Review - The Hunger Games

In a decadent future, The Hunger Games' child-on-child deathmatches entertain the mindless and cow the oppressed. Today, they're as dangerous as a PG-13 movie dares be. Though the sharp edges present in Suzanne Collins' novel are dulled in Gary Ross's film, star Jennifer Lawrence shows a convincing paradox of youthful stoicism and vulnerability, and she pulls it through.

The games take place in Panem, a depopulated successor state built on America's ruins. It consists of The Capitol, a magnificent city somewhere in the Rockies, and twelve subjugated "districts" scattered around the continent. As punishment for a long-ago rebellion, a boy and girl between the ages of 12 and 18 are randomly "reaped" from each district each year. Then they enter an arena filled with hidden cameras, and fight to the death.

Dirt-poor teen Katniss Everdeen (Lawrence) lives in coal-mining District 12, and volunteers for the games to protect her 12-year-old sister at the reaping. She's whisked with age-mate and fellow "tribute" Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) to the glittering Capitol. A dead-shot with the bow, she has as good a chance as any kid from the sticks.

Trained by Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson, playing the book's repulsive alcoholic as a dashing drunk), Katniss and Peeta must deal with highly-trained tributes from richer districts, with the gamesmasters' sadistic traps, and, finally, with one another.

A blend of Lord of the Flies, The Running Man and America's Got Talent, The Hunger Games is a parable of our times, where kids' attention flickers from endless war to trivial entertainment, and finally to perverse mixtures of both. But it's really about how Katniss develops the emotional strength to overcome it all, which gives the filmmakers plenty of latitude to skip over the source material without betraying it.

Sure, a Paul Verhoeven saga would have embraced the novel's satirical undercurrents, confronted us with our own tittilation at violence, and would not have not danced around Panem's creepy mix of consumer culture and totalitarian evil. But Verhoeven creates cult hits, not $150m opening weekends, so this is how it goes.

Thankfully, the cast makes up for all the sanding down. Peeta, who could easily have become an aimless, benign love interest, is given an anxious heart by Hutcherson. As smarmy TV personalities, Stanley Tucci and Elizabeth Banks manage to hint at an awareness of how empty their public personas are, even if it's never called for by the script. Donald Sutherland deepens tyrant Coriolanus Snow with a tired sagacity—his is a character much-enlarged from the novel, where society itself was the true menace.

Even with a $100m budget and an blinding array of fantastic costumes, the direction is as bland as a TV soap. Outdoors, especially in the arena, this seems to work to its advantage. When there are sets, though, it reminds me of 1990s STV flicks with Christopher Lambert. Shakycam commences at incongruous moments, such as otherwise polished close-ups of people talking.

The film's most striking image is The Capitol itself, a vile Vegas resort a la The Cosmopolitan expanded to monstrous dimensions. Fashion designer Judianna Makovsky has a wild time illustrating its mannered ruling class, but while the sources are apt—think fascist-era Schiaparelli—their presentation is so cartoonish as to smooth over Panem's lethal decadence.

It's not her fault, and it's not the fault of Collins, who offers wonderful insinuations in the books. Consider the poisoner-in-chief: forced to sample his own formulas, he wears genetically engineered lapel-roses to hide the scent of chronic halitosis. Despite writing in the young adult mode, she's as good with these baroque details as Michael Moorcock, the master of connecting depraved aesthetics to the cultures that generate them. Perhaps it's the fault of the director, making sure everything about this film stops a safe distance short of risky.

The Hunger Games' violence is also measured out with too much precision: brutality depicted but distracted-from with careful editing. Contemporary controversy optimums are nailed with Katniss-like precision; though defined by the limitations of a PG-13 rating, this stylized and sanitized visual language is itself dehumanizing. Strikes connect off-screen or out of focus. There is blood, but the accompanying suffering is often more emotional than physical. Finally, The Hunger Games echoes its own targets: the death lingered on longest is too romantic, too painless, and too great a lie.

Likewise, the novel presents Katniss's romantic overtures to Peeta as an emotionally-confused TV stunt designed to save her life. But on-screen, it's the same epic love story that the residents of The Capitol fell for. The further we're taken from the stretched-out panic in Katniss's head, the less any of it makes sense.


    1.  I just re-watched BR over the weekend, and it holds up.  I can’t imagine the dumbed-down-for-tweens version will be anything near as fun.

