After seeing Hunger Games Friday when it premiered, I felt compelled to write something about this great film. I think it got some if the weirdest reactions of the audience I've ever seen, but more on that later. To me, Entertainment Weekly review by Lisa Schwarzbaum summed up the experience for me perfectly: "The movie shows how, and the book shows why".
Hunger Games is based on the book by the same name, written by Suzanne Collins. This young adult book tells the story of Katniss Everdeen, a young girl living in post-apocalyptic North America, renamed Panem. Panem is divided to 12 districts and the wealthy Capitol. As a punishment for a rebellion against the Capitol, annually one girl and one boy are chosen from every district to compete in televised game to the death, called the Hunger Games. And of course, the heroine of the book is chosen for the game along with Peeta Mellark from the same district.
First of all, I recommend that you all read the book, or even better, read all 3 of the series. Although the movie does a great job on introducing the whole Hunger Games universe to us, it leaves so much out of it. As I watched the movie, I started remembering the book which I read few years ago. Truth is, that though we see bits and pieces of the child slaughter on screen, there are so many aspects to it that really can't be conveyed to the audience on screen. Though the director Gary Ross has preciously done mainly drama movies like Seabiscuit and Pleasantville, he fails to bring some of the original resources drama to the game.
It's no wonder that some sources have been disgusted by the films violence, in UK they even cut some of the bloodiest scenes short. Just imagine the whole situation. The Capitol forces 24 kids to the arena with just the clothes they are wearing to kill other children, while the rest of Panem stays home and places bets on the deaths of the tributes, as the contestants are called. The whole event is designed to give the best experience to those watching it, and if things don't go to as planned, the Game Master can alter the huge arena with the likes of a forest fires and mutated creatures.
There are so many aspects to this movie that could be further discussed, like the fact that some of the more trained tributes laugh while they hunt down the other tributes, and try to make it a "good show" for the audiences. But with Ross's direction, all these things are seriously toned down, when compared to the book. And I think that really takes away from the movie viewers, though this helped the movie to get PG-12 rating. Most of the action is filmed with handheld shaky cameras which cut away so fast its hard to comprehend the whole situation sometimes. They might think that this provides more accurate style compared to reality, but truth is, it almost makes the movie unfocused and hard to follow, even for us who have read the book and know the general plot of the film. Maybe on the sequel Ross isn't afraid to slow things down a bit.
This fast paced camerawork also diminishes the minor roles. Haymitch (Woody Harrelson) and Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks) are supposed to provide the lighter moments to the film, but their work is lost in the rush. And so is lot of the tributes. I know it can be confusing to the audiences if the film focuses too much on the tributes that die in the massacre, called "hacking", when all the tributes enter the arena at once. But there are so many others, that really deserved more screen time.
So what makes the movie so great then? Answer is simple, Jennifer Lawrence. Even Ross admitted that Hunger Games wouldn't have been possible without Lawrence. This 21-yo actress keeps the whole movie together, from the very beginning to the anti-climax at the end. So much in the movie is dependant on her acting, since the film can't possibly go to the depths of her mind, like the book does. In this, she does an amazing job. Though Josh Hutcherson, who plays Peeta, does admirable job too, the script really cuts his role down. And the whole "romance" between the characters is pretty fast played, so that really doesn't leave that much base for Hutcherson.
Due to the fact, that Collins also wrote the original film script and was very involved later on too, the film manages to stay true to the book very well. Of course there are small sacrifices made to accomplish better flow for the audiences who aren't familiar with the book. And the movie manages well the pressure of introducing the whole Hunger Games universe, because we have to keep in mind that there are two sequels following.
Catching Fire and Mockingjay, the sequels are already in process. Lawrence, Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth (who plays Gale, and will have much larger role in the next parts) have all signed for the whole franchise, while Woody Harrelson has signed on for four films, rising the question: will the last book be split in two? That seems to be the trend anyways.
The whole experience of watching the film or reading the book is pretty bizarre. At some point you will realise that you are rooting for Katniss to win, which in return means you will be hoping for the other tributes lose. So basically we are rooting for the children to die. So I wonder why everyone left the cinema so excited, when the fact is, 22 children died on that arena. If Ross had taken all the material and really embraced it, I don't think we'd be leaving the theatre smiling. And one very noticeable moment at the audience, was when Rue, 12-year-old girl tribute gets speared and we see her die. I know the acting wasn't perfect, but it seemed the most inappropriate place on the movie to laugh, like surprisingly many in the audience did. But that is one thing about the film and the books I love, they really make us question our morale and values, and challenge us to think what would we do in their situation.
I pretty much agree with the 86% approval rate, the film currently holds at Rotten Tomatoes. Though I might give it a bit less knowing the books, and what it could have been. Overall the acting is superb, and it is very thrilling and emotional film. And I like the art direction of the film, it really is pretty much what I imagined when I read the books, and Jennifer Lawrence fits the role so perfectly. Though the costume designer really dropped the ball at Katniss's and Peeta's fire-outfits when the tributes make their first official appearance at Capitol.
So if you are a fan of the books or newcomer, go see the movie, since we will be hearing a lot about it. Hunger Games has already broken records when it made over $68 millions on Friday, making it the biggest premiere for non-sequel film, beating Harry Potter and Twilight.
Here are some fun things inspired by the movie. First this hilarious video, about how the movie comes across for a drunk viewer.
Another thing I found, is this great name creator, because as you might have noticed, some of the names are pretty bizarre in Panem. You can enter your name multiple time to get different names. Mine was Velorum Naysmith :D
I hope you'll see the movie and read the books too, so we can make this bigger that that ghastly Twilight.
Weekly post coming Tuesday maybe.