The Hunger Games Movie (No Spoilers, But Some Complaints)

March 27th, 2012

Okay, so anyone who knows me at all knows that the Hunger Games trilogy is basically my favorite publication of the last decade.  In fact, when my own YA novel (Epic Fail) came out this past summer, I did a bunch of online interviews and only realized after they were posted that I had spent a lot more time raving about how much I loved Suzanne Collins’s books than promoting my own.

There’s so much to love in those books–a tough heroine whose goal is making sure her family doesn’t starve to death and who therefore doesn’t have time or patience for romance; two young men who love her, one all action, one all decency; a densely-plotted edge-on-your-seat story that never lets up; and, in the end, a powerful antiwar message.  We had to get three copies of the third book the day it came out because no one wanted to wait to read it.  I stayed up until three in the morning finishing it and couldn’t go to sleep afterwards, I felt so gut-wrenched and emotionally overwhelmed.

You could say I’m a fan.

So of course my family and I have been wildly excited about the movie, starting way back when they first cast it.  We bought tickets the day they went on sale, weeks in advance, and I saw it the first day it was out, which by the way, I NEVER do with movies–I usually see them when they reach HBO nine to twelve months after they’re in theaters.  I’m lazy that way.

But this was Hunger Games and so there I was, eating enough popcorn to feed a small nation, surrounded by four kids (two children and two friends), practically wriggling with joy at finally getting to see the book come to life in front of my eyes.  And when the lights came up after the movie had ended?

I felt okay with it.  Not thrilled, not horrified.  Okay.

The acting was fine, the adaptation was faithful to the original, and while I could have used more long shots and fewer cuts during the action sequences, I was never bored and loved a lot of the look of the movie.

But I had a major problem with the movie.  Katniss and Gale both looked too robust.

Let me first say that I don’t think actresses have to be thin to be beautiful–I feel the opposite way, in fact.  I cheer when I see someone on TV or in the movies who’s allowed to be deemed attractive to the opposite sex even though she isn’t as thin as a blade of grass.  It depresses me to see actresses start off at the beginning of a new series looking adorable and normal and then tune in again a year or two later to see the sunken cheeks and skinny legs of the freshly-starved.

But this is THE HUNGER GAMES.  It’s a story about an entire country that’s being starved into submission by a cruel, oppressive government. Every plot point hinges on how close these people are to starving to death: Katniss and Gale risk their lives to hunt for small game to trade for food, they increase their risk of having to play in the Games in order to get more grain for their family, Katniss knows Peeta’s kind because he threw her a loaf of bread when she was close to collapsing, Gale has to be responsible for helping her family survive in her absence–and so on and so on and so on.  Fear of watching loved ones starve to death hangs over every page of this book–it’s why the stakes are so high.

But Jennifer Lawrence and Liam Hemsworth look they’ve just worked out at Sports Club LA and then had nice big grilled chicken salads at Urth Cafe.  They’re healthy specimens.  You might even call J.Law (whom I adored in Winter’s Bone) Amazonian.  And, frankly, this bumped me during the movie.  They’d pan across all the skinny, wretched looking extras in Katniss’s district and then you’d see pretty, round, healthy Katniss and I’d think, “What’s been going on? Has she been scarfing everyone else’s food?”

So that bugged me–enough to pull me out of the movie’s reality several times.  I should mention though that my husband strongly disagrees with me.  He feels that Jennifer Lawrence is such a kick-ass actress (which she is) that she rises above any physical inconsistencies with the character.  “Look at her in the interview scene,” he said when we were arguing about it.  “She’s incredible.”  Not surprisingly, he liked the movie more than I did.

Josh Hutcherson has a different physical drawback, but I feel like it’s in bad taste to point out that he barely comes up to the other two’s shoulders. Not how I pictured Peeta.  But since the REAL Peeta is waiting for me somewhere beyond the stars, that’s okay. I don’t even care. I can just close my eyes and there he is, in my dreams.  My Peeta.

