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Warning: If you have read The Hunger Games it is safe to proceed. The movie doesn’t venture too far from the book. If not, SPOILER ALERT.

The movie, “The Hunger Games,” is based on the novel of the same name by author Suzanne Collins. “Katniss is a 16-year-old girl living with her mother and younger sister in the poorest district of Panem, the remains of what used to be the United States. Long ago the districts waged war on the Capitol and were defeated. As part of the surrender terms, each district agreed to send one boy and one girl as tribute in an annual televised event called, ‘The Hunger Games.’ The terrain, rules, and level of audience participation may change but one thing is constant: kill or be killed.”

This morning, Sandy and I met on Yahoo Messenger to discuss: Side note, if you don’t know who Sandy is, please refer to the “What’s it all About” link in the upper left.

Sandy: I mulled the movie over for quite some time yesterday and thought about jotting down some notes, but was stupid and didn’t, so now I have to remember if any of my thoughts were clever or profound.

Ann: Both, I’m sure. I thought about it last night and decided I was kind of angry with the movie.

Sandy: Wow. I didn’t go there.

Ann: I was thinking about the book in comparison, and how concerned we – and everyone else seemed to be – with how the brutality and desperation would be handled. Watching children in a state of distress is not exactly appealing. While I didn’t want to see that, I feel the drama has lost some of its drama.

Sandy: I think they had to sacrifice for the PG-13. They didn’t want to take it to an R or they would lose 3/4 of their fan base. I do believe the filmmakers did an excellent job of making the deaths fairly quick and mostly bloodless, but you’re right – they lose the magnitude of what’s happening to these kids. Let’s be honest; this is not a happy tale. This is “Lord of the Flies” meets “1984.”

Ann: If I hadn’t read the book, I’d have missed the intensity.

Sandy: I’m with you in that as much as they cut, it still seemed like they had to rush to tell the story. I have to put the book out of my head and just look at the movie. With that said, I felt that overall they did a good job bringing a book written in first person to the screen. I liked seeing the Gamemakers and the Capitol in the movie and how they manipulate every single thing. You see the manipulation in the book from Katniss, but I liked the vision that Gary Ross brought to the screen. It’s a bit like a malicious version of “The Truman Show.”

Ann: It IS a malicious version of “The Truman Show!” Character and actor evaluation: What did you think of Katniss Everdeen, the girl on fire?

                       

Sandy: Jennifer Lawrence, I thought, was a brilliant casting choice. She was sullen and rough in all the right places even though we didn’t really know why. But then she played scared and tender beautifully. Her scenes with Cinna, beautifully played by Lenny Kravitz, were close to perfect for me. I think we see her strength, but in the end they did Lawrence a disservice when she was not allowed at the final interview with Caesar to “lie” to Peeta about how she felt about him. I wish we had been able to see her play that scene. I think she would have killed it and also helped round out Peeta, but more about him in a minute.

Ann: I agree. I think the limitations were more in the editing of the screenplay rather than with the acting. It was annoying that in the end her feelings for Peeta appear to be purely superficial.

Sandy: Meanwhile, my “real world fear” is how many young girls now want to take up bow hunting.

Ann: Well, I do. And you know I should not have sharp pointy things that can be shot at high velocity anywhere near me.

Sandy: No…no you should not. Remember what our mother’s said, “It’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye.” That is a terrible statement in light of the context of this movie. (Hangs head in shame.)

Ann: Let’s talk about the relationship between Haymitch and Katniss. Haymitch, the only person from District 12 (where Katniss and Peeta are from) to ever win The Hunger Games, is played by Woody Harrelson.

Sandy: For the most part I actually liked Haymitch better on screen. I admit I knew Harrelson was cast when I read the book, but I still think he embodied Haymitch in every way, but he was sober faster.

Ann: Much faster. I missed the bonding that took place between Katniss and Haymitch in the beginning of the games, when she is basically dying of dehydration and thinks he’s abandoned her. I hate that the filmmakers left that out. You lose the sense that she is completely alone out there and could die from something like lack of water as easily as from an attack.

Sandy: I really missed the water situation too. In the book, she finally realized he was not sending help because she was so close to finding the water herself. That moment, for me, was when she finally realized she could trust Haymitch completely.

Ann: Right. I guess that is the problem with the first person narrative, as you said. Unless she wanders around speaking her thoughts out loud like I do, you just have to guess what’s going on.

Sandy: If you are speaking your thoughts aloud and there is no one there to hear you, are you still thinking?

Ann: I’m clapping for you with one hand. Can you hear it?

