Today I finally got a chance to go see the incredibly successful film adaptation of the very successful young adult book, The Hunger Games. It's proved to be an unstoppable force at the box office, and has been getting generally solid reviews from critics. But how does it stand up to my keen and discerning tastes?
Actually, when it comes to books that I like being adapted for the screen, I'm pretty easy to please. Respect the source material, do your research, and we should be fine. I know there's a lot of people who like to beat their head against a wall and cry to the heavens that, "IT'S NOT LIKE IT WAS IN THE BOOK!" Get over it. It's a different medium, some things come off great on text but look shite onscreen. Sometimes things need to be cut for time. Sometimes things just need to be changed. And that's OK. That being said, here are my thoughts about the film.
I was feeling pretty confident going into the movie theater, because I had been following every single casting announcement since the very beginning and generally agreed with their choices. Like everyone else, I've been impressed with Jennifer Lawrence's work over the past couple years. I've been watching Josh Hutcherson since he was little, thinking, "Wow, this kid is actually really good," so I was over the moon that he was going to be Peeta. Elizabeth Banks as Effie? Yes please. Lenny Kravitz as Cinna? Perfect. The casting department seemed to be on exactly the same page as me, which seemed like a good omen for the film.
I really liked the muted and washed out tones they used for everything in District 12. The clothes didn't commit to any specific time period, they just seemed a little old, simple, and worn, which is perfect. There was palpable tension during the time immediately preceding the Reaping, and little Prim was note perfect, right down to the untucked "duck tail" of her shirt. At this point, I was struggling a little bit to keep my shit together. I love how Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss disengages from stressful situations, and you just see this blank, emotionless look on her face. It's a perfect contrast with Peeta's more overtly emotional state.
I am genuinely in love with the costume and makeup design used for the people in the Capitol. In a lot of ways it makes me think of the aristocratic excesses of the period immediately preceding the French Revolution. There's really not a whole hell of a lot that's off limits for these people, and their fashion choices are a reflection of this.
I'm so glad they kept the training scene when Katniss, offended by the lack of attention the gamemakers are paying her, shoots an apple out of a boar's mouth. It's the perfect reflection of Katniss' brash, impulsive nature, and it translated beautifully to the screen. Equally wonderful: Haymitch's reaction to the fact that she had the balls to pull off a move like that. And Effie chastising her for her bad manners. So perfect.
So then we go to the arena. While shaky cam can be a little much at times, it's hard to argue that it's a good way to show the frenetic and confusing nature of battle. As well as providing a way to avoid showing the type of gore that would get this film smacked with a R-rating.
I'm not exaggerating when I say that every time Rue was on screen, I got all sad face and wanted to give her a hug. Because she is just so adorable and precious and heartbreaking. I have no complaints with her death scene or memorial, I felt that it was beautifully done. And I like that they showed District 11 briefly turning into an angry mob after she dies and Katniss gives her such a loving tribute, just because it more overtly explains to the audience that Katniss's actions (innocent as they may seem) are an act on rebellion in the eyes of the government.
The time Katniss and Peeta spend in the cave is a lot longer in the book, but if I'm perfectly honest, I kind of don't mind that they trimmed the fat a little bit. We don't really need 40 minutes of them arguing and Katniss being all romantic and awkward. It's better that they cut it down to just the bare essentials and move along. I'm also glad that they cut the bit where Katniss drugs Peeta so that she can sneak away to get his medicine, because that always felt a little uncomfortable.
The only thing I wish was different is the design of the muttations. So much of what makes them horrifying is their almost human traits, and in the film we got big dog-type things. Which, you know, is still menacing, but not psychologically traumatic the way the muttations are in the book.
Other than that, I was supremely pleased with the film, have plans to reread the books, and am looking forward to the next two movies! Yay for quality film adaptations! I'm so pleased that this one is getting the attention it deserves.
Side note: Was anyone else mildly disappointed that the tributes from District 9 weren't these guys?