    2.  I saw both movies on the big screen this weekend, and Hunger Games has essentially nothing to do with Battle Royale, other than kids killing kids.

        1.  Ha. I had never seen Battle Royale, and a local cinema decided to show it at midnight twice this weekend, because of The Hunger Games opening. Worked out well, since they’re not really similar at all.

          Next weekend is gods & fairytales: Wrath of the Titans vs Mirror Mirror.

          1. An oppressive, totalitarian government takes a group of minors, ushers them to a remote location, gives them random weapons as they scatter, herds them into closer proximity, tracks their movement, forces them to fight to the death, and turns the winner into a national hero (set up for life)? Nothing in common whatsoever. 


      It’s incredible how that film can go from zero to sixty in a second, like when the girls are cooking and laughing in the lighthouse.  Or quick little shocks, like when Go Go Yubari (the actress, at least) is pleasantly jogging down a neighborhood street, when suddenly she realizes she still has the collar around her neck.

      The thing about Battle Royale, the real star is villain Takeshi Kitano, so that all the teenagers are expendable, like the crew in the original Alien.  In The Hunger Games, you know the girl is gonna make it, which I figure would take away a spectacular element of uncertainty.

      1.  Go Go Yubari? Really? Her name is Chiaki Kuriyama. I’m sure even the lightest of searches would have given you that information. That’s akin to saying, “I really liked the part where Moses was running on the beach and saw the Statue of Liberty.”

        Kitano is not the real star of the story. That part was expanded for Kitano especially for the movie. If you think the kids are just fodder, you should take the time to read the novel. It does a marvelous job of fleshing out nearly every child in the class. The movie, while doing a credible job of condensing 800 pages into 2 hours, isn’t a patch on the book.

        1. When I say Go Go Yubari instead of the name of the actress, it’s because most people, including myself, will immediately identify the face that way, as opposed to saying Chiaki Kuriyama, whereas saying “Charlton Heston” will generate near universal recognition.

          Right, I’m talking about the movie, not the book.  Isn’t this thread about the movie version of Hunger Games, so when Battle Royale is mentioned, it’s mostly about the movie version also?  In the film version of Battle Royale, Kitano is the villain, his presence felt throughout the movie even when offscreen, as with Alien in the Nostromo.

          Finally, I didn’t say the kids are just fodder, did I?  I said they were expendable, which means in the context of my paragraph that you never know who is going to live or die, whereas (again) in Hunger Games you KNOW the girl is going to make it to the end alive.

    4.  Appropriate since you mention Tarantino – joke I saw on Twitter:

      Q:  What do they call The Hunger Games in France?
      A:  Battle Royale with cheese

  1. Last week, I had never heard of Hunger Games.  But since my 11-yr old daughter wanted to see the movie, and given the topic of teens killing each other, I felt I had to preview this a bit.  I read the first book on Friday and found that while the writing was simplistic, the story was not.   So, Okay, fine I took the daughter to the movie on Sunday. 

     I cant think of a single movie, made from a book that was written in first person present tense, that captured the full impact of the book.  There is a lot lost when you don’t really know whats going on in the character’s mind.  The shaky-cam was often inappropriate and detracted from my visual expectations.    However, the daughter loved the movie, so I realized that the tweens and teens are really the target audience here, and as such the movie hits its mark.

    Speaking of hitting the mark, now she wants to learn archery, lol.

    1. “Shakycam commences at incongruous moments, such as otherwise polished close-ups of people talking.”

      Shakycam SUCKED!!! If I hadn’t been tied to the theatre with my 15yr-old daughter I would have walked out. It distracted me to the point of anger, and didn’t really settle down (or my brain couldn’t tune it out) until about 35 minutes in. An excellent movie marred by drunk camera operators.

      Since this movie was just the setup for the sequel, I hope they take just a little bit of audience direction and fire up a steadicam or three.

      Oh, and my daughter also despised all the camera shake.

    2. I cant think of a single movie, made from a book that was written in first person present tense, that captured the full impact of the book.

      How about To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee?

      The shaky-cam nearly ruined the movie for me, despite the excellent performances of so many of the actors. Apparently they couldn’t find a real fight co-ordinator so they just shook the camera wildly whenever there was supposed to be a combat.

        1. No such shaky-cam.  Apologies for the indefinite antecedent, I write poorly.  Hunger Games was the shaky-cam.

          But re-watch To Kill a Mockingbird anyway!

