I have no idea how to begin conveying my disappointment in the movie. How disappointed I am to have bought two IMAX movie tickets on Fandango last week for 9pm last night and it be an ultimate, mind blowing, 4 finger slap in the face while the thumb stabbed me in the eye.
Perhaps, I'm being melodramatic. I'd give the movie a B-/C+. It was okay. That's it. It wasn't great. It wasn't awe-inducing. It didn't leave me gearing up for the sequel. In fact, I was desperate to leave when I turned to look at my brother (11) who was so excited all week but was now sleeping 3/4s of the way through. As we walked out, we left knowing we would not look forward to the film for "Catching Fire".
When people are self-described book fanatics, watching the film version can leave much to be desired. Honestly, you don't watch, you compare. You compare the scenery, appearances, dialogue, cut scenes, added parts. It's almost impossible to fairly judge the movie because any diversion from the book leaves the reader unsatisfied. If it's not exactly like the book, it's a bad movie.
And that's not fair. There is no way to turn what took you a few days (or one long night) to read into a two hour movie. Things need to be cut. If the character is narrating in the book but not in the film, you have to add parts to still convey the character's thoughts and feelings. If a book was written using the latest technologies of their time (Sconex anyone?), then we need to upgrade to the technologies of our time (Facebook). And unless a character's appearance is vital to the story, then I don't give a damn who you cast.
My only request when devising a script from what was an incredible novel, is that you stay true to the story. And that's why the Hunger Games gets that B-/C+. They did. And they did okay. I'm sure others will find it enjoyable.
But they didn't go there. They did not go there.
I love horror movies. I love films that leave my heart pounding, skin crawling, jumping at sounds and scared to sleep. The ones that have me rooting for the characters, urging them to stay silent when the killer is near, to be strong. I love blood, gore, struggle and hopefully, triumph. So I'm not afraid of a movie that goes there. I welcome them to force me out of my comfort zone.
And that's what the Hunger Games book did. From the very beginning, I was awe-struck at the sheer, fuckedup-ness of it all. Reading how hungry the people in District 12 were. When Katniss was famished and jumped at a piece of burnt bread. Illegally hunting to feed her family as the government did not nothing to ensure they were adequately fed. How extra entries into the Hunger Games lottery (a televised battle to the death of none but one) meant more grain and oil for you and your family. While everyone between the age of 12-18 were added to the lottery, the people who went the hungriest, the poorest, were always increasing their odds to die. Her remembering a couple trying to run away and the boy being killed instantly while the girl became a worker for the Capitol having had her tongue cut out.
Many times, I found myself putting the book down and just being appreciative that I didn't have to go days without food or a lifetime without real hope.
The games were even worse. In horror movie history, I have never been confronted with the brutal death of a child. I think of the dramatic legal thriller, "A Time to Kill", and even then, the young girl who is raped by two men isn't graphically shown. But in this book, the detail forced me to see it all. No one was safe. Katniss suffered from severe dehydration. Her dark urine. The burn wound after the Gamemakers drove her back to her fellow competitors, Tributes, with artificially created fire. When she drops the trackerjackers on a group of Tributes and their bites swell to the size of grapefruits. The explosion she sets off that leaves her deaf in one ear. The knife wound she gets on her head that leaves her in a pool of blood.
Peeta suffering from blood poisoning. The sound of Cato being viciously attacked all night by a pack of horrific genetically altered wolves and Katniss's arrow that puts him out of his misery. The bloody bite Peeta received that would render him an amputee.
In terms of storyline, the filmmakers got it right. The character's feelings, the society's dynamic. They even showed what happened from the angle of the Gamemakers which was a great way to juxtapose the lives of those in the district to those in the Capitol. I remember sitting there and my blood boiling at the site of kids from the Capitol reenacting the Hunger Games as if it was - and for them it was - just entertainment. They would never have to enter a reaping. They'd never have to fight to the death or die from starvation or cold.
But they watered down the terror like a cup of ice. The vicious fighting between the tributes wasn't shown clearly. Katniss wasn't close to death from dehydration. The insect wounds weren't horrendous. She never lost her hearing. The knife wound on her head was minor. Cato was only attacked for a short moment. The wolves didn't have the eyes of the fallen Tributes. Peeta kept his leg. In fact, they didn't even put the lethal berries in their mouth.
While this all may seem like detail, it sums up to the movie being made for TV. It was lighter and easier to watch. It's like the movie was made for parents. Nothing to give their children nightmares. Nothing too scary. Frightening, but not too frightening.
It bothered me because for some people, that is real. For some, that is their life. They really do live under a tyrannical rule. They really do go hungry for days. Children are forced to kill other children. They are faced with brutal punishments. They do die.
You were supposed to be shaken. You were supposed to be moved towards change. I read the books and thought of the hungry and the war torn. I was enraged. I was unhappy. I wanted things to change. I wanted to spend a week gathering my own food and starting my own fires. I wanted to put the book down and make it go away. I wanted to pick it back up and urge them to revolt.
And my brother did too. But the film didn't do that. It was made with the preteen viewers in mind and it was rated PG-13. Every article was about whether parents should let their teens see it. And they should be happy. The gut-wrenching trauma of the book was effectively turned down in the movie. Unfortunately, it was turned down so much that it became mere background noise, rendering the truths about humanity offered in the book as something easy to tune out. It should have been kept true to form, rated R, and the parents forced to accompany their children. Forced to open up that dialogue.
But it wasn't. So after watching the Hunger Games, I was able to go home that night and watch TV like nothing ever happened.