Film review: The Hunger Games

posted at 8:00 am on March 24, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

The Hunger Games takes audiences to a future, decades after an apocalyptic war, where the North American continent consists of one nation, Panem, run by a dictatorial regime in the Capitol.  The rest of Panem consists of twelve districts, exploited by the wealthy and indolent ruling class in the Capitol, which both intimidates the districts and entertains them through the annual Hunger Games, a Survivor-type reality show that takes one boy and girl from each district and forces them to kill each other, until only one “tribute” is left alive.  Katniss Everdeen saves her younger sister chosen in the lottery for District 12 by volunteering, after which she and her friend Peeta get whisked to the Capitol for a couple of weeks of training, high-class living, and media saturation.  When the games begin, will the odds be with Katniss and Peeta?

The film comes from a popular young-adult novel of the same name by Suzanne Collins, but if you haven’t read it (I have not), you’ll still be familiar with the story, because it’s so derivative it’s hard to know exactly where to start the comparisons.  There are elements that remind one of “The Lottery,” the famous short story by Shirley Jackson, films like The Running Man and Rollerball,  perhaps a dash of The Handmaid’s Tale and a bit of The Truman Show, and almost every post-apocalyptic dystopian fantasy ever filmed or even contemplated. The people in the districts come straight out of The Grapes of Wrath and Matewan, while the Capitol looks more like a more lively version of the Eternals in Zardoz, whose wealth is only exceeded by their garish and conspicuous consumption, and equally exploitative consumption of the “tributes” who will play in the games.  (Elizabeth Banks’ Effie Trinket looks like she was airlifted from a Tim Burton shoot.)  The obvious Roman gladiatorial references get even more heavy-handed treatment with the names of the characters in the Capitol, like Caesar, Claudius, Octavia, Flavius, and so on.  The tributes even have to learn to kowtow to the wealthy in order to gain patrons that might assist them during the course of the games, which makes the exploitation about as subtle as a sledgehammer.

It takes a long time to develop the story, while at the same time providing little coherent explanation of what exactly all of this means.  The motivation for the deadly Olympiad is explained as a reminder not to rebel, but the idea of randomly killing the children of serfs for the sport of the obscenely rich doesn’t sound like a convincing way to keep a population under control.  It takes forever to get past all of the incoherent back story to get to the game itself, where Katniss’ backwoods upbringing comes in handy for her survival.  The game is bloody and violent, although most of the violence (with a couple of exceptions) is blurred and quick-cut, presumably to preserve the PG-13 rating.

Watching teenagers and children kill each other (at least one looks to be about eight or nine years old) prompts the question of why children and teenagers would get chosen for this in the first place by a dictatorial regime, other than the author’s need to write a book for young adults.  I’m sure it’s meant as an allegory for war as well as class exploitation, but it’s both ridiculous and grotesque. Given that The Hunger Games provides us nothing about almost all of the other 22 children in the games, it feels like they get treated by the film much the same way they get treated by the ruling class — as cannon fodder for their own purposes. The end of the film feels very anticlimatic, with a last-minute twist one could see coming a mile off, and from which the story almost immediately retreats anyway.  Nothing changes as a result of the events in the movie, not even character growth.  It literally feels like a complete waste of time when the credits roll.

The cast does a good job overall with what they’re given, but Donald Sutherland and Wes Bentley are wasted in their parts.  Stanley Tucci has fun in his over-the-top portrayal as the emcee Caesar Flickerman, while Woody Harrelson has less fun with the more substantial role of Haymitch,  former Hunger Games survivor and the assigned “mentor” to Katniss and Peeta.  The movie rests on the shoulders of Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss, but she’s not terribly compelling or interesting.  Lawrence doesn’t display much emotional range, offering the same steely-eyed glare for most of the film. The cinematography makes extensive use of the modern shaky-camera and ultra-close-up “documentary” techniques that supposedly gives a film a realistic look, but mainly drives people up the wall.

The audience with whom I saw this was largely composed of teenagers, and they seemed to enjoy the film a lot more than I did, so take that into consideration.  It’s rated PG-13, which surprised me a little with the occasionally graphic violence in the film.  It’s far too intense for children, but teenagers would probably handle it with little difficulty.  The odds may be with them to find this enjoyable, but anyone older will have seen all of this before, and done better.


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there is a great movie from a few years back called battle royale. its a japanese r version but more lord of the flies

snoopicus on March 24, 2012 at 8:10 AM

Looks like it’s broken a record for midnight premiers. Almost breaking $20 million, it’s the highest-opening and seventh largest all-time.

I’d never even heard of the book until a couple months ago, but then I’m hardly in the target audience. John Carter forever!

eforhan on March 24, 2012 at 8:10 AM

I’ve read all three books, they are wonderful and the politics are much more complex than Ed is giving them credit. The capitol is definitely meant to be an uber capitalist/colonial power. The point of the Hunger Games isn’t to maintain power over the districts it is to demonstrate the state’s absolute power over the populace. One of the things the book makes very clear is that people in the most oppressed districts can not rise up because the capitol’s military power is overwhelming and that starvation is enforced by police power. More powerful districts receive major largesse and their kids are trained for the games, so there’s a culture of pride, rather than oppression at participation. Indeed, the book is also an extreme version of some of our exploitative sports culture in this country, can we see NCAA football where life altering concussions are risked with no guarantee of compensation beyond a college degree?