      1.  The shaky cam was also to obscure the bloodshed.

        It was mostly effective, but not an ideal solution. There were good parts of the movie, and then there were just good enough parts of the movie.

  2. Today, they’re as dangerous as a PG-13 movie dares be. 

    If they included any references to real-life bullying it would have to be rated “R.”

    1.  Can’t say I agree with you. I’d heard this “heroine for the times” stuff, but really (in the film, not read the book), Katniss is a half assed attempt at a empowered female heroine. Halfway through a death game, she’s more interested in pwetty flowers for the dead girl, then copping a snog from a new boyfriend. Ends up on TV, simpering in a posh dress and makeup and holding her boyfriend’s hand going along with everything the Ooompa Loompa host asks without the slightest protest or snark.

      Hardly Ellen Ripley or Clarice Starling, is she?

      1. Because a “heroine of our times” has to be able to kill without remorse and without caring about her dead ten-year-old friend?

        You have somehow confused an empowered female heroine with a mindless macho drone. Being a “hero” doesn’t mean you have to be a “guy’s fantasy of a hero.”

      2. Did you watch the same movie I did? Because what I got out of the’romance’ was the very strong impression of an extremely reluctant protagonist only acting as if she is in love for the benefit of the cameras and petta.

      3. So…you’re saying that a true heroine would be more interested in ruthlessly slaughtering all the other innocent teenagers than in honoring the death of her 12-year-old friend? The irony here is that that is exactly what the Capitol wanted her to do. If Katniss had simply slaughtered everyone else, she could have gone home to her family at the end and lived a long and wealthy life as a victor. She would have remained just one more of the Capitol’s pawns, and there would have been no story.  The flowers she gathers for Rue are not a sign of weakness, but a powerful symbol of rebellion.

        And no, she doesn’t protest or snark because she is a scared 16-year-old girl and these are people who will TORTURE AND KILL EVERYONE SHE LOVES if she mouths off. It would be ridiculous and unbelievable to show her doing anything else. Katniss is a “heroine of our times” because of how realistically she is portrayed. She isn’t a crime-fighting superhero who flies in to rescue everyone and defeat the evil overlord. She’s a scared, half-starved, emotionally confused teenage girl who volunteers for what she thinks is a death sentence to save her little sister. She doesn’t go in looking to be the face of a rebellion, she just wants to make it out alive. She only grows into her role as a rebel after being pushed to her limits during the Games.

         (And as someone else mentioned, the relationship with Peeta is largely an act on Katniss’s end, designed to win her sympathy from potential sponsors. She does begin to develop real feelings for him, but Katniss is confused at best, and he is far from being her actual boyfriend.) 

  3. Each time I see something from the Hunger Games, I feel like it’s to Battle Royale (and Running Man for that matter) as Twilight is to Dracula (or Salem’s lot for that matter).

  4. ” But Verhoeven creates cult hits, not $150m opening weekends, so this is how it goes.”

    Signed, Speed, Twister, and Total Recall, all of which were summer movie successes.  But yeah, I guess you can make such a statement when you ignore ticket inflation prices…  Too much settling when it comes to Hollywood.

        1.  OK, but Robocop and Starship Troopers all did decent box office, so his point is still OK.

          1. According to Wikipedia, Starship Troopers cost $105 million and only made $121 million, which is pretty bad for a blockbuster.  It’s still my favorite SF film. 

          2. Robocop did well but was a cheap B-movie with a brilliant director, not the blockbuster that we remember. That was Total Recall — one of the most expensive movies of all time and one of the biggest box office earners, too, at least in R-rated SF. 

            Starship Troopers was not a box-office hit. The quick way to figure it out is this:

            Take the published budget, then add 1/5 of that again to account for marketing costs. 

            Now, DOUBLE that. The reason you do this is because movie theaters get about half the box office. 

            That’s about what a movie has to make to be a success for the studio and distributor, though the accounting is opaque and tax-credit-tastic at so many points it’s genuinely hard to know.

            This is probably why there weren’t theatrical ST sequels, even though it earned back its budget. Another good example is Waterworld — considered a bomb despite making $250m or so on a $150m budget, because the studio would still have (genuinely) lost a ton of money on that.

          3. Antinous, if your favorite SF file is Starship Troopers I’m writing you out of my will and giving somebody else your seat in the bunker.  That film was an utter abomination.

