The Hunger Games movie has made a bazillion dollars opening weekend, and everyone I know has seen it already. I won't write up a synopsis of the film, because if you don't know what it's about by now, here is the wikipedia entry I was really looking forward to this movie coming out, though not as much as say, a Harry Potter or the upcoming The Hobbit, mostly because The Hunger Games isn't as well written as either of those books. I had read a few reviews before heading to the theater, so I had some idea of what people thought the pluses and minuses of the film were, but I think for the most part I was open to the film and had no definable expectations. That being said...
...the movie was fantastic. I really loved it. It almost surprised me how much I loved it. The tone and the look of the film were spot on, and Jennifer Lawrence was just amazing as the main character, Katniss Everdeen. Even though I knew the story, and knew what would happen, I was still on the edge of my seat through most of the film.
The movie is a faithful adaptation of the novel, and I think might be a better adaptation than a YA fiction book would or should normally get. And the book is definitely YA, the writing and the story just feel like it was written for teen girls, but the film feels like it is meant for everyone (over the age 13 of course). I think the story, and Katniss herself, are relatable for a very broad audience. Her strength, courage, honesty, vulnerability, make her accessible to everyone watching her, both us, the real world audience, and the audience of Capitol citizens, who are glued to their screens, cheering and crying for Katniss throughout the Games.
And that is the main reason I think the film is better at this than the book: Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss. I like her Katniss so much better than the book's incarnation. Interestingly, Jennifer Lawrence looks almost nothing like the Katniss that author Suzanne Collins describes as slight, with straight black hair and olive skin. But her presence on screen and her honesty captured me completely. Would I rather have someone else, who looks like Katniss or would I rather have Jennifer Lawrence? I'd rather have Jennifer Lawrence, hands down. She had to do everything in this film, she carried the whole thing on her very capable shoulders. I must say I was surprised by this a little bit, I know she is an Oscar nominated actress, but I haven't seen Winter's Bone. I did see her in X-Men: First Class but she didn't really stand out to me, but I'm definitely a fan now.
The casting overall in the film was really well done. I was particularly impressed at how much I liked Elizabeth Banks' character Effie, considering how strange she looks, which can be very hard to act around.
Since I enjoyed the movie so much it's hard to find anything major to take issue with, but I do have a few things I'd like to nitpick about. None of them are “Why did they cut this?” like in my Battle Royale movie review, thankfully.
I'd like to have seen more reactions from and scenes with Capitol citizens as they were watching the games. We got a few moments of Haymitch schmoozing, a few moments of District citizens watching, and scenes of the game controllers, but not enough of the Captiol citizens generally. I think more of that would have helped sell the emotional trickery of the love story between Peeta and Katniss. I know some people were confused by their relationship, and didn't buy the love story, but that was the point. I think a few more moments showing how the Capitol was being manipulated by this “star-crossed” lovers yarn would have worked to the film's benefit. Especially since it is a nice way to show the tributes, who are completely and overtly manipulated by the government on a daily basis AND during the games, playing the game right back. In my head, right before Katniss kisses Peeta full on the mouth, there is a quick cutaway to a camera in the cave quietly zooming in in anticipation, ready for the “romantic” kiss that the Capitol and sponsors are eagerly anticipating.
I also think the film should have had a bit more blood and gore. There was barely any. I understand why the filmmakers kept it so tame, they want the lucrative teen audience to come out and see the film, but I did think it was heavy handed in the editing out of blood splatters. The average 12 year old has seen plenty of TV/video game/movie violence already, whether their parents know it or not.
But anyway, see this movie on the big screen. See it and enjoy it and then give in to the immediate urge to learn archery and basic forest survival. I haven't wanted to live in a tree so badly since I was a kid and read My Side of the Mountain.
And by the way, I know most of you will be rushing here to comment on whether you are Team Pitabread or Team Thorbrother, but let's all be honest...what we really want is Haymitch and Effie hooking up on the downlow on that fancy train. Just me?