Saturday, March 24, 2012

Why You NEED to Go See "The Hunger Games" (But Read the Book First)

I am a recent Hunger Games convert, but my love for the series knows no bounds.  If you don't believe me, see here as well as all of my friends and family who I have forced to read the books.  (I am still working on my husband.)  After the fiasco that was the final Harry Potter movie, Deathly Hallows Part 2, I was dead set against going to see The Hunger Games movie.  I refused to have another series I loved revised to draw bigger box-office crowds.  Also, I was positive that even the best movie magic could not create the arena, costumes, and characters I saw in my head.  No way.

Enter my friend Sally who had just finished the first book a few weeks ago and excitedly asked me to join her at the movie premiere.  I expressed my trepidation but agreed to go with her.  I did not google the trailer or the cast list, only catching glimpses of both between TV shows (I love you Big Bang Theory!) and in line at the bookstore - hello People..., but yesterday, as we headed to dinner and the movie, my excitement mounted, and friends, I was not disappointed.  The movie was outstanding. (Warning: This review may contain some spoilers.)

Yes, naturally, there are some plot devices changed, but with the exception of how Katniss received the mockingjay pin (not a spoiler - the trailer shows this), I can't think of another creative liberty they took that was detrimental to the overall plot.  In fact, many of their additions add depth to static characters in the novel such as Seneca Crane and the Gamemakers.  The movie does an excellent job at depicting the process of manipulating the games and the characters in the arena that makes the whole concept even more creepy and sadistic than it seems in the novel.  Similarly, liberties are taken with Seneca's fate at the end of the movie that are very effective in the plot's greater context.

Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss is superb.  In the novel, Katniss strives very hard to put forth a stoic front, and succeeds, but Collins allows readers to enter into Katniss' intimate moments where she feels broken and helpless.  Lawrence is very adept at emoting.  Katniss' terrors and fears fly across the screen, skillfully depicting the tension of being in the arena and watching those around you perish.  Katniss is a very desirable character because she is so independent, equal parts brains and beauty, compassion and strength, but she is also just a normal girl.  Lawrence embodies this spirit well.

I must admit I was disappointed by the presentation of Gale.  I find Liam Hemsworth to be a good match on the surface; however, working in a coal district, I expected Gale to be rougher around the edges in appearance and personality.  Hemsworth didn't communicate this feeling to me on either account.

Josh Hutcherson as Peeta was a pleasant surprise.  I may be one of the only readers who doubted Peeta's feelings and intentions until Catching Fire, but Peeta grew on me throughout the series, and Hutcherson did the same throughout the film.  I was resistant to his eagerness at first, but as the film progressed, the sincerity of his feelings for Katniss trumped any residual ambivalence I had for his character.  This sincerity doesn't read as well in the first book but was very effective on the screen.

Likewise, the pacing and cinematography were well-executed.  Each major event in the film is given its due diligence, no more no less.  The plot never drags, but key scenes, such as Rue's death, are fully fleshed out.  The beginning montage depicting life in District 12 did an excellent job at creating the mood of the inhabitants and their livelihood.  Camera angles and filters are employed very effectively to give scenes of the district home-movie or documentary quality, and Katniss' terror at certain points in the arena are similarly conveyed with surprising angles and speed.  The scenes of murder in the arena are no less upsetting than in the novels; however, music and even the absence of sound are used to de-emphasize some of the brutality.  The natural quality of these scenes are juxtaposed against the clear artificiality of the Capital.  The bright colors and make-up that adorn the population are garish next to the muted earth tones of District 12.  Similarly, Katniss and Peeta's grand entrance in flames seems contrived.  Even more telling is the steel plated cornucopia at the center of the arena.  Although its design is not as I imagined it, in retrospect, it is just another example of the artifice of the Capital.    

Overall, I was very pleased with the effect; however, I think I enjoyed it so much because I had read the books.  I don't think I would have been as involved or interested in the movie if I didn't have the background from the novels.  The series and movie are a terrifying, intense ride from beginning to end that will leave the reader and viewer shaken to the core, but the experience is a memorable demonstration of human suffering and compassion.

1 comment:

  1. I wholeheartedly agree Kristin, it was a superb adaptation. All the changes played a role in its successful transformation to the big screen, but the respect for the original still remained.