Movie Review: The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games
Director: Gary Ross
Stars: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Donald Sutherland
Production Company: Lionsgate
Release Date: 03/23/12

NOTE:  Spoilers abound.  I don’t like spoilers, but it’s kind of inevitable in this review.  So if you haven’t seen the movie, I’d advise you to see it before reading my review.  And if you haven’t read The Hunger Games, I’d advise you to read the book, then see the movie, then come back here to my review.

Okay friends and fellow fans of The Hunger Games book series, don’t hurt me, but I really was pretty disappointed with the movie adaptation.  First of all, let me say that I LOVE the book series – in my opinion, it’s second only to the Harry Potter series.  So I was just as excited as everyone else upon visiting my local theater to see the first book come to life.

But I had some issues.  My first, MAJOR issue was the fact that they used a shaky camera style or quick, choppy cuts throughout most of the movie.  I understand that they wanted it to maybe seem like you were there, looking around, but for me, they failed to focus on anything long enough for people to realize what they were looking at.  And I understand that, during the fight scenes, using this quick-cut, shaky style helps to make it not as gory, and it helped their rating because clearly, you can only guess that you’re seeing kids fighting other kids.  You see flashes of a knife or a bow or a fist or whatever, but the camera moves so quickly that you can’t really tell what you’re looking at.  But it bothered me that I couldn’t tell what was going on.  And the shakiness of the camera made me feel like I was watching The Blair Witch Project all over again.

My husband had the same issue with the film, but my other friends who went with us either didn’t notice the shakiness at all, or they felt like it died down later on in the movie, or they simply got used to it.  I found myself closing my eyes a lot, just praying for them to have a scene with a still cam.  I don’t know if because I have poor eyesight I’m just more sensitive to this kind of thing (but that doesn’t seem likely, because my husband has 20/20 vision), or if it was because of the huge screen (but all my friends saw it on the same screen), or if it was agitated by the fact that my allergies have been acting up, or if I’m just extra sensitive to that kind of stuff (which is probably the case, because I can’t handle 3D movies, either).  But apparently there have been other reviewers out there (my husband told me about them – I try not read other reviews as I’m in the midst of doing a review) who felt the same way.  

No matter what the cause, though, it kept me from really being able to enjoy the movie, and I found myself counting up all the other negative aspects of the film.  For instance, there was one part that was so ridiculous that it was funny – I wasn’t the only one who laughed BTW – and it should have been a tense moment.  And some of the CGI was really not so great.  And don’t get me started on Lenny Kravitz as Cinna.  He looked the part, and he was calm and collected, but the way he delivered his lines screamed “I AM NOT AN ACTOR.”  (But I do realize that I am also not an actor, and I probably wouldn’t have given even as good of a performance as he did.) But I think all the other actors gave great performances, and I really loved that they brought out the banter between Effie and Haymitch.  I’ll admit I was worried about Woody Harrelson as Haymitch, but I think he ended up doing a great job.  And while I think Donald Sutherland can be completely creepy, I don’t think he was creepy enough as President Snow.  We got to see him more in this movie than we do in the book, so I was expecting to start shivering as I heard him talk.  Not so much.  But I’m hoping they’ll up the creepiness factor in the next movie.

I did like the fact that we got to see a lot of what goes on behind the scenes during the Games, and that kind of helped tame what I believed would end up being a very gory movie.  Let me explain my jumbled thought.  When I heard this book was being made into a movie, I was kind of worried, because a lot of the book is Katniss’s internal thoughts, and her internal struggles as to how to play the game, how she feels about Peeta, etc.  And then I remembered that because the book is told in 1st person, we as the reader only see the deaths in the arena that Katniss sees.  So therefore I was worried that, when making it into a movie, the directors would feel the need to clue the movie audience in on what was happening around the entire arena, and we’d see all the deaths of all the kids.  But I do think that the people involved in this film came up with a great solution to that – keep it focused totally on Katniss and what she sees, and in between, show what’s going on with Seneca Crane and all the game makers.  Very clever, and I give them kudos for that.

Overall, I think I probably would have loved the movie just as much as everyone else if I hadn’t felt so affected by the shaky camera.  I just don’t understand why this was needed throughout the entire movie.  I would have been fine with it if it just happened during the major action scenes, but since it was used throughout the film, along with those choppy cuts, I was constantly feeling dizzy and it was hard for me to focus on the rest of the movie.  And frankly, it put me in a bad mood so that a lot of the time I was focusing on the bad parts of the film.  I realize that my judgement was probably totally clouded by that one aspect of the movie.  But I do think that the acting was great, the sets were spectacular and the costumes were perfection.  Just please, Gary Ross and Co., next time, ix-nay on the aky-shay am-cay, okay?


  1. Briana

    March 24, 2012 at 11:20 pm

    I completely agree about the camera! I was actually getting a little motion sick in the beginning, although I suppose I did get used to it to some extent. And I thought it worked a lot better during the Games than during simple dialogue.

    I also agree that it was difficult to focus on anything. I was specifically trying to see Glimmer to determine if she was the same actress I had scene in a random television show the night before, and I never saw her face long enough to decide! It then occurred to me that I wasn't very clear on what any of the other tributes really looked like.

