4.06.2012

Movie Review: The Hunger Games, PART 1

It's been about two weeks since THE HUNGER GAMES has been out in theaters, and over that time, I've been talking about the movie and the books a lot. I've been talking about them so much so that it makes me really want to read the first book again because it's been maybe 2 years since I read it.

I have a lot of FEELINGS about the movie, both good and bad, and I'm going to write a WALL OF TEXT REVIEW about it, full of SPOILERS and GIFS and Alzian doodles. So, I hope you've seen it already or otherwise don't care about spoilers because YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.

Today's post will be PART 1: THE POSITIVES of the movie. (Edit: Here's Part 2.)

My verdict (in case you want to know without reading my spoilery review) is that I liked it BUT with mixed feelings. I will expand upon these feelings below the poster. Leave now if you wish to keep your eyes untainted.



*DISCLAIMER*: I'm actually NOT one of those super nitpicky people who are near impossible to satisfy with book-to-movie adaptations. I AM of the mind that in general the book will be better than the movie, but I'm also pretty good at divorcing the two things because I understand that movies are a different medium and there are certain restraints to it (just like there are restraints to books).

I saw the movie with the Sister and Alz on Saturday morning of opening weekend. Our auditorium was filled with A LOT OF TEENS for a Saturday morning at 9am. Pretty impressive. Woohoo, Hunger Games!


OVERALL FEELINGS

I went into the movie with lukewarm feelings to "cautious optimism" because I was jaded from the relentless hyping (I'm looking at you Entertainment Weekly) and because I was iffy about the casting. Nothing against the actors themselves, but Josh Hutcherson wasn't anywhere near the Peeta in my head and I thought it was an unfortunate missed opportunity that the casting call for dark-haired, gray-eyed, olive-skinned Katniss came with the line "should be Caucasian," effectively closing the door on giving a POC actress the opportunity to play a character whose race is ambiguously described. Then they cast blond and fair Jennifer Lawrence, and it all just didn't sit very well.

Katniss as imagined by Fornax
Drawn from book description.
I didn't doubt her talent. She's just not
very Katniss-in-book looking.
But I watched the movie and I liked it. The movie was definitely made with the fans in mind. They showed us the electric fence around rural and poor District 12, Katniss and Gale hunting, even the Hobb before the Reaping. Buttercup had a cameo too! The Capitol in contrast was sleek, its fashion bright and outrageous. The key scenes were there, and the parts were excellently acted. It was very true to the book (in most ways).

BUT I think BECAUSE the movie was made with fans in mind and because of time constraints, there were a lot of things that the movie took for granted. Character development was lacking in some areas, and some of the technical aspects of the Games weren't well enough explained (e.g. sponsorship). The focus on the plot seemed to also take away potency from the story's themes. So we felt like people who hadn't read the books might not like the movie as much or might just like it okay (without loving it).


POSITIVES

ACTING
  • Jennifer Lawrence was an amazing Katniss. Without the benefit of Katniss' internal dialogue that we had in the books, it's a lot harder to connect to her because she's a distant character - she says herself in the movie she doesn't make friends easily. But Jennifer Lawrence plays it perfectly. She's distant, wary, and tough, but she shows just enough vulnerability -her tenderness with Prim and Rue, her uncertainty/awkwardness on stage with Caesar. Her distress at the Reaping when Prim is picked and her fear the moment before she enters the Arena were especially moving. (AND I was relieved they didn't slather her in bronzer to make her look more "olive-skinned" because that would've been not cool.)
  • Josh Hutcherson IS Peeta. He completely won me over, and I'm not even Team Peeta (Team Gale, whut)! He was arguably the character I was most iffy about going into it because he was so different from the Peeta in my head, but on screen, Josh became Peeta. His kindness and easy charm were so natural. He made me feel for Peeta in a stronger way than even the books did, although I think that was in some part due to what the movie chose to emphasize about Peeta. Regardless, I remember sympathizing with Peeta and feeling so bad for him in the books, and I felt those feelings more in the movie. Good job, Josh! He was so good, I can't even articulate how PEETA he was. Bread king wins.
Also, I'm just really starting to fall in love with JLawrence and JHutcherson. They're personable in interviews and very funny. How can you not love people who say things like:








  • I was mostly happy with everyone else as well. Woody Harrelson was a good Haymitch, if less grumpy and drunk, and while I still can't get over Lenny Kravitz being Cinna (because every time I saw him, I just heard "AMERICAN WOMAN, stay away from meeeee~"), I was okay with him in the role. 
  • Elizabeth Banks' Effie was wonderful with her obnoxious, doll-like fashion and flawless one-liners (That is mahogony!). So funny! And I liked Donald Sutherland's playing of President Snow as sinister-creepy rather than overtly creepy. Rue and Prim were adorable and heart-wrenching.

  • Like in the books, we didn't get to know the Tributes much, but they served their purpose. Plus, don't they look great?
Vanity Fair shoot: Tributes + Peeta, Katniss, Gale


BOOK TO MOVIE
I will say one thing about director Gary Ross, he knows how to adapt a book to movie with an eye towards faithfulness to the source material. I LOVED his movie adaptation of SEABISCUIT, which was a superb book to begin with. He took all the best moments, the heart of the story, and translated it beautifully to screen. It's actually one of my favorite movies (and books)!

