I was concerned. The book version of Katniss Everdeen, is not a likeable character. There are three people that she cares about, and two of those are herself (the other is her sister). Katniss’ self-centred attitude, portrayed in the form of a crippling self-loathing, is all-encompassing. Even taking into account the dystopian nature of the plot-line, Katniss has all the empathy of Saddam Hussein with a migraine.
Katniss of The Hunger Games movie is better portrayed. She is still cold, she is still strong but I found that I actually cared whether she lived or died. There are times during the book, particularly during the long periods of self-pitying internal dialogue, where I actively wanted her to die just so that she would shut up.
There are minor variations in the movie plot, and I enjoyed the politicisation of The Hunger Games, the attempt for Seneca Crane to make his mark as the Head Gamemaker, President Snow reeling him back in to avert an uprising. We are invited into the, almost literally, ivory tower of the Gamemakers’ production room. They smile inanely while inserting “Muttations” into the arena, disconnected from the fact that they are killing the competitors – children, lest we forget. The movie somehow feels more “big brother”, and it better reveals that President Snow is the conductor of The Hunger Games orchestra, even if a couple of scenes in a mysterious Capitol garden feel tacked on.
The “love” between Katniss and Peeta, clearly faked by Katniss in the books, comes too easily. I found myself questioning if she really had fallen for him, and I continued to do so until that conversation on the train back to district 12 and her occasionally distracted looks in-front of the cheering crowds. The strange attraction, the almost forbidden love or at least intense and sudden friendship, between Katniss and Cinna is better portrayed and all the more strange for it.
The overall feeling I came away with was that the behind the scenes political battle to somehow make this film a PG in Canada must have been bloodier than The Hunger Games themselves. (USA is PG-13, UK is 12A). Ratings in Canada have a tendency to be less conservative, but there are difficult deaths, deaths that lack justice, deaths that are psychologically difficult. Parents ought to have a good chat with their kids afterwards, and with the amount of peer pressure to watch this movie, parents are going to be busy.