          4. The thing about Starship Troopers, everybody in that society seems to be a handsome, perfectly sculpted, good little citizen of a military fascistic state.

            The first half is saccharine “90210 In Space”, while the second half is the goriest Hollywood film ever made (up until that point, at least).

            Starship Troopers is brilliant, subversive popcorn fare, it gets five stars in my book.

            Would you like to know more?

          5. Ito, maybe you didn’t catch how intentionally satirical it was, how the society portrayed was not meant to be heroic but fascist and creepy, and how the whole movie was basically like a war movie made by that society, including the vapid and corny heroes?

          6. One thing that hardly anyone seems to have noticed is that the “We’re going to war” scene almost exactly replicates the war rumor scene in Gone With The Wind, where Scarlett is walking aimlessly through the scene while everyone around her is slowly reacting to the news.

  5. This really seems like Battle Royale, except with a Disney-strength tear jerker ending and a Spielberg-like hope and affirmation in the human essence….blech…

    1. Battle Royale really seems like Lord of the Flies, except with a Takashi Miike-strength bloody ending and a Fukasaku-like dispair and depression towards the human essence….blech…

      1.  Lord of the Flies really seems like The Coral Island, except without all of the racism and lack of self-awareness … oh, wait, that makes it better!

        1.  Coral Island really seems like Heart of Darkness, except that the white people don’t purposely torture and mutilate the natives… instead they just assume that it would be best to introduce Christianity because that would surely stop all the native atrocities…. blech…

    2. If there is anything Hunger Games is NOT, it is “hope and affirmation of the human essence.” At least not in the books, and I doubt they would have changed the movie THAT much.

      As a matter of fact, near the end of the last of the three books a character comments that, while things are better now, it probably won’t last long because “we’re fickle, stupid beings with poor memories and a great gift for self-destruction.”

      This doesn’t come to light as much in the first book as it does later, but the Games destroy their “victors” almost as surely as they do the ones they kill.

  6. I feel that this review summed up 99% of what I feel. I found myself narrating the novel’s important exposition the majority of the time while watching the movie. I had high hopes for the adaptation, but I think the attempts of widening its appeal to a diverse audience while being forced to cater to a younger demographic with a PG-13 rating  caused the film to depart dramatically from the book.

    1. Yes, it’s a travesty when a movie based on a young adult novel is targeted to youth.  All the jaded adults that want blood can go watch Battle Royale and talk about how Collins ripped it off.  I’m just glad my kids were able to see it  – there’s a world of difference between reading the novel and seeing it depicted graphically on screen.

      1. While I wouldn’t go so far as calling it a travesty, I have found myself difficult to be pleased by movie adaptations of books.

        Hollywood’s desire for a movie to be punchy/edgy seems to be at odds with a book that focuses on morality, inner struggle, and what is essentially deep internal character trajectories that can hardly translate well to a screen without narration. The book, while action-packed, is first and foremost about relationships and survival – neither of which seemed present in the movie.

        I’m not sure if your comment was directed on some allusion you derived from my comment, but I am not one that glories in gore or believe that Collins ripped it off (HG takes much more from mythology than from BR). I sympathize with you in that you wanted your children to see the movie, but the imagery and exposition described in the book is what harbors the depth of the story. Hollywood created a saturated plot void of the peaks and valleys that serve as important devices to understand the real emotions connected to the characters – and more importantly, how a reader can apply it to their own lives.

        It’s not unexpected – it just is what it is, and Hollywood has a great aptitude in stripping a story of its meaning to cater to wide audiences (which is good in some cases, such as yours). I don’t think the movie is 100% void of all meaning, it just doesn’t carry the weight it could have – some of which, I believe, could have been salvageable in a different director’s hands.

        I just predict I will be here in a year or two saying the same thing about the movie adaptation of Ender’s Game… fingers crossed on that one, though. Books that focus on character development and their relationships shouldn’t be made into action films (I’m looking at you, Harry Potter films).

      2. The book was targeted to youth too, and it did pretty well. People who complain about the movie are mostly complaining about the parts where it didn’t capture what was going on in the book.

      3. Saying Collins ripped off Battle Royale is a bit much, what with history being what it is.  She drew on ancient Rome a lot, both on history and on people’s perceptions of it…  gladiator games are part of bread and circuses, and demanding children as tribute is hardly an unusual idea when it comes to keeping an area pacified.  Combining the two makes for great reality TV.

