The Hunger Games Movie:
The Good, The Bad,
The Interesting

If you haven’t gorged so heavily that you’re totally sick of The Hunger Games, I invite you to join me for a filling film chew. 

The Good:

The Hunger Games books are shelved in the Young Adult section, where most novels featuring female protagonists are typically thought of as for women. (Oh wait, that’s everywhere in the bookstore.) The demographic for The Hunger Games would appear to be teen girls, yet Katniss’s story has resonated with people of diverse ages and genders.

We live in a society that encourages little boys to reject all that is girly, which includes stories featuring girl characters. Boys are raised to identify only with male protagonists. The fact that boys are so captivated by Katniss’s story, and that men are invested enough to shell out for the books and the movie tickets, prove that women’s stories can and do resonate with (and make money off of) male readers and movie-goers.

Which brings me to…

The Bad:

The Bad is the flip-side of The Good: It’s 2012, and it’s a big deal when a megahit sci-fi action star is a woman.

Remember that movie, Alien? Released in 1979? I wasn’t even a twinkle in my mother’s uterus. Thirty-three years later, it’s still considered noteworthy when people who don’t identify as women are able identify with and root for female protagonists.

The Interesting:

First of all, we are the Capitol. The Hunger Games is all up on tabloids and glossies alike. At Barnes & Noble you’ll find a Hunger Games Tribute Guide and The Unofficial Hunger Games Cookbook. You can pick up Capitol Colors Colours nail polish at Hot Topic.

The Capitol. We are it. Seriously. 

Regarding the film itself:

In my eyes, the film was an incredibly faithful adaptation. No, it wasn’t the book, but it couldn’t be the book; film is a different medium entirely. I felt that, for the most part, the movie really did captured the spirit of its source material.

The biggest criticism I’ve heard from peers and reviewers alike is of the shaky camera work.

Here’s the thing: The entire Hunger Games series is a story fundamentally about the awfulness of violence. The film has to depict violence. However, to remain accessible to its PG-13 demographic, filmmakers can’t engage with gore full on, Battle Royale style.

The shaky cam seems to me to be the perfect cinematic compromise – show the violence in such a chaos of camera work that the audience experiences the violence without really seeing it. No, the viewer can’t always tell who is strangling whom, which Tribute is winning. Nor can the reader tell how events will unfold; that’s why we all devoured the books so quickly – we didn’t know what was going to happen next, and we couldn’t wait to find out.

Here’s what I find really interesting:

The Capitol isn’t shaky, and the Games are mostly only shaky during acts of violence. But the opening scenes in District 12 were shaky and abruptly edited for a sustained period of time. How did the camera work impact your viewing?

And how much did you love Elizabeth Banks and Stanley Tucci? Did you like the film’s representation of the Capitol and its denizens? What did you think of the cut to District 11? Did you cry when Prim tucked her duck tail back into her skirt before stepping forward at the reaping? (I DID.)

Readers of the book and viewers of the film: TALK TO ME ABOUT THE HUNGER GAMES!

Spoilers encouraged.

9 thoughts on “The Hunger Games Movie:
The Good, The Bad,
The Interesting

  1. I NEED TO SEE THE MOVIE AGAIN BECAUSE I WAS SO EXCITED TO BE WATCHING IT THAT I KIND OF FORGOT TO PAY ATTENTION TO IT.

    But more to the point:

    I think you’re right about the shaky camera-work being a “cinematic compromise” to keep from alienating viewers who might not be so into seeing a ton of blood and gore. When I first heard they were making the movie, my second thought (right after “OHMAHGAH I CAN’T WAIT I WANT TO WATCH IT NOWWWW”) was “Wait. How are they going to do all the horrible and horrifying violence without making people need to leave the theater to barf?”

    I think the movie-makers probably also chose not to highlight the more violent events of the Games because The Hunger Games is not supposed to actually be a hunger games–unlike the citizens of the Capitol, we as viewers are not supposed to be watching for the thrill of the violence. Violence is the point of the tournament itself, but it isn’t the point of the book/movie. If the movie were to emphasize and focus on the violence, I think it might end up unintentionally GLORIFYING that violence–which would be awful, since that’s basically as opposite the message of the series as it’s possible to be. So it was necessary to minimize the gore in order to keep us viewers from being too blatantly and uncomfortably the Capitol.

