Apologies readers. I’ve finally kicked that bout of zombie plague and am finally catching up on my blog responsibilities. Thanks to J and A for holding down the fort. I’m grateful to have blog partners that are so flexible. Pea Love
So here it is…my long awaited and mildly anticipated Hunger Games movie review.
(I’ll try to be concise and not to create any spoilers for anyone biding their time and waiting for the DVD.)
May the odds be ever in your favor…
First I’d like to say, after two viewings, I loved the film. I felt the screenwriters (which included Suzanne Collins), the director, and the studios did the important things in this story right. With every film there are inconsistencies from book to screen. I understand that as a reader and movie viewer. Some things just can’t transfer in the same meaningful way from the novel page to the film. But I think the filmmakers and writers picked and chose the scenes with care. And with a two hour and twenty-two minute running time, they created amazingly fast-paced and well plotted cinema that held true to the important themes and plot points in the book.
I said after two viewings. Let me explain.
I was so anxious about the transfer from book to screen (from the casting choices to the book to screen interpretations) that I don’t think I took a real breath the whole film. I’ve sat through horror movies with much less tension and angst than I had during this first viewing. Also, it had been quite some time since I read the books (having read it twice the first year and not since). So I found there were some things I’d forgotten.
For context, I first read Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games during its book release week in 2008 (yep… four years ago). So when I say I’ve been on this bandwagon from the starting gate I mean it. And have been talking about this story to friends, neighbors, and anyone who would listen to me ever since. So, in my mind, there were a few things the movie people had to get right.
One of those things was Rue. She was the catalyst for the whole climax of the book that jettisons the reader into books two and three. And I think, in the film, her part was treated with extreme sensitivity. Also, the way in which the film portrayed the cause and effect of the events surrounding Rue resonated with me, and many people I’ve talked to who have viewed the film and read the books.
Another thing they had to get right for me was Haymitch. I was really skeptical about Woody Harrelson winning this part. But as A said in her review, that collar. From the moment he stepped onscreen I was pleased with his take on Haymitch. I think the scenes in which we see his disdain for the games while he watches the capital children playing with the sword, and the scene in which he becomes active chatting up sponsors in the Capital after Katniss gets hurt, were incredible glimpses into the turmoil and complexity of Haymitch.
Also Cinna. A small part Mr. Lenny Kravitz had to play in this film but he was instantly likable. The few scenes they chose to put him in I think carried the weight of the very important role Cinna has in Katniss’s Tribute life.
Finally the casting of Josh Hutcherson as Peeta was remarkable. The look on his face when he first enters the movie and his name is called as a Tribute. Sublime. He’s quite an exceptional young actor. And dare I say, as a reader who was completely Team Gayle until the end of the series, I might be Team Peeta throughout the films.
That’s not to say those are the only points of the movie I thought they did well.
I have to give Jennifer Lawrence props. She swung it out of the park in so many ways. My favorite? Her scene with Cinna as the tube opens. The utter fear and horror she conveyed I felt in the soles of my feet. What an incredible young actress.
And of course Stanely Tucci as Ceasar, Wes Bentley as Seneca, and Donald Sutherland as President Snow. They are impeccable actors who I felt really conveyed the intricacies of the Capital’s politics in a way that held true to the books.
Are there things the filmmakers could have done better? Maybe. But I’m not ready to pass judgment on that yet. This is a story that relies on another two books worth of character development and backstory to see the scope of Suzanne Collins’ vision. I’ll wait and see what happens with Catching Fire and Mockingjay. But I will say, I have really high hopes for this franchise. The filmmakers set the bar pretty high and I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt that they will hurdle it over the next two years.
I loved the film as an early fan of the books. And I think if readers can take pause and not scrutinize the little things but hold true to the important themes and conflicts in the story that drove it—they will be happy with it. Even a person who hasn’t read the books will be entertained. It’s a fast-paced story that has a lot of depth and is relevant to the pitfalls of society and the human condition. But real fans might want to see it twice—it made all the difference for me.