        But, y’know, you can totally dismiss that and just say that because of some plot (not thematic) similarities, her book is a ripoff of a film.And every romance is a ripoff of Tristan & Isolde, right?  Not the film.  The story.  And every heroic quest is a ripoff of Gilgamesh…

  7. I would have loved to have seen it done as a TV miniseries in the “mockumentary” format — shown like a real reality TV show, and showing us, the audience, only the things that the audience in Panem would see, without any of the backstory or behind-the-scenes goings-on.

    I suppose someone could still do that as a fan edit.


    I haven’t seen the movie, but my biggest gripe about the book — well, I know it’s YA, but it bothered my that Katniss wasn’t actually forced to kill any “good guys”.  The book is spent primarily around her having to deal, inside her head, with the dilemma of knowing she’ll have to kill all the other tributes, even the ones who she doesn’t want to — and then, time and again, it contrives ways to spare her from ever having to actually do it.  Someone else always shows up to conveniently kill the person she doesn’t want to have to kill, until finally it’s down to her, Peeta, and the Bad Guys.

    1. This was my main complaint as well. I didn’t read the books before I went to see it this past weekend. I was very disapointed…


      with how predictable Rue’s fate was. Little girl helps out the main character when they should be fighting, in a plot where you *know* the main character(s) live while any and all secondary characters die. OF COURSE Rue cannot live for long, and OF COURSE it can’t be Katniss who does it. What moral quandry does Katniss actually experience? The obviously bad people kill anyone worth sympathy, and she is never put into a situation where she pre-emptively takes out anyone.

      1. Same problem for me. 
        — SPOLIERS —

        HG is a film/book really without conflict. Not only the nice tributes are eliminated by third parties, the ones Katniss actually kill are portrayed as pure evil. I didn’t read the book, but it seems this is a situation created by the author where she cannot find a suitable solution and decides for a market-oriented approach. Feels like a product.

        It is another teen movie. Too bad.

        1. — SPOILERS —
          Not mentioning the random changes in the rules that save her from having to kill Peeta — and then changes back again from a loudspeaker. And again from a loudspeaker. I was never on the edge of my seat.

          1. —SPOIL-TASTIC—

            Worse, IMO, wasn’t just that all the people she killed were evil, but that she wasn’t proactive about it. She was made out to be this great hunter, but when it came down to it her kills were semi-accidental or reactionary to them attacking her. She never did any ‘i’m going to kick-ass and survive’ fighting, even against people the audience was set up to hate. All  actual confrontations she had with other contestants either were assisted by other good kids every time – saved multiple times for that matter!

            And then the only kill she couldn’t avoid – Peeta- was hand-waved away.

            If this semi-pacifism was a point in the book, OK, but I didn’t see any of it established in the movie. Katniss tripped her way around a really deep and character-building conflict, without really demonstraiting how much of a force she was built up to be.

  8. In a decadent future, The Hunger Games’ child-on-child deathmatches entertain the mindless and cower the oppressed.

    I think you meant “cow the oppressed”.   Excellent Pythonesque imagery + correct conjugation = fun.

  9. “I would have loved to have seen it done as a TV miniseries in the “mockumentary” format — shown like a real reality TV show, and showing us, the audience, only the things that the audience in Panem would see, without any of the backstory or behind-the-scenes goings-on.”

    Ask and ye shall receive: it’s called ‘Series 7: The Contenders’ and it came out in 2001.

    I think it deserved a little better than the 6.5 it’s got going now, it had its moments.

    1. She’s described as “olive-skinned” in the book, with a blond, blue-eyed mother, which suggests mediterranean or perhaps mixed-race. The racial picking-apart of movie-Katniss as excessively white is worthwhile (see also: the whitewashed Earthsea miniseries and anime) but moving the author’s own descriptive goalposts doesn’t help.

    2. I hear you, but FWIW, my DS DH daughters are attuned to the problem and did not feel cheated by the actress chosen; she’s not a bleached blonde, at least, and her skin and facial features don’t scream WASP.

      What does bother me is that photo: that would hurt, if she were to release the bowstring while her left hand is in that position.

    1. No no no, this is totally original, there is no idea of a tribute in Battle Royale, the athenian tribute of young men and maiden to Crete is completely original.

      1. Revealing that Collins took from mythology would reign a potent response if Collins hadn’t said exactly what influenced her writing publicly already…

        1. And how does that exactly make it more original or less of an idea badly used because the writer thought it neat to hint at a modicum of classical culture ?

