over the place.  In fact, when Alexander Ludwig (Cato) showed his mug on screen, I thought, "That's what Peeta should look like."  Let's face it people, Peeta gave Cato pause in the book at first simply because of his size.  It was only when his soft-hearted nature came out that the others looked at him like he was prey.  HOWEVER.  I will say that Josh pulled out the character of Peeta as a human.  He really harnessed the full Peeta-ness, so I suppose I can accept him as my Peeta.
  • Liam Helmsley as Gale:  Perfection.  All I expected of the actor to play Gale.  Enough said.
  • Woody Harrelson as Haymitch:  I've said this many times already, but I will say it again.  I ALWAYS pictured Woody as Haymitch, and he made my day as the old drunk.  Loved him!
  • Amandla Stenberg as Rue:  Rue.  GUH.  Rue.  This girl was exactly as I pictured her in the book.  Small, cute, innocent.  Someone to remind Katniss of her sister, and Amandla did it so well, that I was a sloppy mess during that scene we already talked about.  GUH. Rue.
  • Lenny Kravitz as Cinna:  Cinna was one of my favorite characters in the book.  He was also the hardest for me to picture while reading.  With all the other characters Collins introduced to us, I could imagine them instantly, but Cinna was a bit of an enigma to me.  And, I admit to being a bit concerned with the casting choice.  Cinna is a character that is so integral in his own way.  He's not just a stylist.  He's almost like a mentor, protector, friend, and confidant to Katniss, all under the guise of making her "pretty".  Lenny Kravitz could have so easily veered sharply to the left with Cinna and gone too flamboyant, too over-the-top.  Happily enough, he did none of that.  His portrayal of Cinna was quiet and powerful and beautifully done.  Great job Lenny!
Whew!  This post has turned into a ramble and half, hasn't it?  Well, that's my take on this month's Book Hungry book movie selection.  Have you read the books?  Seen the movie yet?  What are your thoughts?  Check my fellow Book Hungry pals' takes on THE HUNGER GAMES movie: Kelly, Patty, Abby  

Until next month when we dissect PARADISE by Judith McNaught.