Mook Review: The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games – Written by Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins, Katniss Everdeen

via BN.com

Many literary snobs turn up their nose at Young Adult fiction. I am definitely not one of those people. I love the recent surge in Young Adult fiction, particularly fantasy, and their development into highly successful mooks. These novels fly off the shelves and become box-office hits instantly… so what is there not to like? I do recognize the many failed YA adaptations, but when given an amazing text to work with it seems natural to want a big-screen translation. A prime example of this is The Hunger Games.

I was first introduced to The Hunger Games by my 8-12 year old dance students. They would not stop talking about the despised “Capitol” and their beloved characters Katniss and Peeta. They begged me to read the book but I had brushed off the novel as being way too immature for me to read (the 10+ age gap between myself and my students was a red flag.) I soon began to realize that everywhere I went, someone was reading or talking about this book. I finally gave in and picked up The Hunger Games this past November. I literally could not put down the trilogy for the following 7 days.

Suzanne Collins is a specialist in children’s writing, and it shows in The Hunger Games. This novel is in no way a difficult read. The language is concise, the metaphors clear, and the plot lines are straight to the point. It is not a “literary masterpiece” but it is divine in its own right. Katniss Everdeen is an amazing female character and heroine. She is a strong-willed fighter who will do anything to survive and, in my opinion, is a fantastic role model for young readers. The novel is told from Katniss’ perspective so we are limited in what we know, but from the start it is clear that Gale Hawthorne plays a major role in Katniss’ life. However, once the games begin, he is discarded and becomes a very minor character. The same is for Katniss’ sister, Primrose. Katniss is constantly talking about how much Prim means to her but we barely know anything about her. This is a serious problem I had with The Hunger Games and felt myself feeling empty towards the minor characters.

Undoubtedly, this novel is a page turner and the casual attitude towards the violence in Panem is eerie. Collins keeps us in the dark about information surrounding the Capitol, the games, and the districts (one of the reasons why the following two novels are so thrilling.) I found myself trying to scrape up any bit of information I could find and trying to piece it all together. Although this is considered a Young Adult book and the main characters are all children themselves, there is nothing childish about Collins’ dystopia and its transgression to the screen should be nothing short of incredible. I anticipate it to be a box office smash.

“The Hunger Games” – Directed by Gary Ross

The Hunger Games Movie, Lionsgate, Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Gary Ross, Mookology Review, Katniss Everdeen, Peeta Mellark, The Capitol

via IMDB.com

First, I would like to thank my good friend Matt (@mattw6789) for taking me to an advanced screening of “The Hunger Games” yesterday afternoon! If you are one of my twitter followers (@Mookology), you may have seen my tweets of HG-themed cocktails and countdown posters. It was amazing! Now, onto the movie.

For all you fans of the book series, be prepared to see some changes. These are minor changes, mostly, with a few added elements. However, these things needed to be done in order to present the Capitol, the Districts, and the Games with proper detail. In the book, we are inside Katniss head and she guides us with information on the world she lives in and how the Games work. What we miss in the film without Katniss’ narration is made up for with added scenes and explanations.

One of my favorite things about the movie, for example, was that we are able to see the Gamemaker Headquarters (which is AWESOME!) which gives Seneca Crane a much larger role. Everything about the Capitol is quite intense, super glamorous and a stark alternative to the lives in the Districts. The movie is able to put the Capitol on display in the way the book cannot. Gary Ross does a great job of directing in the sense that each aspect of the films’ settings are different and capture the mood of the scene.

The casting was phenomenal. I am a huge Jennifer Lawrence fan and it was no surprise that she was fantastic, but everyone else was equally as powerful. Elizabeth Banks as Effie was hilarious in all the right ways and probably one of my favorite portrayals in the film. Josh Hutcherson as Peeta Mellark, who I was nervous would not impress me at all, was PERFECT and he completely reinforced my “Team Peeta” mentality. Lastly, Stanley Tucci as Ceasar Flickerman is flat out flawless and becomes the face of the Capitol in the most strange and corrupt way. Ceasar Flickerman narrates the Games as if it were the Superbowl, which brings to the surface how twisted the Capitol is and how far removed it’s citizens are from the sanctity of their tributes’ lives.

