I first wrote my book review for The Hunger Games two years ago, after spending an entire school year watching my students devour the story. I've been eagerly anticipating the release of this film for years and jumped at the opportunity to join my friend and co-worker, Carolyn, in taking our ESL students on a "field trip" (This was completely planned by two of our 8th grade boys who fell in love with the series. They couldn't imagine not seeing the movie with their classmates who've spent months reading and talking about the books together, and since the district doesn't allow field trips (for financial reasons), meeting at the theater our alternative. Still, I think it's adorable that they planned this and that 25 students participated.) on Friday night to see the movie.
Like any movie, though, it still wasn't as good as the book. As a language arts teacher, we spend a lot of time focusing on characterization in our reading. One of the five components of characterization is internal thoughts and feelings, and I really missed that in this movie. There's just so much internal conflict in the book that can't be portrayed in the movie. I also don't think enough explanation was given to the purpose of the games, how the reaping works, or how the sponsors work. I had to call upon my background knowledge quite often to make it all make sense.
I know there are time constraints, but I wanted there to be more time spent on developing the characters and relationships I loved so much. I love Gale in the book, and I don't think enough attention was given to his relationship with Katniss. I think that the audience needed to understand the depth of their bond, which grew from a mutual loss, responsibility, and a dependency on each other for companionship and survival. We didn't get enough background information to understand why he was so hurt to see Katniss and Peeta together in the Games. And never once was there any indication that Gale even crossed Katniss's mind.
Likewise, I felt like the relationship between Katniss and Peeta was far too rushed. There were many crucial relationship-building scenes in the book that were completely omitted from the story. We didn't get a chance to understand the manipulation that was necessary for survival, during the games and after. Once again, though, I think this goes back to not being able to get a glimpse into her inner thoughts and feelings. Maybe this is just because I loved the book so much, but I wanted more. And I think it will be even more of a challenge to understand Katniss's confusion in the second movie with such little development of her relationships.
Overall, while there were several changes from the book (especially the ending), I still enjoyed the movie very much and would absolutely recommend seeing it. And if you haven't read the book yet, please do yourself a favor and read it! I have several copies if you need to borrow one!