‘Hunger Games’ Strikes A ‘Perfect Balance,’ Experts Say

Three 'HG' webmasters break down film adaptation for MTV News.
By Kara Warner

Josh Hutcherson in "The Hunger Games"
Photo: Lionsgate

Did you know that "The Hunger Games" is finally out in theaters? That's a rhetorical question — of course you did!

We've all been following the hugely anticipated film since the beginning, and now we can bask in the glow of its predicted success and the general delight of fans everywhere, not to mention the very positive reviews.

Now, MTV News turns to our most trusted "Hunger Games" experts to find out what they think about the adaptation:

Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss
"If anyone had any lingering doubts about whether our Oscar-nominated leading lady could do the role of Katniss Everdeen justice, those doubts took an arrow to the heart. There were a lot of standout moments in her performance — her soon to be iconic 'I volunteer!,' her emotional breakdown after the loss of Rue — but for me, the highest mark of Jen's understanding of Katniss came at the end when (spoiler) she and fellow tribute Peeta are about to commit a double suicide on live TV. In that scene, everything we know about Katniss — her strength, her desire to protect the people she loves, her bravery and the first flicker of rebellion — show through. Unlike the lovelorn Peeta, who uses his final moments of life to appreciate the girl he loves, Katniss has eyes only for the Capitol, looking not at Peeta, but into one of the invisible cameras. This isn't about love, it's about survival, and Jen gets that." — Shylah Addante, Down With the Capitol

"Jennifer was fabulous! Every moment she was onscreen, which was a lot, was just phenomenal. She did a great job of showing how much Katniss cared about her family but was emotionally blank to everyone else." — Jessica McKenna, The Hob

"Jennifer as Katniss is beyond amazing. The depth in which she portrayed Katniss is unlike anything I've seen before. It was all about the subtle things Jennifer would do that made the biggest impact. Whether it was Jennifer visibly trembling right before the arena, getting this panicked look in her eyes when Prim's name is called at the Reaping, her grief at the death of Rue or her look of defiance when giving the three-fingered salute to the people of District 11, I found myself feeling how Katniss must be feeling and left utterly speechless at Jennifer's portrayal of this character. I've said it before, but I think it's definitely worth saying again: Although this fandom doesn't like to identify itself with teams, if I did have to pick, I would definitely be Team Katniss all the way." — Sheila Cordero, HG Girl on Fire

Josh Hutcherson as Peeta
"Insofar as Jen is Katniss, Josh Hutcherson is Peeta. I believed everything he did was motivated by his character's signature pure-of-heart naiveté. Josh ensured that Peeta wore his heart of his sleeve but was careful to ensure that he didn't cross into clichéd romance territory. Scenes like the rooftop and the cave, where he had to play soft to Katniss' hard edge, could have easily been awkward or out of pace with the rest of the film, but Josh gave Peeta a backbone that gave his character's romanticism a solid foundation." — Addante

"From the first time we see Josh onscreen, I was convinced I was looking at Peeta. He nailed Peeta's quiet strength and kindness." — McKenna

"Over the course of the last several months, I've become increasingly impressed with what I have seen of Josh Hutcherson and truly believe he does embody many of the characteristics of Peeta. Watching him bring this character to life, I can honestly say Josh is an outstanding actor. He brought me to tears as he fought back the tears while he was being driven away from District 12 and heading toward the Capitol train. During Peeta's interview with Caesar Flickerman, I found myself rooting for this charming guy who you couldn't help but smile back at, then internally going 'Awww' when he admits his crush is the girl he came to the Games with. But perhaps what I loved the most about Josh as Peeta was the silent communication he had with Katniss. Whether it was him rubbing medicine on Katniss' cut, putting a hand on her cheek or a simple touch of her braid, I couldn't help but find myself falling for the boy with the bread." — Cordero

The Supporting Players
"Wes Bentley's portrayal of Head Gamemaker Seneca Crane gave incredible context to the Games and their entertainment value in Panem. He, by far, had my favorite scene in the film when his character realizes that he's gone from young hotshot TV producer to a dead man — proof positive that it's not just the tributes playing for their lives in Panem." — Addante

"Stanley Tucci was a scene-stealer as Caesar. He expertly jumped from a sympathetic, hard-hitting, Barbara Walters-esque interviewer to an über-hyper, Richard Dawson-ish game-show host and back again second by second." — McKenna

"For me, the biggest and most pleasant surprise of all was Willow Shields as Prim. Her scenes with Katniss at home and during the reaping just break my heart. She displayed a depth to her character that is rare in an actor as young as she is. I really felt her fear when her name was called and then her agony as she is carried away by Gale once Katniss volunteers. Willow amazed me." — Cordero

Page-to-Screen Adaptation
"One-hundred percent, this is the best page-to-screen adaption of a film I've seen. It gave the perfect balance of what longtime fans of the series would be excited for, but knew where to trim things down to make the movie work. The best example of this is the infamous cave scene, which, in the book, stretches on for page after glorious page of Katniss and Peeta kissing, enjoying sponsor gifts, and seducing the nation into believing their love story. In the movie, however, we get one kiss and a couple very intense moments of connection from the star-crossed lovers, and that's all we needed. Had Gary Ross pulled an 'Eclipse' and stretched out every lingering glance and hung onto each word of dialogue, I have no doubt that it would have felt out of place and cheesy in a movie that, otherwise, is very pragmatic and real." — Addante

"The overall adaptation worked really well. Like many fans, I wasn't thrilled with some of the finer points that were left out of the screenplay. However, it all worked in the end and didn't really miss anything that was cut. Plus, the scenes they created for the movie with President Snow and the Gamemakers really helped round out the story and provide additional insights to viewers." — McKenna

"I think that Gary Ross and [author] Suzanne Collins did a wonderful job of adapting this book into a movie. Their use of Caesar Flickerman and Claudius Templesmith as announcers and commentators about the games was brilliant and a really smart, creative way to bring some of the backstory and terminology into the movie. I loved the added scenes between President Snow and Seneca Crane because it helped to lay the foundation of how Katniss ultimately becomes the symbol that sparks the rebellion and will help people who haven't read the books understand that there is more to this story than just a young girl's survival in the Games. I also enjoyed some of the changes they made to Peeta's portrayal in the movie. I loved that Peeta was not portrayed as helpless in the final battle with Cato. It really showed him to be more of Katniss' equal and not someone she is continually trying to save." — Cordero

Check out everything we've got on "The Hunger Games."

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