The only problem with being such a huge fan of the novels is that “The Hunger Games” film feels rushed, even at 2 and 1/2 hours. Katniss and Rue’s friendship is so short lived and, while powerful, you just want a little bit more. The same goes for Katniss and Peeta’s romance. But these small issues in no way harmed the integrity of this film.

“The Hunger Games” is a gem in an era of franchise movies and I hope everyone who sees it feels the same. It’s impossible not to! I had super high expectations and this film met most of them with flying colors and has me eagerly anticipating its sequel, “Catching Fire.”

Mook Rating ★★★★1/2

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23 thoughts on “Mook Review: The Hunger Games

  1. I’m not part of the YA demographic, but there are some fantastic books in that genre! I am anxious to see the movie, but wasn’t prepared to stand in line, and be awake, for the midnight showing. Nice reviews!

    • The Hunger Games is unlike any other YA book out there and I think you will find it fascinating. And I agree, I have long outgrown midnight showings so I was incredibly thankful to have gotten access to an early screening. I was out of the movie 2 hours before the midnight showing even started!

    • and then spent most of the book killing them off. It remiednd me of the third Pirates of the Caribbean movie, where characters whose names you don’t know are being killed left and right so you know this is SERIOUS without having to lose a major character it’s a cheap trick, and I expected better of Collins. And cheating like this doesn’t actually work; it was so unlikely that she was going to kill off Katniss, Gale or Peeta in the middle of the book that it didn’t really create the suspense she was going for. Prim’s death (and Finnick’s) could have been used much more thoughtfully; instead we had a blitzkrieg of constant attrition to remind us that THIS IS WAR. It wasn’t evocative it just made me feel numb. This endless dying is interspersed with even-more-endless strategy and technical details. I repeatedly found myself skimming, which never happened with the previous two books. But these passages were so boring(!), and I kept hoping to find that Katniss had figured out a purpose or an orientation or had reached out to Peeta or even just accurately assessed something but no luck. Which brings me to character development, relationships, and philosophical reflections on values and motivations. They were vital in the previous two books, but they are nearly nonexistent here, and the book is fatally flawed because of it. Peeta is barely present, and if you discount the time that Katniss spends crying in corners, injured and in the hospital, taking morphling, or being manipulated or controlled by others and wandering around confused, she isn’t really present either. And Gale is unfairly characterized in order to resolve the love triangle it’s baffling, because Katniss of all people isn’t in a moral position to judge Gale, and I thought that was part of the point. Ultimately, the story is hijacked hey, that’s a good metaphor! by anti-war propaganda and a damn-near nihilistic outlook. I understand that Collins wanted to communicate that war and violence aren’t glamorous. I think she’s right. But (ironically) she’s done real violence to her characters and the merit in the world she created in order to bludgeon us with that value. In a way, you could call this book more realistic . And yet I think a book that accurately reflects the gritty horrors of war would show how people use dark humor as a coping mechanism. This book had none of the wry humor of the previous two. And for pity’s sake, what was Collins trying to achieve with the ending? I agree with those who say that Katniss agreed to a renewed Hunger Games featuring the children of Capitol citizens in order to get the opportunity to stop Coin it’s the only thing that makes sense, given what Collins is clearly trying to convey, and it fits best with the character of Katniss. But it’s not made explicit in the text. Leaving this up to conjecture was a major error on Collins’ part, or very bad editing. It’s not wise to be subtle in the philosophical part of the book that is meant to put the heavy-handed part into some kind of context. And the last four pages, where we finally learn: Peeta or Gale? An afterthought. I think what is worst is that by making this choice, Collins makes the war the only important part, the only real part of Katniss’s life all the rest calls for is a brief summary. Almost all injury, very little road to recovery (those real or not real conversations were one of the few highlights of the book). It’s baffling to me that this tacked-on ending is still fairy-tale-esque (that is, Katniss did settle down with her True Love and have children). But why bother giving her this semblance of a fairy-tale ending when it’s so clear that she’s DEAD INSIDE? It could have been insightfully ironic though that’s a little sick but it’s not. It’s just empty. Apparently, once you’ve been in a war, nothing not even consummation of true love or the birth of your

