Movie Review: The Hunger Games
By Eric Hughes
April 17, 2012
My 60-year-old aunt was privy to The Hunger Games long before just about everybody. At least, I can remember the time she tried selling me the story to get me to read it, and it wasn’t until a good deal later - a year, I think - before I ran into even a second opinion about the book.
You see, she only recently retired from headmaster librarian at a middle school, and as such, part of what made her so sage-like in her profession was the many ways in which she enriched her brain not only for her own sake, but for her clients - the students - too.
She may still hold her position, but the fact of the matter is at the time The Hunger Games was released, she was part of a committee that read droves of young adult books - perhaps a hundred - and then voted on its favorites. The point of the committee, it seems, was to select the year’s best.
I don’t know if The Hunger Games won in the year it was eligible to do so, and it doesn’t seem to matter, really, but out of the many, many books she read in 2008, The Hunger Games happened to be one of only a handful she bothered to tell me about when I, years later, had asked her for some reading suggestions.
What she recalled about the story stoked my interest, but at the time - and it holds true, come to think - I didn’t have much experience with young adult fiction, and I didn’t really know if I wanted to bother with it. Though certainly true of any genre, young adult seems hit or miss. And then, I guess, I kinda forgot about the book.
Cut to about a year later. I’m at a friend’s house, and on her bookshelf are The Hunger Games and its two sequels.
Not soon long after, I ravaged her copies of The Hunger Games, Chasing Fire and Mockingjay, in succession. Bing bang boom. My aunt was right; the series was surprisingly good, and leaps ahead of the last young adult series I had read (Twilight). For the record: I liked Twilight’s story, but I don’t know that I’ll be reading more Stephenie Meyer bunk.
Anyway, as much as I enjoyed The Hunger Games, I’ve found I’ve become less and less interested in Hollywood adaptations of books I happened to love. The gripe that “the movies are never as good as the books” might be exhausted and overused, but I think it so very true. Slumdog Millionaire was definitely better than Q&A, and I’m pretty sure I preferred the Coens’ handling of No Country for Old Men over Cormac McCarthy’s. Of late, I think those might be the only times Hollywood outdid a story’s originator. Maybe.
So no, I wasn’t fanboy excited about The Hunger Games movie, but I will say I was curious. That Elizabeth Banks and Stanley Tucci had signed on for parts seemed about right - while reading The Hunger Games, actually, I went back and forth conjuring images of Stanley or John Malkovich for the Caesar Flickerman scenes - and then Lenny Kravitz had me smiling. Woody Harrelson seemed a young choice for Haymitch, and Donald Sutherland wasn’t who I had in mind for President Snow (Malcolm McDowell), but Woody was a reliable, workable selection and Donald Sutherland would probably make sense.