The Hunger Games
*Based on the book, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
I am going to try to make this review as spoiler-free as possible for people who haven't yet seen the movie, but if you haven't read the book yet, you may just want to skip the entire review as I'm sure I'll end up ruining something for you...LOL.
After years of waiting for this book to be adapted into a movie, I finally got a chance to SEE the world of Panem in all it's dichotomic glory. The lushness of the Capitol, the devestation and poverty of the outlying districts...
In case you've forgotten, here is a basic description of the storyline:
Katniss is a 16-year-old girl living with her mother and younger sister in the poorest district of Panem, the remains of what used be the United States. Long ago the districts waged war on the Capitol and were defeated. As part of the surrender terms, each district agreed to send one boy and one girl to appear in an annual televised event called, "The Hunger Games." The terrain, rules, and level of audience participation may change but one thing is constant: kill or be killed. When Katniss' sister, Prim, is chosen by lottery, Katniss steps up to go in her place.
There were so many things that I loved about this movie...and I only had one very minor complaint.
Anyway, these are the things that I liked:
1. The casting - I thought that the entire cast was phenominally chosen. At first I had been skeptical about a few characters (Lenny Kravitz??), but the choices all turned out to be brilliant on screen. Jennifer Lawrence was wonderful as Katniss, managing to evoke all the right emotions, especially as with the movie, you don't really get to see inside her head like you do in the book. Both Peeta and Gale were well chosen and worked really well off of Katniss. The adults surrounding her? Epic. The way that Effie and Haymitch dealt with the kids and played off of each other was great. The use of Cesar as both comic relief and as an expository character (giving depth to the world and treating the viewer as a "viewer" of the games) was exceedingly well done. (He might even have been my favorite movie character, perchance...) ...And for all my earlier hesitance...I really loved Lenny Kravitz as Cinna. It turned out to be a great choice.
2. The world building - I actually thought that the movie enabled Collins to expand the viewer's perspective of the world A LOT. In the book, you are trapped inside Katniss' head, and it is fantastic and compelling and emotional as hell, but in the movie, you are able to FEEL what has been building in Panem for a long time. You are able to see what the President is doing to control his power over the people. You are able to get the mood of the country, its priviledged, its downtrodden. You see how the other Hunger Games tributes feel... There is just so much more explored here.
3. The use of camera work to deflect the violence - Okay. There was no way that I was NOT going to see this movie. It is one of my favorite books of all time and it has looked epic from the moment they started promoting it. That does not mean that I wasn't mentally steeling myself to make it through the violence of the Games. I was so pleasantly surprised with how they filmed this. Yes, there are kids fighting to the death. Yes, you know exactly what happens. Yes, you see a lot of it...BUT you don't SEE it. They filmed this with two different techniques that contribute to a lot of the violence being down played...actually three methods. One, a shaky cam, so that you see what happens, but it's so quick moving or blurry that you don't really know what you've seen until after it's off screen again. Two, almost like an old Alfred Hitchcock movie, they clip in and out of the violence. You see a sword flash during a wind up, then you cut to a falling body...without seeing the gory slash in between. Lastly, they utilized the cannon firing and visual display of fallen tributes to alert Katniss that someone had died without the viewer having to see the death at all. I was really pleased over all with how well this turned out. I knew what happened, I got the emotional devestation of it, but I didn't have to look away from the screen at all... KUDOS.
My only complaint with this film, and it is a minor one, is that I thought it lacked some of the character building that the book had... because we are seeing the whole picture and we weren't inside of Katniss' head, you missed out on feeling her confliction as she deals with her emotions inside the arena and her knowledge that they will have an impact if she makes it out. You miss seeing some of the cold calculation she must go through to figure out how to survive... Though I loved the movie and felt it was almost perfect, I thought that possibly, they could have added one or two lines somehow here or there that would have explained Katniss' thoughts without bringing in voice-over narration...
Overall, I thought this movie was AMAZING. I plan to go see it again this weekend...and if you know me, you'll know that means it was epic. I hate paying to go to the movies in general...I wait a lot until things come out on DVD, and I cannot remember the last time that I saw a movie in the theater twice. It may have been Harry Potter 4? I'm not sure. LOL.
What did you all think??