Like much of America, I too saw The Hunger Games the Friday it opened. I read the series (twice) and loved it. Let me clarify, I loved books one and two (The Hunger Games and Catching Fire) and did not love book three (Mockingjay), but at least it gave me some sense of closure with characters I had come to love. And so I eagerly monitored the casting choices and other developments, as The Hunger Games became a movie.
I had high hopes, but am sad to say that I was underwhelmed and am completely confused by the rave reviews from fans and critics alike. Those feelings aside, I still enjoyed the movie and give it a grade B/B+, but I am so disappointed that what could have been AMAZING was only GOOD.
Here are my problems with the film:
- The Mockingjay pin. The pin is a significant item that comes to symbolize Katniss and the revolution in books two and three. A pin bought on a whim at the market has no meaning. In the novel, the mayor’s daughter gives Katniss the pin and we later learn that it belonged to her aunt, the girl who participated in the games the year that Hamisch won. Not sure how they will be able to resolve this issue in the next films…maybe they will simply avoid it altogether.
- The Capitol was not impressive. Yes, it contrasted District 12, but I wanted something extraordinary. This Capitol seemed not far removed from Hong Kong or Times Square. And they people who lived in it were only wearing make up and colorful clothing. In the novel, citizens of the Capitol actually change the color of their skin permanently and go to extremes in plastic surgery.
- Katniss’s makeover at the Capitol was like a trip to the salon—lacking the menace and terror of the novel. The New York Times review compared Katniss’s makeover to Dorothy’s makeover in The Wizard of Oz and I agree, it was too cheery and insignificant.
- The Game stakes were not high enough. Other than the opening bloodbath, the pace of the game felt a little pedestrian. I wanted every actor/tribute in the game to raise his/her stakes so that I was on the edge of my seat. No one seemed to feel the terror that this was a life or death situation…they were just a little frightened. I could not put the book down, but would be able to turn the movie off.
- Where were the faces of the dead tributes on the dogbeasts? That was so eerie and memorable in the book—it made the dogs so much more horrifying. Being chased by big dogs was innocuous in comparison.
- No hovercrafts! In the novel, every time a tribute dies, a hovercraft appears and snatches the body out of the game. At such a moment, the other tributes stay away or risk losing their own life being snatched by the craft. This helped make Katniss’s flowers for Rue more meaningful. It also gave the book an other-worldliness that the film lacks.
My only hope for the next movie, Catching Fire, is to change the production team to folk with bigger imaginations who will raise the stakes! With the third Harry Potter movie (Prisoner of Azkaban) there came a much-needed change in director…Chris Columbus stepped away and Alfonso Cuarón took the helm…and finally the world of Harry Potter was realized. I am holding my breath that Gary Ross has an epiphany and new vision or steps away.