    • I completely agree. But why the shaky shaky zoom zoom all up in District 12? To prime us for later shaky cam? To convey the anxiety of the citizens of 12 on the day of the reaping? To be…interesting looking?

      I need to see it again, too. I totally identify with your SO EXCITED SO EXCITED SO EXCITED viewing experience.

      Also, remember how you and I were talking about The Hunger Games and race/racism? Check this out:

      http://jezebel.com/5896688/i-see-white-people-hunger-games-and-a-brief-history-of-cultural-whitewashing

      • Maybe to highlight the shakiness of their living situation? The tributes are fighting for survival in the arena; the citizens of 12 are fighting for survival every day in their own district.

        Or OR maybe because the Reaping is its own mini-Hunger Games? Names are thrown into a lottery instead of kids being thrown into an arena, but it’s still basically a death sentence, and everyone there is still competing with everyone else–competing not to have their name called. The shaky camerawork maybe demonstrates the lack of control in their lives.

        I don’t know though, I’d have to watch the movie again and pay specific attention to the details to know whether I’m actually making any sense right now or just rambling.

        • OOooh…I like the idea of the citizens’ lack of control, their daily fight to survive. The abruptness of the editing certainly did make viewing District 12 a rather uncomfortable experience. That makes sense because it’s an uncomfortable place to be.

          The steadiness of the Capitol makes me wonder if we’re more comfortable in the Capitol cinematically because we live in the Capitol socioculturally. Too much?

  2. In regards to your regards regarding the film itself: I agree that it was as faithful as it could be. I would have really enjoyed seeing Haymitch vomit and fall off the stage when the reaping occured, but as you pointed out in a conversation we had, it didn’t fit the “feel” of the scene. Since books are so connected to introspective imagining of events, it really is hard to make a movie feel and look like everyone imagined it AND while at the same time not leaving out huge, important parts. All in all I think it was a damn good adaptation of a damn good book. Stanley Tucci was totally awesome as Caesar Flickerman, and I think a lot of those scenes did a good job portraying how out of touch the capitol is! I mean, they are conducting interviews and laughing with Caesar and the guests in a late-night-talk-show-esque style, right before they go to SLAUGHTER each other.

    • Yeah, it would have felt too slapstick for the moment. Still, I too would have really enjoyed seeing Haymitch vomit and fall off the stage :)

      re: books = introspective
      The biggest book to film shift for me was the loss of Katniss’s interiority. A movie just can’t do that.

      Did you notice the film opened not with Katniss, but with Flickerman and Crane?

  3. Well, I’ve already decided, despite mixed (and leaning towards unfavorable) reviews, that I’m going to try to see it after work tomorrow (4/1)…not only is it a kind of “obligation” as a Bookseller to see a worthwhile movie based on a book (which unfortunately is how I got suckered into seeing “Twilight,” since I was never going to read it) but my obligation as a fan who loved reading the trilogy.

    Ah, the modern filmgoing audience…okay, we’re not exactly talking “Blair Witch Project” here, so maybe some of the camera-shaking might be overdone (in “BWP” it was to give it a kind of “amateur journalism” edge, here it’s just a film trope). However…how many members of any given audience, short of paintball or airsoft, have ever had someone stalking, hunting, or chasing them down with malice in their hearts? (okay, it won’t surprise me if a veteran or two needs to step outside to the lobby for a few moments to de-stress) Or, flipping that coin, played the “Most Dangerous Game” in real life? Again, likely only the painballers (for whom it’s simulated, but there’s GLORY on the line!) and the combat vets (who usually don’t feel that glorious about it). Would such an audience really understand the changes in vision that comes with adrenaline? Or the weird time dilation (sometimes a blur, sometimes slow-motion) fueled by rage, fear, and paranoia? Most likely not…but those can be simulated by camera tricks and CGI. In the meantime though you have an audience that just wonders why the screen goes kinda blurry here and there.