But the series is actually inherently libertarian. The state is the enemy and in later books Collins takes aim at most communist style “big state” issues as well. All that said, it is a shame that the movie is hard to enjoy for people who are not fans of the book.

libfreeordie on March 24, 2012 at 8:21 AM

Go read the books, Ed. Like any novel to movie transition, you lose the essence of the author’s story.

In an age where kids don’t know who Atlas was, never mind Atlas Shrugged and Fahrenheit 451 is the oven setting for preparing chicken nuggets and french fries, this is a fantastic opportunity to teach children about the horrors of totalitarianism and tyranny.

I thoroughly enjoyed all three books and saw the same similarities that you did and more, Ed.

turfmann on March 24, 2012 at 8:22 AM

there is a great movie from a few years back called battle royale. its a japanese r version but more lord of the flies

snoopicus on March 24, 2012 at 8:10 AM

Battle Royale was the first thing I thought of when I heard about Hunger Games. I do want to see this one, but after I’ve read, at least, the first book. Bought the Kindle version a couple of nights ago.

Oldnuke on March 24, 2012 at 8:30 AM

there is a great movie from a few years back called battle royale. its a japanese r version but more lord of the flies

snoopicus on March 24, 2012 at 8:10 AM

“Battle Royale” was also based on a Japanese novel, and if you know the storyline, then “Hunger Games” seems like even more of a ripoff.

I’d never even heard of the book until a couple months ago, but then I’m hardly in the target audience. John Carter forever!

eforhan on March 24, 2012 at 8:10 AM

My sentiments exactly.

Caiwyn on March 24, 2012 at 8:32 AM

It’s rated PG-13, which surprised me a little with the occasionally graphic violence in the film.

Because (according to pluggedin.com) it’s not full of swearing & sexual situations, which is a pleasant surprise.

itsnotaboutme on March 24, 2012 at 8:33 AM

The odds may be with them to find this enjoyable, but anyone older will have seen all of this before, and done better.

So October Baby is the must see movie this weekend.

itsnotaboutme on March 24, 2012 at 8:34 AM

Like any novel to movie transition, you lose the essence of the author’s story.

turfmann on March 24, 2012 at 8:22 AM

Any?

There are lots of very good “transitions” to film.

The Lion, The Witch, & The Wardrobe as well as The Dawn Treader come to mind, which are both faithful to the “essence” of C. S. Lewis’ novels.

itsnotaboutme on March 24, 2012 at 8:38 AM

The motivation for the deadly Olympiad is explained as a reminder not to rebel, but the idea of randomly killing the children of serfs for the sport of the obscenely rich doesn’t sound like a convincing way to keep a population under control.

This is the biggest problem I have with this whole concept. It’s the quickest way to incite rebellion, not suppress it.

I like the anti-totalitarian overtones, but… it doesn’t sound like the author spent much time thinking up plot devices. She found an emotional hook, but it has almost no logical explanation.

Caiwyn on March 24, 2012 at 8:40 AM

There are elements that remind one of “The Lottery,” the famous short story by Shirley Jackson, films like The Running Man and Rollerball, perhaps a dash of The Handmaid’s Tale and a bit of The Truman Show…..

Well don’t forget Gilligan’s Island when the hunter shows up on the island to track down Gilligan for sport.

Seriously when I saw the previews I said to myself “The Lottery” did it better and probably a heck of a lot faster.

Marcus on March 24, 2012 at 8:42 AM

It literally feels like a complete waste of time when the credits roll.

damn dude. I’ve never read your “review” style before. It’s pointed, much like the sea is wet.

The cinematography makes extensive use of the modern shaky-camera and ultra-close-up “documentary” techniques that supposedly gives a film a realistic look, but mainly drives people up the wall.

Thank you for this in particular. I really try to avoid vomit-cam when I can. And it sounds like I can. :)

Axe on March 24, 2012 at 8:43 AM

I read the first book, since I’m surrounded by teens and their moms who think they’re the pinnacle of brilliance. I couldn’t get past the idea that three generations of parents since the original rebellion gave up their children to the Games. One, I could believe, but three? And no one fought back or mounted any sort of resistance or figured out a method of birth control? Katniss has her own musings about not having kids but no one had had those thoughts in the generations previous? But hey, it’s a YA book and that’s the point: teens thoughts are all original, they know everything and eventually save the world. Anyway, that issue and the pitifully angsty “love” triangle kept me from reading past book 1. And no, I don’t “NEED” to read the rest of them.

Quisp on March 24, 2012 at 8:46 AM

I think I will give the books a shot once I finish The Tiger’s Wife. I hated Twilight, so I am hoping this latest craze is based on something a little more enjoyable.

McDuck on March 24, 2012 at 8:46 AM

This is the biggest problem I have with this whole concept. It’s the quickest way to incite rebellion, not suppress it.

Caiwyn on March 24, 2012 at 8:40 AM

’84 craps out along those lines, in my opinion. Proportional with misunderstanding human nature, the whole “cut it some slack and go with it” gets harder and harder. ’84 wasn’t entirely broken or anything, but you reminded me of my frowning. :) People just don’t act that way, that kind of thing.

