Review – The Hunger Games Movie

Photo by Mya Jamila

Photo by Mya Jamila

After all my obsessing over the trilogy, I feel I must at least give you some sort of review of the long awaited movie The Hunger Games. (Read my “review” of the books here.) First off, in situations like this, it almost goes without saying that the book was better than the movie. Both Jacquelyn and I were grateful for having read the books, so that we could fill in what the movie dismissed.

Overall, the film was good, exciting and entertaining, which is the most important part because “They just want a good show. That’s all they want.”  Lots of action and strong characters – loved Haymitch and Effie. The books are written in first person, from Katniss’s perspective, so the movie allowed us  to see what the book did not: what happened in the gamemaker’s room, the Seam and the other districts while Katniss was in the arena. I liked that! However, I missed hearing Katniss’s internal emotions, thoughts and conflicts; and I don’t believe the movie provided good alternative ways for viewers to understand her. I wonder how those who haven’t read the books are responding to her character.

My biggest disappointment was no surprise, but disappointing nonetheless. As expected, filmmakers feminized Peeta. In the book, he is not only physically taller, stronger and dangerously skilled with a knife, his entire personality is more self-assured, courageous and unflappable. Filmmaker’s traded Peeta’s original sense of integrity, determination and desire to protect Katniss for wavering emotions, fear, uncertainty and all the trappings of a love-sick schoolboy. In the film, he comes across as googly eyed over and dependent on the girl who must save him, but in the book he is her equal – equal but different.

I do not understand, nor will I ever, why Hollywood insists that all artistic male characters be emasculated. So he paints and bakes. So what? For heaven’s sake, I know a boatload of men, several in my family, who are artists, musicians, and cooks, and not one of them has traded in their manhood for an apron or a banjo. Believe it or not, they can handle both.

I must confess that weak male characters are a pet peeve of mine – just ask my best friend and our daughters, they can tell you all about it! There’s a whole list of male characters I won’t even tolerate – including, yes, the guy from The Notebook. Yuck! You can analyze it all you want, but regardless of what you come up with, half this world is populated with men and I’d like to keep it that way. No, I do not want women to rule the world! And, no, I do not want men to be more like my girlfriends! I want men to be men. And yes, they can be artistic and sensitive and good in the kitchen, without being stripped of their masculinity. Oh, Paula Cole, have you yet found the answer to your burning question…Where have all the cowboys gone?

I have one more question for the filmmakers and screenwriters (including Suzanne Collins who was not only the books’ author but also a screenwriter). Why in the world didn’t you use children to play the flashback scene where Peeta feeds a starving Katniss??? There is no excuse. NONE! And, I can’t help but add a correction for my readers and potential movie goers. In the book, during the flashback scene, Peeta  is a young boy who artfully burns the bread on purpose and endures a beating from his mom, hoping that his mother will force him to feed the burned bread to the pigs. She does, enabling him to sneak out back and give the bread to a young, starving Katniss instead. The movie took this strong portrayal away from Peeta by showing him as an uncertain teenager who threw leftover bread toward Katniss like she was a dog.  In the book, Peeta saved and sustained her, even when they were young –  a- beautiful picture of his character and love for her, that was completely lost in this ridiculous scene!

Finally, a word on the violence. I believe the filmmakers did a great job handling such a violent story for a young audience that included many grade school children. Personally, violence does not generally upset me as a movie-goer and so believe me when I say, the movie definitely pushes the boundaries of PG-13 when it comes to violence. All other content, however, was well within the bounds of the rating.

Even with all its imperfections, I still very much enjoyed the movie. I wiggled in my seat like a schoolgirl, waiting for it to start. And afterward, Jacquelyn and I analyzed the movie over the phone for two hours. Perhaps I am a harsh critic who likes giving her opinion too much, but there you have it, my feedback on The Hunger Games.