Sandy: (Ignoring you.) Liam Hemsworth as Gale Hawthorne. He was a bit wasted in this movie even if he did get a few more scenes than the book. We don’t really know Gale at all yet. He’s outspoken on his views about the Capitol and his advise to Katniss as he says goodbye is the gentle reminder that, “all they want is a good show.” I did enjoy seeing his reactions on a few occasions, rather than Katniss wondering what he would be thinking. Two of the best for me were his refusing to watch the start of the games, and the kiss in the cave. Completely off topic, the Hemsworths have great genes, as big brother Chris (Thor) is just as lovely in his looks. If those boys ever did a movie together it might cause teenage girls to destroy the world as we know it.

Ann: The new Baldwin brothers?

Sandy: Baldwins without the crazy.

Ann: At least not yet.

Sandy: They’re British. Not sure they’re allowed to go crazy, or are they Australian? I’ll have to fact check that.

Ann: If British aren’t allowed to be crazy, explain Elton John to me.

Sandy: Uhm, two words on Elton: THE SEVENTIES. By the way, they’re Australian, so crazy is definitely allowed.

Ann: Thus, Mel Gibson.

Sandy: A bulked up Josh Hutcherson as Peeta Mellark, fresh off “The Kids are All Right” – dyed blond, but they did not correct his eye color.

Ann: I can’t believe you remember eye color from the book??

Sandy: His eyes were blue in the book, just like Harry Potter’s were green.

Ann: Wow. You’re scary.

Sandy: I have green eyes so I was particularly fond of Harry having green eyes and then a blue-eyed Harry hit the screen. Please understand none of this has anything to do with the performance by Hutcherson or Radcliffe for that matter.

Ann: Again. Scary. I thought Peeta was a bit drippy. No! Stale – he was stale. (Bakery joke!)

Sandy: Wow…that is bad. I thought you would, at least, go for a milk toast joke there. Again, I am going with the first person issue; how do you put Peeta on film when everything we know about him is through Katniss’ eyes? We didn’t get a chance to really know Peeta in the cave scene because, once again, the filmmakers didn’t take the time. And those scenes, after we learn what he’s done for Katniss and what he would still do for her, are where the reader falls in love with Peeta. I think Josh is a better actor than the screenplay allowed him to be and his character was poorly developed.

Ann: I would definitely give up some of the flashbacks of the mines – or the bread scene – to establish more “chumminess” between our romantic leads. What did you think of the Gamemaker control room? I imagined something like that when reading the book. How else would they have all those cameras under every leaf and rock?

Sandy: Is “chumminess” in Webster’s? I’m looking it up now. I did like seeing the Gamemakers and Caesar doing commentary. When Stanley Tucci channeled Jim Nantz’s golf voice describing the tracker jackers, it was one of the few moments I could laugh out loud in this movie. I wouldn’t mind seeing this whole manufactured environment on “Survivor.” Not the fight to the death part (I’m not that disturbed), but the Star Trek type screens and all the manipulation…very George Orwell.

Sandy: President Snow, played by Donald Sutherland, is more manipulative in the movie than we see in the book. Snow is a bad guy. He sees Katniss as the catalyst for a possible uprising. His comment to the Gamemaker about giving people a “spark of hope, but that the spark must be contained,” was a nice touch.

Ann: Yes, you definitely see his manipulation. It smacks you over the head, in fact. Flashing light – BAD GUY – THIS WAY.

Sandy: So overall, what did you think?

Ann: I can’t get past the differences between the movie and the book. I wish I could block it out and look at it objectively. In the book, the sense of horror – that these kids are being forced to fight to the death is chilling. I know they can’t spend hours watching Katniss stagger around looking for water and nearly dying, or watching Peeta in the cave, oozing puss and developing gangrene, but it just falls short. Peeta seems in okay shape for a guy who’s been living under mud and not eating for days. I’ve looked worse on a bad morning. They aren’t scared enough, tired enough, or wounded enough to consider desperate. I’m happy and relieved they survive, but not as much so as I thought I’d be. The movie takes it quite a bit easier on them. Despite the fireballs and furry mutants. I DO like that our heroine is more interested in saving her family and doing the right thing, than in romance.

Sandy: This is a difficult movie to take at face value, but that is what I’m going to do. The premise is terrifying: Children being forced to kill each other because of an attempted coup against a repressive leadership and these Hunger Games being broadcast and celebrated like the Olympics. Peeta’s statement that he wishes he could think of a way “to show the Capitol that they don’t own me. That I’m more than just a piece in their games” is what defines the rest of the movie. What do these two young people do when they are thrust into a situation where they have to fight for themselves, their families and each other and not lose their integrity? Exactly what are you willing to do for those you love? It’s ultimately a character piece for me and from that aspect I quite enjoyed it. Now, in my best Effie Trinket voice – Happy Hunger Games and may the odds be ever in your favor.

RANKING IS BASED ON 1-5 ARROWS:

Ann: 3
Sandy: 4

We’d love to hear what someone thought who hasn’t read the book.