But look, I’m open to anything without a ******* vampire or a ******* werewolf in it. :) Pardon my exasperated asterisks.

Axe on March 24, 2012 at 8:52 AM

How can Panem run the nation years from now when they became defunct years ago?

radjah shelduck on March 24, 2012 at 8:53 AM

I’ll stick to historical documentaries.

Blake on March 24, 2012 at 8:55 AM

Ed,

You have to read the book before seeing the movie. It would have taken 5-hours to fill in the back-story on film. The book was the best book I’ve read in the last decade and was creatively written with excellent character development.

Read the book and then see the movie again.

sswenviron on March 24, 2012 at 8:56 AM

Count me among the people who immediately thought of Battle Royale upon hearing of this series. The difference is that while Battle Royale really freaked me out (I didn’t like the movie, but I’ll admit to its effectiveness), this one comes off as sort of mindless and ill thought out — sort of like Twilight compared to Dracula.

I also find it odd that everyone’s kind of tiptoeing around the fact that children murder each other in this book as a matter of course; most of what I’ve read about it is rather vague on this count. That concept seems a little outside the general tenor of young adult novels, and I can’t say I’m excited about the precedent it sets.

TouchingTophet on March 24, 2012 at 8:56 AM

You have to read the book before seeing the movie. It would have taken 5-hours to fill in the back-story on film. The book was the best book I’ve read in the last decade and was creatively written with excellent character development.

Read the book and then see the movie again.

sswenviron on March 24, 2012 at 8:56 AM

Films have to stand on their own. If a film requires a viewer to have read the book to figure out what’s going on, then the film fails.

And yes, I’m talking to you, Dune.

Ed Morrissey on March 24, 2012 at 8:57 AM

But look, I’m open to anything without a ******* vampire or a ******* werewolf in it. :) Pardon my exasperated asterisks.

Axe on March 24, 2012 at 8:52 AM

Good point. ;-)

Ed Morrissey on March 24, 2012 at 8:59 AM

And yes, I’m talking to you, Dune.

Ed Morrissey on March 24, 2012 at 8:57 AM

LOL.

Not even the expanded, six (sixteen, can’t remember) hour version?

The Lion, The Witch, & The Wardrobe as well as The Dawn Treader come to mind, which are both faithful to the “essence” of C. S. Lewis’ novels.

itsnotaboutme on March 24, 2012 at 8:38 AM

I was pleasantly surprised by LOTR. Even the liberties seemed soft-touched.

Axe on March 24, 2012 at 9:02 AM

You really need to read the books before judging. I am 53 years old and enjoyed the whole series. If you only watch the movie of the 1st part, then, yes, the ending for THAT book would leave you somewhat empty. Imagine only watching Fellowship of the Ring without the others.

Remember, don’t judge a book by its movie!

TeaTrekkie on March 24, 2012 at 9:04 AM

You gave a thumbs up to the much weaker John Carter, yet you miss the point here, also there is an inflection point, where Katniss’s gesture, toward one of the slain, sparks off the rebellion. I don’y know how fleshed out it is in the books,

narciso on March 24, 2012 at 9:10 AM

How can Panem run the nation years from now when they became defunct years ago?

radjah shelduck on March 24, 2012 at 8:53 AM

I heard on the radio that the name was taken from the Latin panem et circenses, bread and circuses. That’s at least a little better than a misspelling of PanAm.

My two 20-something daughters went to see it last night with a large group of friends and they all loved it. They’ve read all three books. The first book is sitting on the side table staring at me, daring me to read it.

Fallon on March 24, 2012 at 9:13 AM

Watching teenagers and children kill each other (at least one looks to be about eight or nine years old) prompts the question of why children and teenagers would get chosen for this in the first place by a dictatorial regime, other than the author’s need to write a book for young adults.

The rational was nothing could show dominance more then making conquered groups sacrifice their most precious goods, their children.

rob verdi on March 24, 2012 at 9:20 AM

by the way, I devoured the books and would heartily recommend them to anyone, between these and Game of Thrones I was warble to leave planet earth for hours at a time.

rob verdi on March 24, 2012 at 9:22 AM

able became warble, I must still be in orbit.

rob verdi on March 24, 2012 at 9:22 AM

Sounds like a rip-off of Stephen King’s ‘The Long Walk’ with some of ‘The Running Man’ thrown in.

blue13326 on March 24, 2012 at 9:23 AM

blue133,
I loved Long Walk, now that would be a great 1 hour movie on sci-fi.

rob verdi on March 24, 2012 at 9:25 AM

Of course, The Most Dangerous Game is the uber-film for this genre.

Mr. Arkadin on March 24, 2012 at 9:26 AM

Shouldn’t Panem have been called Obamaville?