  10. Most of my problems were with the way the film was made.  People blame the PG-13 rating for the shaky cam stuff, but they forget that even outside the violent scenes, the close-ups were often too tight and too unstable.

    Sooner or later, someone will stabilize this film like the Zapruder film.  I suspect that it will not be distributed through official channels.

  11. So, how many millions got spent and no one even taught her how to use a bow just for continuity’s sake? Anyone can tell you from the picture above, “that arrow ain’t goin’ nowhere but straight up.” I know it seems picky but things like that can entirely ruin my experience.

      1.  OK, now this is just getting ridiculous.  Everything he mentions in his analysis of the Avengers movie, she is doing in the clip he shows. I’m really not trying to say the movies sucks because of this one detail, but it’s pretty funny how quick that reviewer is to praise her for the exact thing he rips the other guy for. Sexist?

  12. Battle Royale was OK, but like 99.9% of action-type films it portrayed the male lead as being tougher / smarter / better at violence than the female lead. Hunger Games has plenty of flaws, but Katniss was so awesome I don’t even care. Best film since Alien.

  13. i’ve seen battle royale and running man…why on earth would i want to see hunger games?

    trendy y.a. novels and their ignorant readers. i guess i shouldn’t be too upset; they are at least literate.

    1. It has nothing to do with Battle Royale; it’s not a rip-off of Battle Royale. Perhaps you should see it or read the book(s) before you decide you know what it’s about.

      1. I read both books and it’s definitely a rip-off of Battle Royale.  Some of the points are slightly different (one class at random v. one person per district) but the idea of the ‘games’ as being a way of keeping the masses from rebelling; the ‘randomness’ of the players; the “stadium”, it’s all there.  It’s like Dan Brown doing Eco – dumb it down, add a love angle and a “boss” for a final showdown, dumb it down some more, maybe add a happy ending.

  14. Jennifer Lawrence was amazing as Ree in Winter’s Bone, which covers many of the same “kids dealing with dangerous adult situations” as Hunger Games.  She even had the same family archetype, with a absent father, a mentally ill mother and young siblings to care for.  If Hunger Games pulled too many punches for you, check it out.  Last I checked, it was streaming on Netflix. 

  15. Likewise, the novel presents Katniss’s romantic overtures to Peeta as an emotionally-confused TV stunt designed to save her life. But on-screen, it’s the same epic love story that the residents of The Capitol fell for.

    No, I don’t think so.  Speaking as someone who had not read the books, I never got the impression that Katniss had a real attraction or attachment to Peeta.  The arena scenes looked like the pure product of two relatively normal teenagers thrown into an absurdly intense situation – it could have had as much to do with Katniss’ protective/maternal inclination as anything else.  But in the post-Games interviews she was obviously trying to play to the Capitol’s mass expectations.

    1. There’s a great scene at the end of the novel, IIRC, where she privately rejects Peeta. The film did have a few suggestions — uneasy kisses, coached interviews, tense glances — but they were like foreshadowing for a conclusion that never comes. They cut it because they don’t want a romantically downbeat ending to a teen film.

      It’s like everything else in the movie: our gaze is drawn to the moment, but is denied the moment of impact.

      1. I found the ending kind of downbeat. She has to pretend to be living this story she made up. I saw the movie last night and it appeared they were both playing to the crowd the whole time. Now they are trapped in their lie. No one I’ve talked to thinks that was a love story.

        1. They aren’t supposed to be in love, but they do have a romantic conflict: Peeta’s feelings are real, and Katniss is mostly-faking-but-has-twinges. This makes it more interesting than either a love story or if they both were faking, especially when the scene comes that Rob mentioned above. Really disappointing that didn’t make it on screen. And yes, it is downbeat at the end.

  16. She is holding that arrow wrong. How good could this movie be if she can’t even hold an arrow correctly?

    1. Not just the arrow on the wrong side of her hand/bow, but she’s nocked off-centre and it appears she’s holding with three fingers instead of two. Plus, she should be pulling the string right back to her cheek to get an accurate shot, but that’s a lesser consideration than the fact that the arrow is going to spin wildly out of control off to her left and land perhaps 20 feet from her.

      1.  That’s reassuring. The photo in this post shows somebody with really poor form. I’ll give Hollywood the benefit of the doubt and assume the actress was portraying a kid who doesn’t know jack about archery.

