I went to the midnight showing of The Hunger Games last night. It was an amazing visualization of the world that Suzanne Collins created in her books, it was a smart adaptation, reasonably and logically streamlining the story without sacrificing plot, and in my opinion, it was a pretty faithful adaptation.
And, what did I think? Were my expectations met? What disappointed me?
WARNING: There are spoilers aplenty, so if you want to judge for yourself, stop reading now, go see the movie, and then come back to read the rest of the post.
Jennifer Lawrence – I know people have been griping about this casting choice, but it’s time to let it go. She was incredible in the movie – a strong lead actress, physically capable of doing the stunts, had chemistry with the rest of the cast, and although she’s got a stoic persona throughout most of the movie (and, in Katniss’ position, who would be chipper?), but every once in a while a bit of spunk and fire show through that you don’t expect. I am excited to see her in the next two movies, and I’ve officially adopted her as my Katniss.
Lenny Kravitz – I wish that he got more screen time, but he was EXACLTY what I wanted Cinna to be.
The Capitol – the absurd costumes and decoration of the Capitol was perfect. Completely ridiculous and over-the-top, and just what Collins describes in the book. Also, I was hoping for at least 3 different eyelash colors from Effie Trinkett. I got 5.
Katniss’ training – She shoots the apple out of the pig’s mouth, and shows the judges some sass. You can’t not love this moment.
The Games Control Room – Because the book is told from Katniss’ point of view, it was a very smart production choice to show what was going on outside of the arena. I loved the visualization of the control room and learning how they manipulate the arena. It actually answered a question that I had from the book.
Gamemaker’s facial hair – IT WAS RIDICULOUS. Seriously, it’s potentially the most fantastically-designed beard I’ve ever seen.
Katniss’ dress – While it was a pretty cool effect, it didn’t get nearly enough build up and wasn’t quite as shocking as I’d hoped for.
The Muttations – they avoided actually naming them, so I’m STILL unsure of how this word is pronounced (mutations? Mutt-tations?). However, when they show up, I quite literally jumped a foot out of my chair.
Downplaying of the Gale-Katniss-Peeta love triangle – I was expecting this to be a bigger deal, but they actually downplay it. Gale and Katniss clearly have a long-standing friendship with affectionate undertones, but you don’t see how desperate Gale is to see Katniss again until they say their goodbyes. Although I was taken aback by the cutaways to Gale brooding as he’s watching Peeta and Katniss kiss, I have to say that sometimes less-is-more. I also appreciate that they did not play into the “Team Peeta” and “Team Gale” mentality that has afflicted another well-known adapted young adult franchise.
The Reaping Soundtrack – here’s the thing… there wasn’t one! During the entire Reaping scene, something seemed off. I realized that there was no music, no crescendoing violins, no sound at all except Elizabeth Banks being the obnoxiously perky Effie Trinkett. In my head, I was panicking – there was nothing to remind you that you were watching a movie. I was uncomfortable by how deadly silent it was while waiting to hear which teenagers would be sent to their (essentially inevitable) deaths.
Streamlining – Okay, it’s an adaptation. They have to translate a novel to the screen. This means that things need to be changed/cut/streamlined to keep the running time to two-and-a-half hours, and to make the movie as visually interesting as possible. So, yes, they changed the way that Katniss gets the Mockingjay pin because it avoids having to set up her relationship with the Mayor and his daughter and we can leave District 12 fifteen minutes earlier. Once the games begin, a lot of the action is shortened, but we hit all of the key points – Career tributes, Tracker-Jacker attack, gigantic fireball, Katniss and Rue’s friendship, Rue’s death, Katniss and Peeta’s snuggle-fest, Foxface’s berry death, muttations… it’s a pretty packed movie. They cut out Katniss losing her hearing because it’s hard to visualize and would add unneeded weight to the script. They don’t have a big emotional five minute end scene with Katniss and Peeta and the berries. Katniss takes charge and decides that they can die or the Capitol can let them both win – it makes her an even stronger character. To fit in everything from the book, it would have had to have been a five hour long movie. As far as adaptations go, this is a winner in my book.
Handheld camera work to show more violence – I generally prefer steadicam work because I like to see sweeping, clean shots of the action, however the choice to go with a handheld style was smart. They didn’t have to have off-screen kills (which would have sugarcoated the whole point of the movie), but instead never focused on one murder for too long for use to see everything. After all, it’s slightly less arresting to only get bits and pieces of adolescents killing each other in somewhat unfocused shots than to have one long, smooth tracking shot of children repeatedly stabbing each other, snapping each other’s necks and being way more violent than your average audience would be comfortable with.
Conclusion: Go see it! It was epically Orwellian, and a solid adaptation. It’s visually stunning and provides all of the gritty, dark, edge-of-your-seat action that you want it to. If you are not physically stressed during this movie, you are not watching it properly.
May the odds be ever in your favor.