Gladtobehere on March 24, 2012 at 9:27 AM

It is in part the capriciousness of the rules, which Seneca allows
to continue the game, that allows Katniss and Peeta to become the focus of the resistance.

narciso on March 24, 2012 at 9:30 AM

I found many of the reviews, from the Journal to the Times, almost striving to miss the point, dwelling on Jennifer Lawrence’s performance, almost echoing the clueless commentary in the Capitol,
about Katniss, parallels to a recent political brouhaha, are unintended, but occur nonetheless.

narciso on March 24, 2012 at 9:36 AM

able became warble, I must still be in orbit.

rob verdi on March 24, 2012 at 9:22 AM

Kinda preferred “warble.” I wasn’t sure what it meant, but the sentence was more musical. :)

Axe on March 24, 2012 at 9:37 AM

I’m not quite halfway through the second one – the first caught me within about five pages – thoroughly enjoying this series – if I can avoid yard work today and tomorrow I hope to finish the third.

karra on March 24, 2012 at 9:43 AM

Sounds like a rip-off of Stephen King’s ‘The Long Walk’ with some of ‘The Running Man’ thrown in.

blue13326 on March 24, 2012 at 9:23 AM

Maybe a bit of Death Race without the cool cars.

RadClown on March 24, 2012 at 9:45 AM

ZARDOZ!

profitsbeard on March 24, 2012 at 9:51 AM

Shouldn’t Panem have been called Obamaville?
Gladtobehere on March 24, 2012 at 9:27 AM

No, Bathhouse Barry’s Panem would more likely resemble Detroit, Hiroshima, East Berlin.

Panem is far too sophisticated.

karra on March 24, 2012 at 9:51 AM

ZARDOZ!

profitsbeard on March 24, 2012 at 9:51 AM

Flash Gordon! You reminded me. I had forgotten about Flash Gordon. How is that possible? And after reading this one, I’d pay to see Ed’s review of Flash Gordon. I can’t even guess.

I gotta quit typing now. I get interested in the weirdest threads …

Axe on March 24, 2012 at 9:55 AM

Shouldn’t Panem have been called Obamaville?

Gladtobehere on March 24, 2012 at 9:27 AM

Been scrolling down looking for this. Thanks for writing what I was thinking.

Panem=Obamaville
Child sacrifice=Occupy

msupertas on March 24, 2012 at 9:56 AM

What I find interesting about the books, and the movie, is that there is no sense of faith in any of the characters or situations. The closest it comes, in the movie and the books, is when Peeta tells Katnis that he doesn’t want to become other than who he is. There are also telling moments where President Snow infers that “hope” is dangerous and must be carefully controlled and he doesn’t like “underdogs” and neither would Seneca is he knew any. Very far from traditional Judeo Christian ethos.

Zusnn on March 24, 2012 at 10:00 AM

Read the books. They were fantastic.

Kataklysmic on March 24, 2012 at 10:00 AM

You really need to read the books before judging. I am 53 years old and enjoyed the whole series. If you only watch the movie of the 1st part, then, yes, the ending for THAT book would leave you somewhat empty. Imagine only watching Fellowship of the Ring without the others.

Remember, don’t judge a book by its movie!

TeaTrekkie on March 24, 2012 at 9:04 AM

Millions did watch the Fellowship of the Ring w/o the other two movies. Trust me I had to explain to nearly my entire family to wait a year for the Two Towers. They just couldn’t understand why The Fellowship movie ended on that note.

As for the Hunger Games, I also read the book last week at my daughter’s insistence, when she returned home from her break from college. I enjoyed the book and agree with you that one should read the book and watch/re-watch the movie to write a complete review.

As for Katniss being “compelling” or “interesting,’ the background of reading the book explains why Katniss is the way she is. She is a very young woman growing up in a society with no joy.

Conservative4Ever on March 24, 2012 at 10:02 AM

Flash Gordon! You reminded me. I had forgotten about Flash Gordon. How is that possible? And after reading this one, I’d pay to see Ed’s review of Flash Gordon. I can’t even guess.

I gotta quit typing now. I get interested in the weirdest threads …

Axe on March 24, 2012 at 9:55 AM

The Queen soundtrack rocked. Hawkmen…FLY!!!

msupertas on March 24, 2012 at 10:03 AM

There are elements that remind one of “The Lottery,” the famous short story by Shirley Jackson, films like The Running Man and Rollerball, perhaps a dash of The Handmaid’s Tale and a bit of The Truman Show, and almost every post-apocalyptic dystopian fantasy ever filmed or even contemplated. The people in the districts come straight out of The Grapes of Wrath and Matewan, while the Capitol looks more like a more lively version of the Eternals in Zardoz, whose wealth is only exceeded by their garish and conspicuous consumption, and equally exploitative consumption of the “tributes” who will play in the games. (Elizabeth Banks’ Effie Trinket looks like she was airlifted from a Tim Burton shoot.)

Wow! Ed, you are quite the film critic.

Christian Conservative on March 24, 2012 at 10:06 AM

SLIDERS- Episode 24 “The Rules of the Game“!

profitsbeard on March 24, 2012 at 10:07 AM

Donald Sutherland and Woody Harrelson…ehhh I’ll keep my $$$ in my pocket.

NY Conservative on March 24, 2012 at 10:07 AM

Super super popular books I’ve tried to read it twice and it’s so stomach churning I get about 2 pages in and give up. Not well written–apparently not well-conceived if I take your word for it–yet it’s engendered cultish devotion. One of the most popular baby names in the country now is Katniss. What kind of freaking name is that? It’s like naming a whole generation of babies Severus, Albus, Hedwig and Hermione.

vityas on March 24, 2012 at 10:07 AM

My youngest son saw the movie last night as part of a birthday party event. He told me: “I was watching kids kill each other and that was supposed to be awful and evil, and then I realized…I was in a theater watching kids in a movie kill each other and that was supposed to be great entertainment.”

