I dragged myself out of bed this morning to watch the first showing of The Hunger Games at my local theater and it was well worth it. Spoilers abound.
I liked that the cinematic style started off with the shaky feel of a documentary. Don’t get me wrong, there are some very grand camera sweeps and editing later, but I feel that was fitting for the Capitol, while the loose style used for the District 12 shots felt right. Going along with the basic look of the film I think there was just enough special effects and editing used to show off the Capitol, it didn’t feel excessive and overwhelming (I’m looking at you Star Wars prequels). I do wish they had been more consistent about the use of text to specify locations. Maybe I didn’t notice it, but only the only used it twice (for District 11 and 12), while I feel like it may have been fruitless to use it for the Capitol it would have been consistent.
The Mockingjay pin is given to Katniss at the Hob and then to Prim, then back to Katniss, which is a pretty drastic change from the books. I was concerned with this change before watching the movie because for Katniss to have a pin in her possession when her family was starving, and she could readily trade said pin for food, was ridiculous. But they made it work by letting her have it so close to the Reaping. Also, it could very well have been made from cheap materials.
I actually preferred the change because it added another layer to the relationship between Katniss and Prim, which could not have been easily shown in a movie. I actually always felt their sisterhood lacked a lot of description in the books, but this gesture and other moments really brought home how close the two were. Which led me to my first tears later on when Katniss volunteers.
That scene brought goosebumps to my arms every time I saw the trailer, but watching the entire scene play out on screen was heartbreaking. The utter silence of the crowd and Prim is devastated is chilling. The sacrifice Katniss is making in her shocked state is acted superbly by Jennifer Lawrence.
As the characters spend time in the Capitol before the games begin I really liked that I began to feel anticipation. I think that because this is a movie there wasn’t a lot of time for character development for the stylists, Cinna, Effie or Haymitch, but they did a damn good job of getting in everything they could.
Once the games began the jump from the arena to the outside world grew on me. Yes, a lot of that wasn’t in the book, but it broke up what would have been a monotonous bunch of footage of kids wandering in the woods for days (Harry Potter 7, is that you?). Snow’s careful attention to his roses reminded me a lot of the dreadful Red Queen from Alice in Wonderland, and Seneca Crane’s beard can take me out to dinner anytime it wants.
Rue’s angelic face as she died brought forth more tears than I shed for Dobby (GASP). As the fat tears rolled down her cherubic cheeks, and Katniss wreathed her in flowers I just couldn’t not cry. I felt that that whole part was really well paced and Katniss’ stages of grief were so real. Then the cut to the rebellion in District 11 kept me crying because this is what happens when innocent people die, eventually we rise up together. I do wish that the bread had been sent to Katniss from District 11 because in the books it was a grand gesture for one of the poorest districts to scrimp together enough money to send that to her.
The dogs at the end weren’t what was described in the books, but I preferred them because they fit better in to the universe created in the movie than the weird, spliced beings in the book would have. If they had created the creatures from the book I think the audience would have been too distracted to pay attention to the tributes fight to survive.
Overall I have to say it was an almost perfect adaptation from a book to a movie. I say almost because not everything was included, which would have been an impossible feat. A lot of credit has to be given to the screenwriter for touching on as many aspects of the book as possible. I’ve found adaptations that work are the ones that stay as true to the book as is humanly possible without trying to rewrite the plot for their own purposes. (Example: Look at the difference between Order of the Phoenix and the rest of the Harry Potter film franchise. That was the one film with a different writer and he touched on as much as he could instead of twisting the plot for his own devices)
Go watch it. Now.
Odds and ends
The gradual flashbacks to the moment Peeta threw bread to Katniss were paced really well.
I thought the costuming was great and reinforced how clothing has always been a status symbol.
I was glad no one in my theater clapped as the tributes died because if you think about it, everyone was dying because of the Capitol and their need for dominance (amongst other things).
If you’re going to be loud and rowdy go to the midnight showing.
If you’re in your 30s and still giggling over the short Breaking Dawn trailer then you may need help. (Looking at the ladies who sat beside me… c’mon, you sounded like PRE-teens.)
On that note, the theater is not a book club, shut the hell up (or go to the midnight showing).
No avoxes, but there’s sure to be room in the future movies to explore that if they choose.
I liked Peeta, though I could stand to rewatch the movie to get a better idea of the peripheral characters.
Glad the movie had no love triangle slant.
They did manage to show Haymitch’s transition from drunkard to sober guide.
Why the hell is Effie the only one with a British accent?
I feel like I see a lot of petty arguments popping up online in regards to this film. A lot of people are making noise about Battle Royale (which I haven’t read) being similar and superior to this series. Others tried to exploit the love triangle parts of the story to compare it to the Twilight series.
Any arguments to draw people to one fandom or another are cringe-worthy to me. It brings me back to high school when I nonchalantly told my friend, after a heated argument over Heroes and Lost, that I actually liked both. I was informed that I could not like both. I was told, forcefully, that it was not feasible for me to be a fan of those two shows and that I would have to pick one. I guess they were pitted against each other because they were the only two sci-fi/fantasy shows on at the time (?). Whatever her reasons then seem just as unreasonable to me now when people try to force one fandom on people. People will like what they want, leave them be.
And on the subject of any comparisons to Twilight, there shouldn’t be any. They are two books written for very different audiences. Trust me, I spent about three weeks having scholarly discussion about the Twilight series in my upper-division college English course.