Yesterday afternoon I was invited to an early IMAX screening of The Hunger Games, which is TRULY one of the most talked about, most anticipated films of the year. As a HUGE fan of the books, I have been anxiously awaiting my chance to see this big screen film version in the hopes that the movie will be able to do justice the brilliant novel written by Suzanne Collins. While some changes to the original story had to be made for the film version, I am EXCEEDINGLY pleased to tell you all right now that the film version of The Hunger Games is an absolutely stunning live adaptation of the original book. I will do my best to keep my comments spoiler-free but you can read my full movie review below.
Without question, the reason that The Hunger Games is a worldwide phenomenon is because author Suzanne Collins created a vivid, poignant, intense story that is aimed at “young readers” but resonates with both young and older readers. I was so taken with Collins‘s Hunger Games novels that I could see the action as it took place in my mind’s eye. The trick with a film version of the book is how well the director and actors can approximate all of the wonderful images the reader was able to conjure up in their imagination. I am very confident in telling you now that this film version of The Hunger Games just gets it SO right. The cast is absolutely stunning in this film. The 3 young lead actors — Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth (to an extent) — truly became the characters. But I have to say, Elizabeth Banks‘s performance as Effie Trinket was often the scene stealer. Donald Sutherland‘s President Snow, Wes Bentley‘s Seneca Crane and Lenny Kravitz‘s Cinna were all very strong characters … of course, they could not be fleshed out properly in a 2 1/2 hour movie but they are an excellent approximation of their rich book incarnations. As always, there have to be changes in film versions of books but I promise, none of the changes at all affect the overall enjoyment of the story. I was very impressed with the direction of the film. For the first half, action takes place prior to the actual Hunger Games … the stark desolation of District 12 is so … palpable, you can almost hear a pin drop in some of the scenes with long silences (only Effie‘s excited and spirited voice can break the awkward silence). I noticed that there is not a lot of (if any) background music used in the first half, pre-Hunger Games portion of the film. The lack of music really added to feeling of solace and emptiness that is conveyed by a desperate setting like District 12. For me, the movie felt like 2 halves … pre-Games and during-Games. I can’t even tell you which part I liked most. Yes, the action and suspense of the action that takes place during the Games is gripping … but the emotional pounding we get before the Games is just … wow … also intense. I’m not going to lie, I felt pangs of heartbreak in my chest in various parts of the film … and I may have teared up a few times (I’m not even sure who made me cry more, Prim or Rue). That’s a good film, y’all … one that can make you FEEL something physically. I generally am not impressed with film adaptations of books but I was HUGELY impressed with this one. The spirit of the book is alive and very well in this film. Yes, we get a condensed version of all of the action that takes place in the book but the 2 1/2 hours of screentime is used very, very well. There is NO HINT of what’s to come at all in the forthcoming sequel films … which is good for those of you who have not read the books, I think. I am really anxious to see this film again. David and I will be going on Friday night. He has never read the books so I’m curious to see how he responds to the film not knowing anything about the overall plot of the story.
Trust me on this, Hunger Games fans, this movie will satisfy you. I felt it … I felt the power of the books as I watched this film. I suspect The Hunger Games will make a lot of fans very, very happy.