He’s fourteen. He’s awesome.

bonnie_ on March 24, 2012 at 10:07 AM

Read them, Ed.

I read the first 20 pages and threw it aside last spring. Out of boredom in the late summer, I picked it back up on my Kindle and read through all three books in a few weeks.

May the odds be ever in your favor…

hazchic on March 24, 2012 at 10:10 AM

My youngest son saw the movie last night as part of a birthday party event. He told me: “I was watching kids kill each other and that was supposed to be awful and evil, and then I realized…I was in a theater watching kids in a movie kill each other and that was supposed to be great entertainment.”

He’s fourteen. He’s awesome.

bonnie_ on March 24, 2012 at 10:07 AM

He just saw through Stephen King’s (and a thousand other writers’) whole schtick.

Waking up is “The Most Dangerous Game”.

profitsbeard on March 24, 2012 at 10:13 AM

Indeed, the book is also an extreme version of some of our exploitative sports culture in this country, can we see NCAA football where life altering concussions are risked with no guarantee of compensation beyond a college degree?

libfreeordie on March 24, 2012 at 8:21 AM

When did the NCAA start rounding up innocent teenagers and forcing them to play football? I’m pretty sure that every kid who signs with a program feels that it is well worth it. But you apparently can’t see the difference between the Olympiad in Hunger Games and college football. Typical.

cicerone on March 24, 2012 at 10:23 AM

Sounds like a flick aimed at a generation of kids raised on Pokemon.

warden on March 24, 2012 at 10:27 AM

Thank you for this in particular. I really try to avoid vomit-cam when I can. And it sounds like I can. :)

Axe on March 24, 2012 at 8:43 AM

Saw “The Blair Witch Program.” As we walkrd into the theater—-11 am, I wondered why the lobby smelled. Found out midway through the movie. I was OK but did get a little queasy. Wife barely made it through. Fortunately the camera shake didn’t last the whole pic.

arnold ziffel on March 24, 2012 at 10:30 AM

Maybe this point is not as obvious as it had seemed to me (since I’m a psychologist who specializes in adolescents and young adults), but no one has spoken to what struck me as the central theme of the book: the struggle to differentiate authentic emotions from those which are affected for public consumption…while the eyes of all are boring through you like lasers.

Katniss’ playing to the cameras, pretending to have feelings for some characters (because it’s playing well), while actually having feelings for others…then having trouble telling the difference, all speaks to a very real and familiar experience for teens. They all feel the Eyes, and the stakes can feel just as dire for them. I believe it is this deep truth which sets this series apart from other YA adventure stories.

Dunno if anything of this came through in the film (don’t see how it wouldn’t, though, since Collins was in on the screenplay), but I will see this; I thought the first book was excellent. The second was merely very good. The 3rd was good.

And the libertarian theme was definitely prominent, becoming even more so as the series progresses.

Noocyte on March 24, 2012 at 10:31 AM

I also find it odd that everyone’s kind of tiptoeing around the fact that children murder each other in this book as a matter of course; most of what I’ve read about it is rather vague on this count. That concept seems a little outside the general tenor of young adult novels, and I can’t say I’m excited about the precedent it sets.

TouchingTophet on March 24, 2012 at 8:56 AM

The “children” in the series bear little comparison to the “children” of today. In the districts, they work from a very early age and have adult responsibilities. They don’t get a carefree happy childhood and that’s part of the point.

Wendya on March 24, 2012 at 10:32 AM

The books fill in much of the missing backstory in the movie. Peeta in particular got very short shrift, although Josh Hutcherson did a wonderful job with the character.

For example, the movie doesn’t explain that Peeta burned loaves of bread on purpose, knowing he’d take a beating from his mother, to give them to the girl he’d loved since the age of five – who was on the point of starving to death. Nor does it explain that his televised confession of a crush on her was a deliberate strategy to help keep the two of them alive until there was no one left, at which point he planned to sacrifice himself so she could go home.

mrsknightley on March 24, 2012 at 10:32 AM

You have to read the book before seeing the movie. It would have taken 5-hours to fill in the back-story on film.

sswenviron on March 24, 2012 at 8:56 AM

This is one of the biggest problems with bringing some books to a visual medium. If it takes three chapters to set the stage, or the main character spends a lot of time thinking things instead of saying them, then it just isn’t going to work. Some absolutely fabulous stories will never be done well on film for those reasons. (LotR is probably one of the few stories that could tell its background well in a cinematic setting.)

As for Hunger Games, I know nothing about the book or movie. But, I probably won’t bother to see the movie based on Ed’s recommendation. At least, until someone else rents it for a movie night.

GWB on March 24, 2012 at 10:33 AM

But do the Elders look like Romney, Gingrich, and Santorum, with Boehner as the Court Jester? Is it 99%/Occupy Wall Street agit-prop?

motionview on March 24, 2012 at 10:37 AM

The rest of Panem consists of twelve districts, exploited by the wealthy and indolent ruling class in the Capitol,

Oh, just like…..er…….TODAY!