  2. Thanks for the reviews. I’ve been humming and hawing over whether or not to read the series and think I’ll try to get a seat for the screening tomorrow and, of course, borrow the book. Thanks again!

    • You’re welcome! Although you definitely don’t have to read the book to understand the story, I would recommend the books. They are such an easy read and since its Katniss’s POV there are different aspects of the story that just can’t come across on screen.

  3. **SPOILER ALERT** Please dont read if you haven’t already read/watched The Hunger Games.

    Honestly, I liked the movie as a movie. I am not a huge fan of the book, but this was a pretty good adaptation for the big screen. I totally agree with you that the two relationships are rushed in the movie, but I think Rue’s acting was great in the little that we saw her.

    I do have one major issue with the movie. How do you think the opening fight scene in the Arena came across? I don’t think it gave the Games justice. This is where the audience finally understands that these games are real, not just show. Personally I think they should have focused on the fighting a little more, instead of trying to drown it out with music.

    All in all, the movie did some things well and the some things not so well, but I still think its worth seeing.

    • I actually really enjoyed the Cornucopia scene given that The Hunger Games was rated PG-13. From what I’ve read, Lionsgate originally had some issues with their rating and had to cut out some violence to appease younger viewers. Obviously a little more gore would have been fine for me but I guess not for everyone :/

  4. I just finished this book this week. I read it in less than 48 hrs. I also thought that it was originally for children but once I started reading it, I was hooked. Then, when I went to buy the next too, I have to say that walking into the “Teen Bestsellers” section was humbling to say the least. Haha I really am surprised that the movie isn’t rated R with as much violence as the book held, but I guess when it’s being acted out its a little different and to cut some of the bloodbaths out makes more money for the studio to produce the next one…

  5. I’m 28 and I couldn’t put it down. It stuck with me for many days – would not leave my mind, it was so eerie, but equally entertaining. I’ve even seen senior citizens reading it when I go out to places. No joke – old people are reading this book as much as young people. Step aside, Harry Potter. Way, way aside.

  6. I still read YA at 26, and don’t plan to stop. I loved all three books and the movie, except one detail bothered me. ****Spoiler****
    The mockingjay pin. Instead of being given to Katniss as a sign of how the wealthy(ish) and poor are united under the Capitol’s oppression, she just buys it. It felt like it became a symbol of family instead.

    • Here are my thoughts on the Mockingjay pin issue… Like I stated in my review, many points of this movie felt rushed even at 2 and 1/2 hours. There was so much to be explored and explained that the director needed to cut corners in whatever way they could. That being said, although the Mockingjay pin story seems more integral to the story in the novel, think of all that would have needed to be added in order to make that happen. There would need to be additional characters, Madge and the Mayor, and the friendship story of Madge and Katniss would need to be explained. Gale and Katniss’s relationship barely made sense in the movie, so imagine how weird Madge would have been?

      I, personally, didn’t mind this change and even enjoyed the new meaning this pin took on. But, that is just my opinion!

      • No, you’ve got a good point. Length is always an issue in book-to-movie translations. I guess I would’ve been happy with it being a gift handed off from a wealthy girl, for luck. Which, minus the ‘girl’ part, is what happened. :)

      • I do agree, I think they could have been a little more creative with the Mockingjay pin story.. I’m interested to see how the pin plays out in the next two movies!

  7. Pingback: Mook Review: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire | mookology.

  8. Pingback: Mook Review: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 | mookology.

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