In THE HUNGER GAMES, he's somewhat less successful, but he did a decent job. The plot follows the book's plot faithfully with only minor changes to make the story easier to digest for non-readers. The characters' personalities remain intact, and the spirit of the book is there - from the violence/death-as-entertainment to the desperation and love between our MCs & the people they care about to the dichotomy between the opulence of the Capitol and the poverty of the Districts.

The subtle, character driven moments are especially good: Katniss & Prim's interactions, the Reaping, Katniss-sitting-numb & Peeta-near-tears in the car with Effie (perfectly acted, this scene), Katniss & Cinna before she enters the Arena, Katniss & Rue, District 11.

Gary Ross doesn't dress up the scenes much; he relies on the talent of his actors and the quiet of the scenes to convey the emotion. It made those scenes stark and real, even awkward at times but that was how you should feel (e.g. the silence of the crowd at the Reaping despite Effie's effusiveness). I think these were the scenes where the direction was the most confident (and notably, these would be the scenes most similar in tone to Ross' previous movies Seabiscuit and Pleasantville - both more character-driven, less plot movies).


ADDITIONS TO THE MOVIE
  • 3rd Person Perspective- They used this to good effect to show us the behind-the-scenes stuff of the Games. I loved this! It played into the reality TV themes, watching the Gamemakers manipulate the Arena, and it was easy to give the audience background info in the form of Sports Commentary. It also gave more depth to Seneca Crane and the ruthlessness of President Snow. Heck, we even got to see more Gale & District 12, and we glimpse their experience of having to watch the Games.
Unimpressed Gale is unimpressed.
  • Rue & District 11- They took out the scene of District 11 sending Katniss the bread, but they did add a scene of District 11 reacting to Katniss' honoring Rue and then they erupt into rioting. Powerful, well-done scene.


  • Seneca Crane's fate- Seneca Crane's last scene in the movie was perfect. I loved it. Very fitting and very sinisterly Snow.

ALSO GREAT THINGS

Seneca Crane's Beard


Who ordered this pig? WHO ordered this pig?


Super HILARIOUS Tribute Parade Costumes

District 10 Rhinestone Cowboys
District 8: What are they, clowns?
More here: Hunger Games Tribute Parade Outfits


POSITIVES WRAP-UP
So these were the things I liked and loved about the movie. These were the things that were done well. It was faithful to the books, and it was definitely made to please fans. It was well-acted and had really shining moments.

BUT there were a few things that didn't do it for me, and maybe the biggest thing of all was the overall tone/mood/feel of the movie was never where I wanted it to be. Reading THE HUNGER GAMES was a THRILLING experience, and the movie was...less so.

This is too long already, so I will hit you with PART 2: THE NEGATIVES next Friday! Maybe by then you'll have seen it if you haven't!


HAPPY EASTER weekend! I'll be egg-hunting at a friend's house. What about you? OR DISCUSS the HG movie with me in the comments!

8 comments:

Charmaine Clancy said...

I really enjoyed the movie, I liked the books too. They were different, there was less build up in the movie but I went expecting action and that's what I got.
Wagging Tales

Julie Dao said...

Great review! I actually really enjoyed this movie and can't think of anything I'd like to have changed, aside from having Katniss recognize Glimmer in the cornucopia scene at the very end. I had my doubts about Jennifer Lawrence but she was fantastic. I can't think of anyone who would play Katniss better. She's definitely not exactly the way the character was described, but she did such a powerful emotional job that it made me forget!

linda said...

Yay, awesome review! :D I also loved some of the things they added to the film, like showing Seneca's fate, seeing how the Gamemakers manipulated the arena, and seeing Gale watch Peeta and Katniss kiss (the theater I was in burst into laughter every time that happened, lol). And yes, the actors were great.

Can't wait to read part 2 of your review! I think I'll have more to chime in there, even though I enjoyed the experience a lot as a whole. I'm just nitpicky. :P

Katy said...

I definitely liked what you liked, and I'm total agreement about the acting. JLaw was a fantastic Katniss, though I doubted her when she was initially cast. Oh, and that gif of Gale thinking about baking bread cracked me up. :) Looking forward to your next post on the movie!

The Golden Eagle said...

Thanks for the review! I haven't seen the movie yet, but I've been looking for a thorough, non-spoiler-shy review like this.

Lori M. Lee said...

Haha, I love all the gifs. I have a feeling the things you didn't love will also be the things I didn't love, but overall, I was really happy with the film and I've seen it three times now >_>;;

Sophia Chang said...

Team Gale for life!!!!!

Very good points made and doh I wish the photo link wasn't broken - I want to see imagined Katniss.

Connie Keller said...

I really enjoyed the movie, but I've been telling everyone I know to read the book first to get a better sense of the characters--there's just not enough time in the movie to develop all the characters.

One thing you mentioned that I've been thinking about since I saw the movie is the switch from first to third person. I loved seeing the background of the games, but the switch to third person presented difficulties in bonding to some of the characters because we don't share Katniss's emotions.

Anyway, I'm pondering on the implications to writing, etc. Lots of food for thought.

BTW, I was really skeptical that blond JL could pull it off. But she was fantastic.