The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games is a good, solid film.

I’ll spare you another rehashing of the plot, as I’ve done so in an earlier post, and people know how I feel about comparing it to Battle Royale – that’s a simple, superficial comparison a best, especially seen in the context of all three books.

For fans of the books, and let’s be honest, that will be the driving force of the audience, they’ll get almost all of the moments they want.

I did. But, of course, having read the books, there were no real surprises in the story, so it allowed me to focus on all the other things that make up a film.

Hunger Games is Gary Ross’ third film as a director, having previously helmed Pleasantville, which I adored, and Seabiscuit.

He worked with series author Suzanne Collins on the screenplay to bring the first of the trilogy of worldwide bestsellers to the screen, and like I said, they’ve made a good, solid film.

There are things I loved, liked, and maybe a thing or two I might change, but maybe not.

First and foremost, let’s talk about Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen. She is pitch perfect, in fact most of my favorite moments in the film, center around little tiny things in her performance. The way her voice threatens to break when she volunteers for the Games, her relationship with Rue, the salute in District 12, and the one she makes to District 11, but my favorite bar none, is when she’s getting ready to step into the tube that will deliver her to the arena. Right from the start of the scene, you can tell she’s just holding it together, and she is really, really scared, the performance starts in her eyes, but then spreads, so her body is just giving these little shakes and quivers of fear.

THAT is when she really had me. It had been a wonderful performance until that point, but that is when I truly believed she was Katniss and not just an actor on the screen.

I’ve spoken to a few people who felt she may be a little old for the role right now, but you know what, considering what her character will go through in the sequels, I think those events, and the events of this film, would make you look older than you are. So I was never worried about that.

And, in terms of weapons, I’ve always loved the bow. And she totally rocks it!

Jennifer Lawrence, who quite rightly earned an Oscar nomination for her role in Winter’s Bone, may never have to work again after this series of films is done. But I’m hoping that doesn’t stop her.

Josh Hutcherson is an actor who first came to my attention in the adorable film, Little Manhattan. Josh brings an earnestness to his characters and his take on Peeta Mellark is another extension of that.

He’s fun, he’s likable, and he knows his chances of surviving are next to none. But he’s going to do his damnedest to make sure that Katniss survives.

Peeta is played as an everyman who’s just in the wrong place at the wrong time, and he’s just trying to hold onto who he is through all of it.

Josh was always popular with his fans, but I think this one will push him over the top, and the ladies adore him.

Sadly, Gale Hawthorne (played by Liam Hemsworth – Thor’s brother) is almost an non-entity in this film. He’s not given a lot to do, but glower unhappily as he watches the relationship develop between Katniss and Peeta during the broadcasts of the game.

Still, he’ll have more to do in the remaining films, so I commend Liam for taking the role, knowing he wouldn’t be up to much in this first act.

Katniss’ sister Prim, played by Willow Shields, breaks your heart with her tears over Katniss taking her place in the games.

Donald Sutherland is President Snow, and you can see the evil already at work, especially for those of us who know what lays ahead.

Wes Bentley as Seneca Crane, Toby Jones as Claudius, and Stanley Tucci as Caesar all make their moments and characters work. Lenny Kravitz as Cinna was great, and gives a nice little turn as Katniss’ personal designer.

And of course there’s Rue. This character, if miscast, would ruin some of the most emotional moments of the film, but happily Amandla Stenberg, was note perfect, cute, brash, funny, adorable.

You can’t help but like her.

Which is the point. Because you already know that can’t end well.

Katniss says it herself, twenty-four go in, but only one comes out.

So you know it’s coming, and if you’ve read the book, you even know when, but it’s still heartbreaking to watch the relationship grow to know it can only end badly.

Then, there’s Elizabeth Banks, who completely buried herself in the role of Effie Trinket. She’s completely unrecognizable, and is brilliant.