  • Irene Dawn says:

    Well, it really didn’t bother me that the actress wasn’t skinny. It never entered my consciousness. I loved the look of the movie in general. But I admit I give movies made from books a lot of leeway. I knew it couldn’t compare to the richness of the books so I didn’t expect it. I will admit I didn’t crazy love it though, in general. I’m hoping they get it better in the next installment. Maybe by then Jennifer will have lost some of her baby fat. I too, am a huge fan. Couldn’t we just have a new Peeta?

  • jade says:

    Off topic from the movie….That’s interesting that you read the books as being anti-war. I didn’t really see that at all. I saw them as being anti-oppressive governments and anti-centralization of power. And they’re anti-violence-as-entertainment, which is really ironic since they’re entertaining, violent books. She pokes at her readers and yet we love her for it. And there are interesting messages about classicism (either within a society, or can be read as First World-Third World divide) and feminism, and victim-turned-perpetrator… but I don’t think I see the anti-war message. There is no inter-state conflict, and we spend the whole thing pretty much rooting for civil war in the form of a successful rebellion. I recall an interview with the author saying she was interested in investigating what war does to kids in their formative years, but the books are much more about exploiting children for the purposes of entertainment and the security of the state, which to me, is an important message about something that does happen, but it is not precisely the same thing as war.

    I’m probably splitting hairs over an off-the-cuff statement, but I’ve seen others make this claim and I’m interested to hear why people think it’s anti-war. And I guess I’m being a stickler about it because part of me feels the violent, entertaining aspects encourage people to read the books but ultimately distract from the real, underlying message – a message that, if I’m reading it correctly, is important enough and nuanced enough to deserve full attention.

  • Erin Webster says:

    You’re a Peeta Girl, aren’t you?

    I swoon for Gale.

  • Erin Webster says:

    You’re a Peeta Girl, aren’t you?

    I swoon for Gale.

  • Anonymous says:

    Erin, I was a Peeta girl from the moment he first appeared. I love his loyalty, his devotion, his kindness. I never wavered.

    Jade, I’m so tired from traveling that I’m not sure I can be coherent in my response to you, but I’ve always felt that if you read all three books together, there’s a message that ANY war ends up killing our children and that the way we send our children off to fight our wars for us is cowardly and evil. There’s no victory in the civil war. Any leader who wants to make children fight (in a war or on a TV show) is a bad leader, even if he/she started out wanting to make things better. I don’t want to spoil the third book for anyone, but I think she turned the excitement of the chase and hunt of the first two books on its side and made us ashamed of ourselves for enjoying any battles. There are no winners in war. Just wounded children.

    That’s how I read it–but what a wonderful writer to make us all see so much and such different things in her books!

  • Anonymous says:

    Erin, I was a Peeta girl from the moment he first appeared. I love his loyalty, his devotion, his kindness. I never wavered.

    Jade, I’m so tired from traveling that I’m not sure I can be coherent in my response to you, but I’ve always felt that if you read all three books together, there’s a message that ANY war ends up killing our children and that the way we send our children off to fight our wars for us is cowardly and evil. There’s no victory in the civil war. Any leader who wants to make children fight (in a war or on a TV show) is a bad leader, even if he/she started out wanting to make things better. I don’t want to spoil the third book for anyone, but I think she turned the excitement of the chase and hunt of the first two books on its side and made us ashamed of ourselves for enjoying any battles. There are no winners in war. Just wounded children.

    That’s how I read it–but what a wonderful writer to make us all see so much and such different things in her books!

  • Jim says:

    What we despised about the movie, was the shaky cam cinematography. Had a headache five minutes in that didn’t quit. NOT buying the DVD.

  • Claire says:

    Yeah, that bothered us too. And the fact there were so few long shots and you could never quite SEE what was going on in the action sequences.

  • Claire says:

    Yeah, that bothered us too. And the fact there were so few long shots and you could never quite SEE what was going on in the action sequences.

  • Kellee says:

    You can certainly do this online or within your geographic area.

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