We’re still in the process of coming down from our Hunger Games high, and worried about withdrawal symptoms. So naturally, we have to think of other things to look forward to, like all the other dystopian YA novels that will one day be made into movies. Tahereh Mafi’s Shatter Me is one such book, and it just so happens that she’s a Hunger Games superfan as well. That’s why we asked her to share her review of the movie as she thinks about whether her own adaptation will one day whip us into a record-breaking frenzy.
If you follow me on Twitter, you already know that The Hunger Games does to me what sloths to do Kristen Bell. I’ve made several unverified statements about sharpie-tattooing “PEETA4EVA” on my forehead, always freak out when I meet people with Mockingjay tattoos and have lied multiple times about showing up to the premiere with little more than a bag of pita bread and a bucket for my tears. So to say that I was really excited to see this movie would be a huge, hilarious understatement.
For us rabid fans, our expectations are a little higher, a little harder to satisfy. We’re the ones who already know exactly what The Hunger Games is all about, the ones who know that Suzanne Collins’ gripping dystopian novel is much more than a story about 24 kids who have to kill each other on national television. We’ve been curled up in a fetal position since the series ended, quietly rocking back and forth in anticipation of its cinematic debut. But I’m here to tell you that everything is going to be okay. We’re all going to be okay.
Because they nailed it.
Director Gary Ross brings this movie to life in a way I couldn’t have even expected. The pacing is phenomenal, the sets and scenes vibrant and utterly believable. Jennifer Lawrence as our leading lady, Katniss Everdeen, plays her role with such unmitigated authenticity that I was in tears within the first 10 minutes. In the countdown before Katniss is sent up to the arena I couldn’t even breathe, and in her last moments with Rue I completely fell apart. And though I think we all had some doubts about Josh Hutcherson as Peeta Mellark — he’s a little too short, for example — for me, Josh became Peeta; I loved him on screen just as I did in the novel.
The film is unrelenting in its horrifying twists and turns. Emotions run high and are sustained by a crazy intensity that consistently inspired in me a naive, laughable hope for relief, so much so that it made me wonder how I ever survived reading these books. There’s something about actually seeing the violence on screen, something about watching a group of kids brutally murdering one another that struck me in a way the books hadn’t. I left the theater in a daze, my head still spinning, heart still pounding.
As in any book-to-film adaptation, some things are lost in translation. Gale is practically a non-character in the movie; important details are only just touched on or even entirely glossed over; and if you’ve never read Collins’ young-adult novel upon which this film is based, you might find yourself more than a little confused. The specifics of the reaping and why Gale, for example, would have his name entered so many times, are never fully explained. Very little information is given about the districts or the layout of this new world, and there are even fewer glimpses into the characters’ histories. And though the outfits of those in the Capitol are extraordinary, I was a bit underwhelmed by Katniss and Peeta’s fiery costumes; I’m not sure we did Cinna proud. (And if I’m being perfectly honest, I think Jennifer Lawrence spun four times too many in that dress.)
But overall, I loved it.
It’s one of my favorite book-to-film adaptations and, as a fellow young adult author, an absolute inspiration to see. I’m thrilled that this story was treated with such care and respect; it’s been transformed into a visual masterpiece that can now be appreciated by lovers of words and otherwise. But a quick, cautionary note: If you’re entering the world of The Hunger Games for the very first time, take care. A good friend of mine left the theater with both high praise and mild confusion, calling the film “awesome” and “really great,” but all the time wondering “why everyone kept saying Peter’s name with a British accent.”
Happy Hunger Games, friends. May the odds be ever in your favor.