Hunger Games: Midnight Movie Review

Going to see the Hunger Games movie release last night at midnight sounded perfect — in theory. In reality, I worked an incredibly long day at the store, and all I really wanted to do was wash the espresso out of my hair, read a few pages of my book, and be asleep by midnight. Instead, at 12:01 I was in a crowded theater, champagne can in hand, watching a Dark Shadows preview and wondering how the boys from Kitchen Mischief convinced me to join them in sacrificing sleep for cinema.


By 12:15, I didn’t care that I was missing sleep … and not just because the canned champagne was kicking in. I was in the world of the Hunger Games with Katniss and Peeta, and for the next two hours I was lost in the story I’d come to love as a book. I have lots to say about the movie, but most of you will probably just want to know if you should see it — my answer to that is a definite “yes.” Below, the pros and cons:



Pro: Storytelling. This screenwriter had a hell of a job turning this story about kids killing other kids into a PG-13 movie. The violence isn’t glorified, but the movie’s still exciting — this is a feat in itself, and the story is still compelling and beautiful. The film works as a stand-alone, and it gives the sequels room to build both thematically and emotionally.


Pro: Actors. Katniss, Peeta and Gale were perfect, and the supporting actors (Lenny Kravitz, Woody Harrelson, Stanley Tucci, and Elizabeth Banks especially) weren’t just cameos — they really became their characters.


Con: Shaky camera. I’m torn on this as a con. The Blair Witch-esque camera movement in the District 12 scenes and a few of the Arena fight scenes was supposed to be disorienting, and it certainly helped me get into the mind of Katniss, who was confused and trapped during the times it was used. But it also made me, and more than a few other people, nauseous. Let’s just say at least one lady in our theater vomited (yeah, it was pretty gross).


Pro: Styling. The CG wasn’t distracting, as it totally could have been. (Muttations? Come on.) The vanity of the Capitol citizens was perfectly frivolous without going over the top. District 12 was styled like Depression-era America, a great device that helps the audience instantly pick up on the poverty and despair of the Districts without time-consuming exposition.


“Con”: Love story. There aren’t any really steamy scenes between Peeta and Katniss, but I’m really only putting this in the Con column because I didn’t have many cons, and because I guess it might bother some people who only go to the movie for the love triangle stuff. I actually thought these scenes were touching while still showing the hesitance Katniss feels toward Peeta in the first book. Plus, after Twilight mania, it’s a relief to see the choice of character development over sexual tension. I mean, Josh Hutcherson didn’t take his shirt off once, and I still liked him as a character! Take a lesson, Taylor Lautner.


Pro: Book relevance. The movie is faithful to the book, but it never seemed to be working through a checklist of plot points (unlike the storyline-less Harry Potter finale). I actually noticed some of the book’s themes and allusions (rich-versus-poor disparity, Colosseum-style killing, reality television ridiculousness) more in the movie because the visual choices made parallels that I hadn’t made while reading.


The bottom line: People who haven’t read the book will understand the story, and watching the film makes me want to read the book again. Despite a few directing missteps, Hunger Games is an example of what a book-to-movie adaptation should be.


Buy the book. Buy the ebook.


Carrie Rollwagen is co-owner and book buyer at Church Street Coffee & Books.

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