The Hunger Games Review
Those who know me know that I absolutely love The Hunger Games, so it was with some trepidation that I walked into the cinema to watch this movie. Would they be faithful? Or as with many other book adaptations, would it be a mutation that barely resembles the work it’s based on?
Thankfully, on the whole, I’d say it was the former versus the latter. I gotta say, I really enjoyed this movie. For those that knew nothing about the book and dismissed it as another Battle Royale scenario, I think the movie makers did well enough differentiating it from that blood thirsty fest.
Half the movie was devoted to the run up to The Hunger Games, which was certainly the right choice. We got to see the spectacle of The Hunger Games, which indeed provided a great commentary on current reality television. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that that comparison hit home a lot more effectively in the movie than the book, simply because of the medium.
The first half of the film also introduces audiences to the world of Panem, which, unless you live in the capitol-and even then its bad, is a pretty harsh place to live. The people outside of the capitol live in abject poverty while those within the capitol have an absurd amount of luxury at their fingertips. Was I the only one that was reminded of the denizens of the Emerald City when the camera panned over the audience in the capitol. It is almost like Dorothy going from Kansas to Oz, except instead of killing a witch, Katniss must kill 23 other people to return to her home.
It hasn’t gone without notice that in all the publicity material for The Hunger Games, the movie makers kept images of the arena to a minimum, which I think was a good choice. They don’t want to capitalize on the children-killing-each-other angle. Also, lets face it, the arena is what we’ve all been waiting to see. I personally loved the cutaways to Seneca and his technicians. You could just imagine them running the Oscars in just the same way. “And cue the wall of fire!”
This being a PG-13 movie, the deaths were played down for the most part. We got the brutality of the initial combat at the cornucopia, but without having to actually see all of it in gory detail– I would say that right there is a big difference between BR (the movie) and THG.
Jennifer Lawrence particularly shines during the second half of the film, simply because so much of it centres around her. The book was written in the first person, and since viewers aren’t privy to Katniss’ thoughts, Lawrence must convey much of what she’s thinking and feeling as she tries to survive the brutality of the arena while, like Peeta, trying to stay true to who she is.
I suppose I should touch on the love triangle that does seem to be a pre-requisite for any YA book/movie. It was fairly minimal overall. Some might argue that it’s unclear what Katniss’ feeling are to Gale, but to be honest that’s not too different from the book. I think it is clear that Katniss must play up her relationship with Peeta if either of them are to survive. Overall, I would say that it worked, but given that I already read the books, it’s entirely possible that some viewers might have been confused about that relationship too.
Unfortunately, like all adaptations, there were plenty of things that were lost. For me, it was more of the subtleties that the book was able to develop. There was much more scenes with Cinna and Haymitch coaching them before the games. I would also have liked to have seen more with them training.
On a less subtle note, the shaky cam was horrendous. At least, in the first few minutes of the movie. I honestly found myself fearing that the entire film was going to be this way. Luckily that wasn’t the case. The shaky cam just didn’t belong in the first few minutes. It was confusing enough for people that had read the books, I can’t imagine not knowing anything about the movie and walking into shaky cam images of district 12.
Other things I thought were a shame to lose, was the whole meaning behind the Mockingjay pin. If you hadn’t read the books, would you even know just how much of a FU Katniss wearing the pin is to the capitol? Then of course there was the salute, which is never actually explained in the film, but is another FU to the capotiol. Also, I don’t think there was any mention of District 13 which given the direction the next two books go, is kind of strange.
There’s been lots of talk about casting and how Jennifer Lawrence was too white for the role of Katniss. I’m not going to go into that here however I will say this, Jennifer Lawrence is too statuesque for the role. The woman is voluptuous, with gorgeous cheek bones, that simply doesn’t go with the scrawniness of Katniss in the book. And I’m not saying this to quibble either. There are several points in Katniss’ life where she is literally starving to death, including a moment shown in the movie and, unfortunately, Lawrence’s physique does nothing to carry that across. Which, doesn’t mean she was bad for the role, because she really was Katniss to me in every other way. It’s just that poverty is a huge part of the book. She volunteers to protect her sister. She puts her name in multiple times to feed her family even though she’s risking her life by doing so. The tessera is another thing that I would like to have seen mentioned. As stark a contrast as they were able to create between the districts and the capitol, the makers could have gone even further, through the use of food.
Still, I can’t complain too much. I went in, fearing that they were going to mess this movie up royally, and I came out thrilled. Not only did I see a great movie, but they didn’t f*&k it up. I can’t ask for more than that!