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I want to love it because they brought life to characters one can only imagine, but since they didn't do an extremely good job at it I found myself wishing they hadn't made a movie and just left readers to their own imagination.
They stayed somewhat faithful to the book and I suppose that's what brought on these mixed feelings. Sometimes things get lost between translations. Reading about it and watching it are two completely different experiences.
Would I have enjoyed the movie if I never read the books?
I don't know.
Therefore I can't write an unbiased review about the movie. But I am going to try.
The book was written in Katniss' point of view so there was a significant challenge as to how the movie was to be narrated. I thought that they did a great job explaining everything so that even those who have never read the books wouldn't be left clueless.
However, the relationships between each character didn't seem to have a chance to be developed - a common problem books to movies face. I couldn't feel Katniss' deep love for her sister Prim as the book portrayed - the reaping scene brought me to tears only BECAUSE I've read about their relationship. I didn't believe Peeta's love for Katniss - they shared almost no chemistry. Haymitch and Katniss was supposed to have a kind of mutual understanding which was left out of the movie. :( The audience wasn't able to grow on the characters because there just wasn't enough time and what little time they had to work with, they didn't seem to know what to do with it and instead of using the time to create a significant scene, they filled it with something meaningless. Oh and *SPOILER* I found the mockingjay pin hilarious. Katniss' gave it to Prim and told her nothing bad will happen to her as long as she has it and like 5 seconds later she gets reaped! AHAHAH. AND IT DOESN'T END THERE. Prim gave it back to Katniss even though that stupid pin is OBVIOUSLY unlucky. W.T.F? Could it REALLY be so hard to work a Madge into the movie? SERIOUSLY?! *END OF SPOILER*
I remember cringing at some parts because they tried too hard - will update this part when I get around to watching Hunger Games again. One of the examples include Peeta freaking out about what his mother said - it felt forced and acted.
I felt very disappointed with Haymitch's portrayal. He is supposed to be a destructive drunk (hello Greggory House?) who is one of the victims of the capitol; smart and cunning but the pain of staying sober is too much for him to handle.
AND FYI, NONE of the tributes looked like they came from a life filled with hardship and poverty or like they were in awe of the capitol, which they should be. They looked too well-fed and healthy and although they've never been to the capitol, they seem so comfortable in it!
Once the movie moved to the arena, I knew it was going to disappoint. There was no sense of urgency, it didn't show how they suffered. It didn't feel at all like they were trying to survive against all odds - that they're meant to kill innocents so that one can live. The deaths had no impact, none. Not even Rue's death was as poignant as it were in the book. Katniss breaking down and crying was one of the meaningless scenes I mentioned.
The bottom line is, I can pick the movie apart but books never translate well to movies. I've realized that book to movie movies will only leave a lasting impression if you watched the movie before reading the books. I don't know if this is true for everyone though. I watched The Notebook, Harry Potter, Percy & The Lightning Thief and Lord of the Rings before reading the books and I prefer the movies (with the exception of Harry Potter). I read Twilight before watching the movie; it butchered the story so that's that, now I cringe at every Twilight mention.
I think the thing is if you read the book before watching the movie, you would have already envisioned how the scenes would play out in your mind's eye therefore watching a movie (seeing it through someone else's eye) is almost never going to work.
Hunger Games has the potential to be awesome if they did a Game of Thrones and made it into a series rather than a short 2-hour movie which lost the depth of the story in order to create a movie catered to the same crowd which ate Twilight up.