GarandFan on March 24, 2012 at 10:40 AM

read all 3 books in 5 days … awesome ….
I am going to see the movie …. hardly the target audience ….

conservative tarheel on March 24, 2012 at 10:42 AM

itsnotaboutme on March 24, 2012 at 8:38 AM

I was quite pleased with the authorial fidelity of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe as well as Prince Caspian. I was somewhat dissapointed in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, but it wasn’t the same director. Andrew Adamson having passed away, Michael Apted took over filming of the third entry from the Chronicles of Narnia. Adamson was also the lead screenwriter of the film adaptations, and he did a marvelous job of holding to Lewis’ vision, which Apted did not sustain IMO.

Indeed, the book is also an extreme version of some of our exploitative sports culture in this country, can we see NCAA football where life altering concussions are risked with no guarantee of compensation beyond a college degree?

libfreeordie on March 24, 2012 at 8:21 AM

Sour grapes from the kid picked last on the playground. If they don’t grow out of it, they turn into liberals every time, demanding that “fairness” trump excellence.

Freelancer on March 24, 2012 at 10:43 AM

then I realized…I was in a theater watching kids in a movie kill each other and that was supposed to be great entertainment.”

He’s fourteen. He’s awesome.

bonnie_ on March 24, 2012 at 10:07 AM

Exactly. I read the first two and they were okay, nothing special. The writing put me off, it just wasn’t that good. The characters weren’t developed enough, and the background was lacking. I felt like I’d read all this before and I had. The author needed to improve upon the previous versions of this concept but didn’t. Having a good concept isn’t enough, there has to be supporting elements. I know they aren’t supposed to be great literary works but they could have been better. So I’ll skip the movie.

Deanna on March 24, 2012 at 10:48 AM

I’ve read all three books, they are wonderful and the politics are much more complex than Ed is giving them credit. The capitol is definitely meant to be an uber capitalist/colonial power. The point of the Hunger Games isn’t to maintain power over the districts it is to demonstrate the state’s absolute power over the populace. One of the things the book makes very clear is that people in the most oppressed districts can not rise up because the capitol’s military power is overwhelming and that starvation is enforced by police power. More powerful districts receive major largesse and their kids are trained for the games, so there’s a culture of pride, rather than oppression at participation. Indeed, the book is also an extreme version of some of our exploitative sports culture in this country, can we see NCAA football where life altering concussions are risked with no guarantee of compensation beyond a college degree?

But the series is actually inherently libertarian. The state is the enemy and in later books Collins takes aim at most communist style “big state” issues as well. All that said, it is a shame that the movie is hard to enjoy for people who are not fans of the book.

libfreeordie on March 24, 2012 at 8:21 AM

My compliments. That is the first only most intelligent thing you have posted on HotAir.

I finished Book 5 of Game of Thrones on Wednesday. THAT is an amazing series.

I am looking for a new series. I will give the Hunger Games books a try. Quite a a few people whose opinions I respect (ranging in age from 14 to 68) have recommended them highly.

HeatSeeker2011 on March 24, 2012 at 10:51 AM

Movie sounds even worse than that fiesta of foolishness with the blue people and the leftover hardware from the original Star Wars trilogy — what was it called again? Avatar?

Can’t speak to the quality of the books, since I’m not really into teenie lit.

Scriptor on March 24, 2012 at 10:51 AM

Nor does it explain that his televised confession of a crush on her was a deliberate strategy to help keep the two of them alive until there was no one left, at which point he planned to sacrifice himself so she could go home.

Ack! They skipped that part? That part is the kindling that lights up the entire rebellion later on. /facepalm

40yr old…who read the 1st book on insistence of oldest daughter. Read all 3 books in 2 days.

Bring your nose out of the clouds and just enjoy it for what it is.

exsanguine on March 24, 2012 at 10:52 AM

Hm. Sounds a bit like Logan’s Run.

dukecitygirl on March 24, 2012 at 10:53 AM

One of the most popular baby names in the country now is Katniss. What kind of freaking name is that?

O well, it’s better than Katnip. Or Kourtney, Khloe, Kandy, Kreosote or whatever.

Scriptor on March 24, 2012 at 10:59 AM

While post-apocalyptic films have been among my favorite since the 50s, no matter how low-budget, this one sounds like a formulaic snoozer.
I think I’ll stick to the Cold War years when no one really knew what was happening.
And then Mad Max, etc. came along. I suspect that Mel Gibson revived the genré.
Even “The Postman” was better than its reviews for we who anticipate the unanticipated.
That Said …
Rarely does a re-make or thematic sequel match what we knew are the “known unknowns”.
(I’m sure I’ll give it a brief peek when it hits cable tv. Avatar sucked)
~(Ä)~

Karl Magnus on March 24, 2012 at 11:03 AM

Exsanguine – unfortunately, yes. I hope the script for the next movie gives Josh more of a chance to sink his teeth into his character, although his portrayal in this movie was remarkably emotionally efficient considering how little screen time he had.

mrsknightley on March 24, 2012 at 11:04 AM

Maybe this point is not as obvious as it had seemed to me (since I’m a psychologist who specializes in adolescents and young adults), but no one has spoken to what struck me as the central theme of the book: the struggle to differentiate authentic emotions from those which are affected for public consumption…while the eyes of all are boring through you like lasers.