Then there’s Haymitch. This was the only character I wasn’t sure about the casting of. Nothing against Woody Harrelson at all, in my mind’s eye I always saw Haymitch as a bit of Brendan Gleeson type.

Still, for all that, there was a lot of bits with Haymitch that I did like, but I’ll be more interested to see how Woody plays him in the sequels.

One of the things I did love was the costume design, Katniss especially is dressed in full, strong colors in the Capital, and it serves as a brilliant counterpoint to the citizens. All of them dress colorfully, but all the colors are flat, drab, and lifeless. They’re all dead, not actually living, but living off of life, and the work of others… there’s a 99% vs the 1% argument in the story if you’re looking for it.

Some people have complained about the shaky camerawork of the film (which made me mad, cause some of these people were throwing laurels at the seizure inducing camera-work that permeates the Transformer movies), I liked it, especially the further I got into the film. But it’s also an emotional thing, the camerawork is almost a reflection of Katniss’ mood, when she’s sad, or calm, the camera is almost still, when she’s excited, fearful, filled with adrenaline, or tracker-jacker poison it’s more erratic.

The last thing I’ll talk about is the soundtrack/score.

Yes I have the Songs From District 12 and Beyond album, which I really like, but I’m looking forward to the score album being released on the 26th.

James Newton Howard’s score is gentle, and like a lot of the tracks on the District 12 album, has a rustic twang to it, that just works so well with the feel of the story and the film.

So, whether you’ve read the book or not, you’ll find the film solid entertainment, and you’ll be joining the throngs of us who are now anxiously awaiting the sequels, because after taking in $20 million with midnight showings alone, you know they’ll be kicking those into high gear!

Until then…

May the odds be ever in your favor…

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7 Comments Add yours

  1. Seems a nice movie, I loved Battle Royal !

  2. Anthony Grani says:

    I’m so afraid to see this movie. The books had such a profound effect on me I just don’t want to ruin them by seeing the movie. Watching the trailers and a few behind the scenes bits I can say that the casting seems mostly fine. But the world doesn’t look right to me. It’s not how I saw it when I read the books. It’s kind of the opposite of the Harry Potter films. I didn’t really like the films all that much – the 3rd one was good and the last few were pretty good too – but what I did love about the films is the world they created was right. It looked like it did in my mind. So it was alright for me to watch the movies and then have all the visuals from the film – and the cast – become the people and places I saw as I finished reading the books. But I’m not sure I’m ready for that to happen with the Hunger Games. There are a few things from the trailers that really rub me the wrong way. Peeta giving bread to Katniss seems to be once they were already teenagers instead of younger children. That’s weird and wrong. The Hob doesn’t look at all the way I imagined it. The training centre – wrong. The fence around District 12? Even I could get through that. Good luck with that fence in the next book. And I haven’t seen it so I don’t have any proof to back it up other than a terrible line delivery in the trailer, but I can’t believe that Lenny Kravitz, a charming and talented NON-ACTOR, can pull off a role as complicated as Cinna. There is so much going on inside Cinna’s head that we never really see. I want so badly to love this movie. And I know that just about any movie can never be as good as the book, but I fear that I’ll only be disappointed and have the incredible journey that reading the Hunger Games took me on ruined by a sub-par film. So I ask you Tim or Sue – would you still recommend this film to a young man such as myself knowing that it could potentially destroy his experience of reading what is easily in his top 3 works of fiction ever?

  3. marajade29sm says:

    In short? No, you should probably not see it.

    I was affected very personally by the books, but I think maybe in a different way from everyone else. That’s pretty much been my experience in life, though, so it’s hard to tell from inside me, really, what’s real and what’s not.

    However.

    I went into the film – sick – and fully expecting it would be one of the greatest things I’d ever seen. I went in expecting to love it.

    And I did love it, but not as blindly as I’d assumed i would.

