Like with John Carter, I did not read the novel before watching The Hunger Games. This wasn’t through the studio’s lack of trying -- I had picked up the first novel (along with a t-shirt and mockingjay pin) from Fan Expo last August. The hype surrounding this movie was stirred to a fever pitch and it was evident that the marketing machine was squarely behind this film, unlike the orphaned John Carter.
I wanted to have an unblemished perspective when I went to see the movie -- I wanted no preconceptions or expectations. Sure, I’d heard about comparisons to Battle Royale and other movies, but outside of knowing the most basic plot, I knew nothing about this movie.
Did I like it? Yes, it was an interesting movie, though the pacing felt slow at times. There was a lot of build-up to get to the actual meat of the movie and I found myself dissatisfied at various moments. The acting was fair, the story was interesting, but in some ways I felt as though I had watched a translation of a movie -- and there was a lot that I was missing.
I found the character transitions too quick -- too glib. And there were several characters that appeared as though they were supposed to be important, but had so little screentime devoted to them that they barely factored at all.
I was missing context for this movie. In some ways, it reminds me of District 9 -- it’s certainly not difficult to understand the message of that movie, but knowing the socio-political history of South Africa certainly adds flavor. For The Hunger Games, I felt like I was missing the mustard on this particular sandwich.
For a movie dedicated to battling to the death, there was less violence than I expected. This was likely watered down to make it palatable for the intended tween audience, but I can’t help but feel that it wasn’t genuine to the book.
Either way, I was happy to have watched The Hunger Games, and the questions I had about plot points make me want to read the books even more -- as a marketing scheme for the books, it’s brilliant. As a faithful execution of the novels? I’ll have to reserve judgment.
UPDATE 03/27/12 - I've reviewed the book on the Nerd Mafia website.