    2. What a ridiculous way to judge the movie. This movie isn’t about archery; it’s about humans and human nature. Get over yourself; you’ll be happier.

      1.  I realize it sounds ridiculous, but it looks completely ridiculous to people who might get excited about the archery in the film. It looks about as terrible as Edward Cullin’s sped-up-Benny-Hill-run through the forest.

        1. Suspension of disbelief, or something….come on, it can’t be worse than all the computer literate people who see films w/ridiculous implementations of computer viruses or whatever.

      2. What a ridiculous way to judge the way other people judge. I’d argue with you further, but I’m short on time this morning. People on the internet are wrong and something must be done!

        But seriously, making a trained archer watch a movie with bad archery is just as annoying as making a musician watch a movie with shitty music.

    3.  Maybe it’s intentional. She’s supposed to be a poor starving kid from an apocalyptic future. Why would she know how to shoot a bow?

  17. Sounds to me like the movie glosses over the nasty side of ‘violence as entertainment’ with the majority of the audience ignoring (unconsciously ignorant) that commentary  – just being entertained by the violence, making itself a meta-parable of our time. 

  18. I thought the movie was really well done, considering it needed a PG-13 rating. I wouldn’t recommend it to friends who haven’t read the book, though: it felt to me like it was made to complement the book, not act as a stand-alone alternative the way most movie adaptations do.

  19. At the screening I went to, the audience was at least 2/3 teenagers- who would make that fascist 3-finger salute on que, and chant the phrase, “May the odds always be in your favor” like it was some updated version of fight club.

    When I’d finished watching, though, it all made some kind of sense- this is more or less what the education system is training them for. Compete with each other for vanishing jobs while the overclass changes the rules on them. It’s no more fantastic than Soylent Green or The Matrix…

    1. Sure you watched it?  The “fascist 3-finger salute” is a way of showing solidarity among the oppressed.  Think of the “black power” fist.

    2. Um, the three-finger thing may look a little like the fascist salute, but it is nothing of the sort. Either you weren’t paying attention, or they really screwed up how they portrayed that in the movie. 

      In the book, at least, it is described as kissing the first three fingers of your left hand and holding them out. “It is an old and rarely used gesture of our district, occasionally seen at funerals. It means thanks, it means admiration, it means good-bye to someone you love.”

      Katniss using it in the arena to say good-bye to someone who was supposed to have been her enemy is an act of rebellion.

      1. Not having read the book, I didn’t catch them kissing the fingers first. It looked like a cross between the U.S. pledge of allegiance gesture (before national socialism claimed it) and the Boy Scout salute. Neither of which bring rebellion to mind.

        I’m looking forward to reading the whole trilogy now, this looks a lot better to me than any other young adult franchise I’ve seen on film.

  20. I kind of feel like this wasn’t really the movie it could have been, but it’s definitely the kind of story we need right now.
    I hope that the inevitable sequels will get more into the wider implications of the top-heavy society and how “intimate” but edited media spectacles actually make us less understanding of each other.

  21. Jeez I really  don’t get the movie bashing in this case. It did an excellent job of capturing the story with great performances by all the performers. Sure it was not as hard edged as the book, but if the story is about kids killing kids and you want to actually make the movie in hollywood , you have to tread carefully.

     I could wish the movie had been a bit longer for more character development, and I could have used about 50% less shakeycam, but I felt like I got my $9 worth.

  22. I’m sure it’s very different from BR, but I call BS on her statement that she’s never heard of it until her manuscript was submitted.  Didn’t she do any research, or talked with people about the plot before picking up the pen?

    1.  Yeah, a lot of the most creative work comes from variations on a theme, but come on. Maybe this whole time she’s been hiding the fact that it was actually based on “Series Seven”.

  23. I Loved it!  It really acts like the book.  I mean Sure there were some altered scenes, but once you saw it, you realize that once isn’t enough.  You’ll want more!

  24. Best part for me was the fact that the screenwriter & director didn’t waste the first 30 minutes in exposition. So you have to read the book to really understand the salute, the real rules behind the choosing of the tribute, the gap between the haves and have-nots, etc. 

    If they’d put in all the necessary exposition, the movie would have been completely unwatchable.

    OTOH, since they missed *that* chance to make the movie unwatchable, they made up for it with the shakycam and the overuse of super-quick editing.

