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?