Katniss’ playing to the cameras, pretending to have feelings for some characters (because it’s playing well), while actually having feelings for others…then having trouble telling the difference, all speaks to a very real and familiar experience for teens. They all feel the Eyes, and the stakes can feel just as dire for them. I believe it is this deep truth which sets this series apart from other YA adventure stories.

Dunno if anything of this came through in the film (don’t see how it wouldn’t, though, since Collins was in on the screenplay), but I will see this; I thought the first book was excellent. The second was merely very good. The 3rd was good.

And the libertarian theme was definitely prominent, becoming even more so as the series progresses.

Noocyte on March 24, 2012 at 10:31 AM

Sir, If I can expand on this even more, this book is speaking to and resonating with, a generation that has been saturated with eco-enviorwackness since the day it was born, yet the heroine is known for shooting squirrels right through the eye. This same generation has been saturated with the meme that the State is good, that Liberalism is good and that anything on TV must be true and yet the Director makes a major point as to how false all the hype is, repellently false. To give you a real world example, take any of the hundreds of felons in the NFL or NBA charged with drug offenses or rape or shootings and watch a game where they are players. The announcers use euphemisms and evasions when describing the “troubles” they are having or the “Legal concerns off the field” or my favorite “the cloud over their careers” a how they will be back better than ever once they have gotten out of prison.

Katniss horrified reaction (well played in the movie, by the way) is a condemnation of the false reality of Televised gladatorial games like football, soccer, basketball, etc., a triumph of the individual in the face of the all pervasive State and a cry for truth in the face of lies.

And this from the same generation that thinks Vampires “Sparkle”.

This is a great movie. In criticism, I found the bouncing camera and ultra closeups nauseating.

Bulletchaser on March 24, 2012 at 11:04 AM

Haven’t seen the movie yet, but what haunts me about the books is that there is never a mention about God, faith, religion–nothing. Adults gather ’round to see if their children will be slaughtered, and not one whispers a prayer. None of the teens pray. Nothing.

So the series feels utterly hopeless to me. Especially the last book. (Won’t go into details for spoiler reasons.)

Don’t know if Suzanne Collins is herself an atheist, or what message she was trying to send, but it was a scathing critique of atheism IMO. For what it’s worth.

Grace_is_sufficient on March 24, 2012 at 11:08 AM

Shouldn’t Panem have been called Obamaville?

Gladtobehere on March 24, 2012 at 9:27 AM

Been scrolling down looking for this. Thanks for writing what I was thinking.

Panem=Obamaville
Child sacrifice=Occupy

msupertas on March 24, 2012 at 9:56 AM

You’re welcome.

The rest of Panem consists of twelve districts, exploited by the wealthy and indolent ruling class in the Capitol Congress,

Politicians never change.

Gladtobehere on March 24, 2012 at 11:11 AM

Ack! They skipped that part? That part is the kindling that lights up the entire rebellion later on. /facepalm

exsanguine on March 24, 2012 at 10:52 AM

The movie ends without ever revealing Katniss’s true feelings (or lack thereof) for Peeta, which makes me wonder how they plan to set up for the next film.

rosewaning on March 24, 2012 at 11:13 AM

libfreeordie on March 24, 2012 at 8:21 AM

That isn’t “capitalist” or “colonial”, it’s strait up socialist, right out of how Stalin and Mao dominated Russia and China.

Count to 10 on March 24, 2012 at 11:29 AM

Complete rip-off of battle royale. I have read both books ( or series) all the way through. Battle royale is much more well written but the film version was awfull in just cinematic terms. I hear that the hunger games film production value is high and fairly compelling bu the book is definitely weaker than BR. If I had to choose I’d say Read battle royale, see hunger games.
Whoever said “battle royale ripoff” +1
Whoever said “John carter forever” +1000

Better answer::
Skip hunger games, go see John Carter which is an awesome cinematic spectacle based on a classic sci-fi that inspired generations of writers.

GregoryNeilSmith on March 24, 2012 at 11:32 AM

Sounds like an episode of Survivor.

ButterflyDragon on March 24, 2012 at 11:37 AM

I’ll stick to historical documentaries.

Blake on March 24, 2012 at 8:55 AM

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

Yakko77 on March 24, 2012 at 11:40 AM

It takes a long time to develop the story, while at the same time providing little coherent explanation of what exactly all of this means.

Caught it yesterday.

If you cut about 90 minutes of superfluous crap from this flick – it would make a good TV movie.

It was for the most part well shot (save for some vomit-inspiring hand-held camera-work toward the beginning…..don’t worry – it doesn’t last).

You like the lead and her little friend from another district…..everyone else (including peeta) you could really care less about.

I give it 3 out of 5 mainly because it kept me interested and wanting more – despite the fact that it never delivers.

Tim_CA on March 24, 2012 at 11:43 AM

Films have to stand on their own. If a film requires a viewer to have read the book to figure out what’s going on, then the film fails.

And yes, I’m talking to you, Dune.

Ed Morrissey on March 24, 2012 at 8:57 AM

Exactly, I see so few movies because the books are 99.99% of the time much better. I’ll pass on reading this novel, I prefer hard speculative fiction. The whole premise of this series of books sounds awfully derivative to me also.

Mini-14 on March 24, 2012 at 11:44 AM

My 13yr old daughter went with a bunch of her friends (all who read the book) and they said it was the best movie they ever saw.