    Bottom line, though, is that it is a very good set of illustrations for the book. And as far as “movies that you need to have read the book to really get” go, it was much more enjoyable than Dune.

  25. You know, I’m not really a fan of this mass-media pop culture stuff, but I really do hope the Hunger Games becomes the highest-grossing franchise of all time. Thank FUCK for a young female protagonist that isn’t a pair of tits on legs or a useless damsel in distress who needs a strong male (or sparkly vampire) to rescue her. 

  26. With a premise lifted from Shirley Jackson and a plot echoing dozens of stories of defiance of the evil overlords, The Hunger Games is a sequel before it even starts. Perfect for Hollywood.

    1. When I saw the trailer, it just seemed like a big-budget version of any number of Tuesday Night Movies of the Week from the 1970s. Which were basically big-budget Night Gallery episodes.

  27. Every time I see someone say that The Hunger Games is a ripoff of Battle Royale, I can’t help but read it as, “I was into teenagers battling to the death before it was cool”. Also, I agree with bumpngrindcore.

  28. Battle Royal the film is based off  Kousun Takami’s 1999 novel (which does include Miike-esk gore/violence), but it’s worth noting that it’s just one of very many Japanese novels about youth-violence (population control, youth-on-youth violence, and fear of youth violence are all very common themes in modern/contemporary Japanese literature).

    A few other examples:
    Nip the Buds, Shoot the Kids by Oe
    Coinlocker Babies by Murakami
    The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea by Mishima

  29. Threadworn: that feeling when you see a post you really want to comment on, then you realise that the comment thread is already so long that no-one will read your contribution to it.

  30. As somebody who enjoyed both Battle Royale and the Hunger Games (at least, the books.  Haven’t seen the Hunger Games movie yet, and I dislike that Battle Royale movie, which I felt missed the point in a couple major ways), I don’t think Hunger Games ripped off Battle Royale.

    And even if they did, I don’t really care.  I mean, seriously, ideas build off other ideas.  That’s how ideas work, it’s how they SHOULD work.   If the author did read Battle Royale and decide to write their own take on it (which, by the way, the author of 1984 did with an earlier dystopian novel, We), the only moral problem would be in not admitting it… and even that, in a world where lawsuits over things like this are often ridiculous and without merit and successful despite that, I can totally understand.  Since the ideas aren’t spectacularly novel, I’m fine with taking the author at their word.

    I do however think Battle Royale is a far better novel than Hunger Games, with a more compelling storyline and that forces the characters to really make unpleasant moral choices.  The thing that strikes me out is that there were 42 students in Battle Royale, and I felt like I knew something about every one of them, every death meant something, was its own story.  In the Hunger Games, there were only 24, and only about 3 of them got any serious development, maybe 2-3 more getting a tiny bit more than a name and a face, and the rest just being murderous ciphers or fodder to be killed off-screen.  The deaths are just props to make the audience feel the heroine was in danger herself.  

    But again, I did like both of them, and I’m glad the Hunger Games is successful, especially if it gets more people reading and, moreover, interested in reading SF!

  31. In China, there is a dangerous religion called Eastern Lightning. Some of its followers kidnap evangelical Christian pastors and other church leaders to brainwash and torture them, to force them to believe their ideas. They often kill their captives, or release them as victims, forever-scarred emotionally, mentally and physical. Strangely enough, the centre of their religion is a countryside woman, whom Eastern Lightning adherents claim is a re-incarnation of Jesus Christ. To them, she is the Messiah.

    Katniss, the central focus of latest eye candy flick The Hunger Games, is another kind of Messiah, but she will not kidnap, torture or brainwash. Instead, she will . . . Read the rest at or

  32. Say what you want about everything else, but the worse moment was at the end. No suspense built up whereas in the book it was riveting. They SPIT the berries out as if spitting at the capitol. To say nothing for the poor depiction of District 12.

  33. *Admittedly a big fan of the books here*

    I almost always read the book before I see the movie, but I do then have a hard time giving an objective review of a film, since my brain tends to fill in movie gaps with book facts. 

    Regarding Katniss not having any real internal conflict, the books do a fabulous job of showing how her experiences wreck her trust in other people and ability to be vulnerable around others.   It’s pretty clear by the end of the third book that she’s endured a lot of trauma- she’s lost whatever bit of innocence and naivety that she had before going to the Capitol. 

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