Movie Review: The Hunger Games! (As told from a non-reader’s perspective.)

Saturday night, my husband and I along with several members of the Litwits went to see The Hunger Games.  The movie is particularly special to my book club because The Hunger Games was the first book we ever read as a group.  Before watching the movie, I spoiled myself on all the book to screen changes so I wouldn’t spend the whole time moaning and groaning and instead could just enjoy the movie.  And enjoy it, I did – immensely.  Far more than I thought I would.  I think most of my enjoyment comes from having read the books though.  Together, book and movie are excellent companions and each medium enhances the experience of the other.  I loved the additions to the movie outside of the Katniss-only POV and didn’t miss the omissions as much because they live firmly in my imagination as supplied by the book.

That being said, halfway through I began to wonder what viewers who had never read the book were thinking.  And I had the perfect candidate for questioning – the HUBS!  Jimmy doesn’t read – or at least, not books – so he was going into the story almost completely unspoiled and virginal.  As soon as we got into the car, we immediately proceeded to have it out because he wasn’t a fan.  It was like someone calling your kid ugly.  I felt personally offended which may not be rational, but I’ve never claimed rationality as a strong suit.  I had sad panda face for a long time after our discussion.  So, what didn’t he like?

He never felt compelled by Katniss as a character/hero.  Nothing seemed super terrible about her upbringing.  He gets that her dad died, that her mom sucks, and that’s she’s been hunting for their food ever since.  He really does – but he thinks her hunting in the woods, joking around with her super buff BFF, and being obviously not starving doesn’t paint a particularly convincing overcoming the odds type of story.  The flashback with Peeta giving her the bread was also lost on him because he didn’t get that they were supposed to be younger and that she was on death’s doorstep.  And how could he?  It wasn’t portrayed well at all to non-readers.

As for the games themselves, he also found Katniss and her struggle for survival weak and watered down.  He felt that physically she didn’t struggle that much – just hid out, walked around, and waited a whole lot which, in his opinion, doesn’t make Katniss a particularly striking face of rebellion.  He wanted more action and a lot more violence/blood/visual grimness to truly believe she had beaten crazy oppressive odds to be the victor.  He wanted to see her struggle finding water and food, to have more injuries, to battle more with the Careers (he hated the Careers – didn’t see what was so fierce about them – all they seemed to do was talk).

Listening to his complaints, I can’t really argue with them – I tried, but he was never convinced.  My best argument was that many of his wishes were handled much more solidly in the book.  He countered that a movie should adequately subsist on its own merits outside the confounds of the book or it fails at visual storytelling.  He understands that readers will be part of the audience, but that the movie isn’t made specifically for readers – but for moviegoers regardless of their reading status.

I think another disconnect between our viewing experiences exists in what kind of stories we are drawn to.  He loves action, suspense, super obvious background story, and very little emotional drama.  I love a nuanced story, great character portrayals, emotional depth, and need very little flashy action.  Rue’s death scene made the whole movie worth my while because of how sad I was at her senseless slaughtering and how distraught Katniss was at her loss.  Jimmy was upset because Katniss didn’t kill Marvel more impressively out of revenge and then set off to seek further revenge on the other Careers.

For now, we’ve agreed to disagree and have found a certain level of peace.  He believes the movie was “fine”, but has no desire to see the next film.  Since he’ll be seeing it regardless, out of his undying devotion to me, he only hopes they ditch the shaky camera technique because it makes him sick.  In contrast, I can’t wait for Catching Fire next November! Finnick is one of my favorite characters and I’m anxiously awaiting his casting.

Anyone else not so impressed by the movie?  Or end up fighting over varying reactions afterwards?

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8 thoughts on “Movie Review: The Hunger Games! (As told from a non-reader’s perspective.)

  1. While I totally get where your husband is coming from because I totally thought those exact same things, despite having read the books, all I can think is “Men!” haha

    I asked a guy friend to go with me to see the movie, after seeing the movie already, and his reaction was “Um, you’ve already seen it.” I asked him what his point was. While I don’t think THG was primarily directed to girls/women and that it could be pretty appealing to boys/men, it isn’t a huge action movie despite what the storyline makes it out to be.

    • Very true. I always hope the movies/books I adore with at last a minor action plot will engross him. They never do – he ends up thinking they are silly. He told me he just doesn’t think PG-13 affect him. That’s how immune he is to violence. I do know some guys who thought the movies were awesome. Maybe they are more sensitive – which is something I’d never describe my husband as.

  2. I can see where your husband is coming from, even though I think I will feel differently when I see it. There is just a ton of background stuff that the reader would get, that the watcher just doesn’t, and it wasn’t really a action/adventure story per se, it was really a story about the people involved, and the things they went through. I am planning on seeing this movie this weekend with the family, who have all read the book. Perhaps I will have to stop by again and relate my experiences with you after the fact.

    • I definitely see where he’s coming from but had a totally different experience. I’d love to hear how your family reacts!

  3. I’m going tomorrow … I’m so curious to see how it came off. I imagine that you bring a lot from the book to the movie and project that onto the screen whether they show it or not. It sounds like you almost need to do that … as least from what your husband said. He probalby needed an R-rated version of the movie — which is what I think you actually get in the book!

    • You definitely get an R-rated adventure in the books as compared to the movie. And yes, he is adamant that the movie needed an R-rating. He even actually suggested they split the first movie in two to get more depth and more time for an action/survival story.

  4. I read the books and saw the movie and loved them both. I do, however, believe your husband that for non-readers this might not be all it was anticipated to be. The emotional level we felt no doubt comes from the book, and we supplemented the movie with how we felt when we read the book. This might not be so for the non-reader. I’m not sure it needed more violence, perhaps, but your husband is not the first person to make the comment. Anyway, great review, and funny, I like how your husband will be happy to see Catching Fire 😉 Unfortunately for him, I doubt they’ll get rid of the shoulder camera, nausea here we come! I’d love for you to comment on my next Book club review, which will be the Hunger Games. Just launched a small book club on my website, current topic is Life of Pi, I would love any of your insights, if you had the time. Keep up the good work, I look forward to reading more.

    • I think I’ve read somewhere that they actually are getting rid of shaky cam this time around due to the new director. So maybe no more queasiness! I’ll definitely stop by your site and check it out.

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