    And now for the fun part:

    HEAR ME, OTAKU, AND TREMBLE, FOR MINE VOICE IS IMPERIAL!

    When you hold a real sword (not a toy or cheesy wall-hanger) for the first time, the first thing you notice is that how the balance feels, that slight downward “pull”…as if the weapon “wants” to smite a foe. Right now that’s how the Geek Hammer feels. The Geek Hammer wants to come down on any nerd, dweeb, or otaku who wants to jump on the “BR Bandwagon”…especially since half of them probably haven’t even seen it! Our bookstore’s had Battle Royale on the shelf for years…we’re modeled for it…and to this day the only person who ever bought a copy that I know of is…me. I’d heard of the manga at the time, and figured I’d enjoy a novelization (turned out that was the original format, the manga came afterwards), and was aware of a film version but hadn’t seen it. Why hadn’t I seen it? BECAUSE NOBODY’D SEEN IT! or at least not here in North America, outside of bootleg copies or film festivals. So no, laughing at claims that Ms. Collins hadn’t heard of it until after she wrote “Hunger Games” isn’t legitimate…because likely she really hadn’t seen it, because it was finally released in North America on March 20, 2012! Oh, she might’ve read and copied the book? You mean the one even hipsters and manga-nuts AREN’T reading? Sure, you’d expect a modern author to do a little research before writing a book, especially one that, I must admit, seems so similar…but to actually hunt one down that’s been internationally BANNED into obscurity? Unlikely. Sorry otaku…you done got Geek Hammered by a bigger geek.

    As for the “toned down” violence compared to the film version of “Battle Royale” (which I saw last week…bootleg, of course…yarr!), yeah, it won’t surprise me if it’s toned down. Equally unsurprising was that it took this long for “BR” to finally see a DVD or Blu-Ray release…that film was brutal! Sure, most of the kills were with guns or explosions, but the ones that weren’t…15-year-old kids hanging themselves or jumping off cliffs so they won’t have to murder each other, the class (female) bully using a kama (harvesting cicle) to slaughter other girls that she doesn’t just shoot, and a later scene where she’s shown putting on a shirt taken from another (dead…and again 15) girl’s topless corpse actually inspired the shock in me that the filmmaker had intended. The really brutal part? The roles of most of the children (save two that were supposed to be a couple years older) that were all supposed to be 15…were played by actual 15-year olds. This was a film banned because it actually did a VERY good simulation of what it was supposed to do…show the absolute horror of schoolkids being forced by a government, for contrived, illogical reasons, to execute their own friends and classmates until only one remains. It was NOT a feel-good film. So anyone complaining that the fighting between the kids in “Hunger Games” feels cheesy…seriously, see “Battle Royale”…and check yourself into a mental institution.

    I do have to say one more quick thing about “Battle Royale”…sure, there was one actual thing that made me giggle while watching the movie: you’d think I’d be honked off that the character of the supervisor, Sakamochi, had a name change to “Kitano”. I stared, and damn Kitano looked familiar…I flitted to IMDb and found out the actor’s name was Takeshi Kitano. Foul! Changing a character’s name to match the actor’s! Where be-eth mine Geek Hammer? Waitaminit…I took a very close look at the actor’s photo..holly effenshyte, that’s Beat Takeshi! From Takeshi’s Castle! (American audiences would know hom as “Vic Romano” on the re-dubbed “Most Extreme Elimination Chalenge,” or “MXC”, on late-night Spike TV). Rest, Gekk Hammer, we shall not smite this day, for this offering pleaseth the Geek Gods!

    So see the movies, and enjoy them on their own merits…and to avoid the overused “Hunger Games” quote, I leave with one from “MXC”, more fitting for both movies and the show:

    Don’t Get Eliminated!

  4. I am actually very immune to the violence and stuff as my dad being in the air force and I think that it’s very stupid for people to be scared of what happens in real life but not in the same circumstances also I think the shaky camera is very hard to fix because a lot of the scenes are fast moving so the camera has to move too making it hard to keep still

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