    Okay, first of all, I’d read the books assuming that Cinna was gayer than Christmas (he’s a fashion designer – what do I know?), but when I heard that Lenny Kravitz was playing him in the film, I amended my impression to allow for more manliness, and less flamboyance. We’ll see how I feel in future films, but to my mind, they got the relationship between Conna and Katniss exactly right. Not all the same scenes, not all the same lines – even the amount of time they spent together seemed tragically short. Well, shortER in the film than how it felt in the book. But to me, my impression was that he was kind of her rock in some ways, her protector, and her guidance when she would have otherwise felt alone. Everything leading up to the moment katniss steps into the tube that will raise her into the arena – she always seemed to get the most amount of actual comfort from her connection to Cinna. She learned to trust him, and that came through in the film for me. Even though he wasn’t gay. And neither is Christmas, really. It’s just an expression I heard somewhere that made me laugh once upon a time.

    The world was very much as I pictured it, though. I mean, as far as landscapes go, at least. District 12 looked much like I thought, and the Reaping, the arena itself with forest and river and cave and lake and freaking evil tracker jackers. All that looked good to me. The training centre? I’m not sure anymore how I pictured it. I was kind of just terrified and on edge the whole time, so I guess having it dark and sparse and cold and clinical sort of fit the mood I had when I was reading.

    There are some things that, because the whole story is seen through Katniss’ eyes, had to be shifted or changed simply because if they had Jennifer Lawrence narrate the whole thing, it would have really sucked. They had to adapt some things just to make the film flow as a visual narrative, rather than an oral or written one. Explanations for things. Explanations for who different characters are, or why they aren’t even mentioned. How the mockingjay pin makes it onto Katniss’ jacket in the arena is a bone of contention, which I was looking to have issue with myself when I first sat down. I think that was the only thing I expected to be angry at. But then, when I saw how it was done in the film – it – they found a way for it to mean even MORE to me, somehow. It somehow made the pin more important and more – crap, what’s the word? I was more moved by it, and every time I noticed its presence, it became even more central to the whole thing.

    Apparently, in the beginning of this, when I said, “In short”, I really only meant that one sentence. The rest of it is the long answer that could really keep going, if only I had more time on my lunch break!

    I am eager to see the film again – soon – so that I can spend less time comparing it to the novel and more time actually letting it take me on the journey. Because that’s the thing, I think. There are all kinds of things about it that I want to pull apart and complain about, and there are just as many that I think were done so brilliantly they completely add to the experience of reading the book (things that happen outside of Katniss’ knowledge, but that pertain very strongly to her experience, for example)…little details like Prim tucking in her shirt as she walks slowly to the platform when her name is called during the Reaping. That moved me to tears in the film – in 2 seconds, the simplest gesture – I’ll never forget that one small moment, nor many others.

    But to me, when the end credits started to roll, I sat in my seat alone, and felt like I’d been there. Not in the movie, not even in the book, exactly. I felt like I’d been in that world. I’d been in the Hunger Games. I’d had moments of joy, and sorrow, and exhilaration and confusion and fear, and like everything was just getting started.

    I felt like something in me had changed. Something fragile and new was maybe growing inside. I felt shaken and tired (and I had a killer headache), but not beaten. The details are not the same, but for me, the feeling of the journey was very much so.

    I felt like maybe there was hope. Which is exactly how the book made me feel.

  4. marajade29sm says:

    OKAY, in ACTUAL short – I understand your fear, and I hesitate to recommend that you see it, because for me, the books were very personal in the effect that they had, and while I got much the same feeling from the film, I can’t guarantee that it will work the same way for you. I can’t tell you to go see it.

    But if you do – I would kind of love the opportunity to sit down and talk with you about ALL of it sometime, if you’d be up for it.

  5. marajade29sm says:

    And does this mean that you got mary to read them, too? ‘Cause I recall bugging her to fly through the first one, at least! lol

  6. TD Rideout says:

    I think if you guys go see it, being Anthony and Mary, the four of us should sit down and do a podcast where we talk about it…

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