    I did notice the POV was mainly Katniss's, which actually made it quite random when they switched to Rue's as she was dying, making it all blurry and whatnot. I'm not sure whether there was another moment they suddenly withed POVs like that.

    But I did like the movie overall, and I agree that the extra shots of Snow and how the Games were designed and manipulated were cool. I also liked there were clearer indications than in the book (in my opinion) that Gale might like Katniss. That love triangle really came out of nowhere for me, though I may just be unobservant!

    I also liked Effie far more than I thought I would.

    1. Andrea @ The Overstuffed Bookcase

      March 25, 2012 at 4:25 pm

      I just wish the shakiness hadn't been there, because otherwise I think I really would have enjoyed it. And yes, I really loved Effie! She and Haymitch had the only funny lines in the movie, if I'm remembering correctly. I think Effie was spot-on.

  2. Bittner

    March 25, 2012 at 1:56 pm

    great review Andrea. I wont go into all my thoughts because you already know them, but I agree with you on parts and disagree on parts, that's the way it goes!
    I will say that I didn't LOVE the movie. It was fine, it was good, there are way worse book to movie adaptations out there, but I just didn't love it. Probably wont see it again until it is released for sale and even then I probably wont run straight out and buy it. but eventually I'm sure I will

    1. Andrea @ The Overstuffed Bookcase

      March 25, 2012 at 4:27 pm

      Yeah, I mean, I think my judgement was clouded by the shakiness, but even if that wasn't there I'm not sure I would have absolutely LOVED the movie. I think I really would have enjoyed it a lot, but not to the extent of some people – I've read quite a few tweets where people say it was the best movie ever! I don't think I'd say that even if the shakiness was gone.

  3. fakesteph

    March 25, 2012 at 10:15 pm

    I didn't love the shaky came either, but I think the problem with Cinna (at least for me) was that Jennifer Lawrence is so old and there was more sexual/romantic chemistry that came across between her and Cinna than her and Peeta (he's like… 17 at the time, I believe). I thought he did a really good job tho. And I LOVED president Snow. I love my villains calm and nonthreatening when you know they could order your death without it ruining their lunch. :)

    1. Andrea @ The Overstuffed Bookcase

      March 26, 2012 at 10:25 pm

      Yeah, I mean, I like the villains to be calm and collected, too, but I just imagined him being a bit more outwardly creepy. Although if I remember correctly he really isn't creepy until book 2, so hopefully I'll see more creepiness in the next movie.

      And I've seen some reviews where people say the same thing about Katniss and Cinna having more chemistry than her and Peeta – I was expecting a big reaction to the whole cave scene in the theater, but there wasn't one! So yeah, I agree with that.

  4. LHughes

    March 25, 2012 at 11:53 pm

    I wasn't a fan of the shaky camera either. It seems like a lot of people weren't though! That's one of the things everyone is complaining about most!

    The person I saw the movie with hadn't read the books, and he thought the scene where Cinna and Katniss hug was awkward and too intimate. So I think you're onto something there…

    Lauren @ Hughes Reviews

    1. Andrea @ The Overstuffed Bookcase

      March 26, 2012 at 10:26 pm

      I've read some reviews since writing mine and I've heard that some people got pretty sick watching the movie! It's so strange that it can really affect some people and not others! I wish it hadn't bothered me so much!

      I've heard lots of people talk about that Katniss/Cinna chemistry, too. Kinda strange…

    2. ~Shavonne

      March 27, 2012 at 2:50 pm

      I did not notice the shaky camera at all during the movie and I saw it in an IMAX theater. (My friend, who has left an IMAX theater to throw up in the middle of a movie, didn't really notice it either.) The only times I could think of it being shaky was when there was chaos happening. The arena was a chaotic place and if you portray it as a peaceful meadow (that they were actually shooting in) I think it would have been lost that her life was in danger.

      I personally don't believe in tearing apart a movie that is based on a book. I didn't write the book therefore they are not really my characters and I cannot say what they can or cannot look like. When I go into a movie that is based on a book, I let someone else show me their interpretation. Most of the time I say phrases like, "I thought Haymitch would look more like Hagrid (but the same size)." I guess I just let my imagination take me my own places but, I don't mind seeing where others imaginations are too. The people that made this movie actually consulted with Suzanne Collins where as I have never met her.

    3. Andrea @ The Overstuffed Bookcase

      March 27, 2012 at 9:40 pm

      Yeah, I don't like it when people are really nitpicky about the movie versus the book, stating every little detail that was different. The movie is a different entity. But we as people who enjoyed the book still want to see it come to life closely to the original story. I think the adaptation aspects of The Hunger Games movie were pretty spot-on, and I think most of the actors seemed great for the parts. I hope my review wasn't too nitpicky – I didn't mean for it to be! My only real complaint, the thing that really turned me off, was the shakiness of the camera. It's strange that it only affected some people! I wish it hadn't affected me so much. But I'm going to see it again this weekend and hopefully the shakiness won't bother me as much.

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