I’m glad they had a great time. That’s all that matters.

LtT26 on March 24, 2012 at 11:50 AM

Looks silly and predictable. Lets get some more substantial stories about children on film, like Ender’s Game.

spec_ops_mateo on March 24, 2012 at 11:52 AM

Looks silly and predictable. Lets get some more substantial stories about children on film, like Ender’s Game.

spec_ops_mateo on March 24, 2012 at 11:52 AM

They’d screw up Ender’s Game way too much for it ever to become a movie. Just don’t do it.

njrob on March 24, 2012 at 11:53 AM

Anyone here remember “The 10th Victim”? This sound a lot like the same premise.

Anyone else run around in high school shooting each other with dart guns??? Heh. try THAT today…..

E9RET on March 24, 2012 at 11:54 AM

njrob on March 24, 2012 at 11:53 AM

Agreed, let’s not ruin “Ender’s Game” by making it into a crappy movie. I’m not sure Orson Scott Card will let it happen. It’s a shame none of his other work shines as brightly as the Ender Wiggins ones do.

Mini-14 on March 24, 2012 at 12:00 PM

Saw the movie last night, haven’t read the book – but my wife and three kids have. I believe the book goes quite a ways towards explaining much of this, including the perspective of why we know little about the other 22 children – the book is entirely from Katniss’ perspective. She doesn’t know the other 22 children – and so neither do we.

The movie did add things that Katniss wouldn’t have known, of course – all of the ‘control room’ elements, conversations between the leader and the gamekeeper, etc – apparently, in the books, you only read it/know it if Katniss is aware of it or in the middle of it.

*shrug*

My kids and wife loved it, having read the book(s) – I didn’t read any of them, and I enjoyed it too. And as to the perplexity surrounding why the government and ruling elite would want to exploit children to keep the masses in line, well… maybe it started as all being “for the children” – it’s not like we’ve never seen these people exploit the children in our time frame or anything. And our government/elite have been showing for 40+ years now that they don’t value the lives of children, and are even now on the bleeding edge of argument – as discussed here recently – that such murder not need be restricted to unborn children if said post-partum units are deemed unworthy…

Midas on March 24, 2012 at 12:01 PM

They’d screw up Ender’s Game way too much for it ever to become a movie. Just don’t do it.

njrob on March 24, 2012 at 11:53 AM

You may know this, but it’s already in production: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1731141/

eforhan on March 24, 2012 at 12:01 PM

The rational was nothing could show dominance more then making conquered groups sacrifice their most precious goods, their children.

rob verdi on March 24, 2012 at 9:20 AM

Agreed. The book was outstanding. I thought the movie suffered because they tried to directly transpose as many events as they could cram into 90 minutes while losing the essence of the books.

I got a strong anti-authoritarian feel from the books. And the idea of “The Hunger Games” doesn’t feel so forced when you read it on paper. The conquered districts are kept in bondage, only given what they need to survive from the all-powerful government. With that kind of hopeless dependence and divided population centers, it makes sense that the people would just hope their children would never have to be sacrificed rather than rebel against the only means of their survival.

JDF123 on March 24, 2012 at 12:04 PM

libfreeordie on March 24, 2012 at 8:21 AM gives a very coherent review of the books. We also read all 3, the first being the best. I’m anxious to see the movie because we enjoyed the books so much. And no, I’m not a young adult.

katablog.com on March 24, 2012 at 12:04 PM

It takes a long time to develop the story, while at the same time providing little coherent explanation of what exactly all of this means. The motivation for the deadly Olympiad is explained as a reminder not to rebel, but the idea of randomly killing the children of serfs for the sport of the obscenely rich doesn’t sound like a convincing way to keep a population under control. It takes forever to get past all of the incoherent back story to get to the game itself, where Katniss’ backwoods upbringing comes in handy for her survival. The game is bloody and violent, although most of the violence (with a couple of exceptions) is blurred and quick-cut, presumably to preserve the PG-13 rating.

Exactly what I said… If it were me I would try to unite the players and try to kill the elites during training. It kinda reminded me of No Escape and a few other movies. I really don’t see what the big deal was.

jeffn21 on March 24, 2012 at 12:05 PM

The Queen soundtrack rocked. Hawkmen…FLY!!!

msupertas

“What do you mean, Flash Gordon approaching?”

What a deliciously terrible movie, I couldn’t wait to get it on DVD

E9RET on March 24, 2012 at 12:08 PM

Ed, read the books I agree, a movie should stand on its own. But that’s no reason to be oblivious to other environmentals. I can listen to a John Williams score superbly performed in a concert hall and still enliven the experience by recalling the purpose for which it was written.

How can you read Kipling and not consult a map? I saw some Van Gogh once beautifully projected upon the immense white walls of a bauxite mine in France while a Bach cello sonata was echoing trough the caverns.

Seriously! Is it better to have seen a Shakespeare play before or after reading it?

There are very few movies that stand squarely on their own apart from the book. I’m thinking of Being There, Silence of The Lambs, The Godfather

It’s only after reading a few Will Eisner comics can one discover what that clown, Frank Miller, did in The Spirit.

Don’t be so constipated about this.

Krumhorn on March 24, 2012 at 12:14 PM

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