Traditionally, I start any kind of review by listing things I didn't like or what disappointed me and then follow that up with more complaints and negative feelings. I am going to try to do something different here, largely because I found myself enjoying The Hunger Games all the way through, even in the moments where there were things that would have bothered me in other movies. This may be in part due to being influenced by how much my mother liked and was affected by the film, but I also think it would be interesting to see if I can find something nice to say when giving my thoughts about a film.
|Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) showing off her hunting skills early in The Hunger Games. For some reason, she loses a lot of her huntress instincts and becomes very reactionary when people are actively trying to kill her.|
The movie makes some efforts – usually effectively – to reference back to the situation in Katniss' District 12, and these help give more weight to the scenes that establish the world before the two tributes are whisked off to the Capitol to get killed for the entertainment of...well, those who live in the Capitol. There seems to be an innate sense of sadness and impending doom felt by those in the outlying districts, a reminder that punishment is an enduring legacy for a rebellion generations ago. Indeed, it strikes at the youth in their formative years, breeding a very real fear in them while trying to give them an acceptance of the process as something that can be celebrated.
There were thirteen rebellious districts, but only twelve send representatives. Some quick internet research reveals why there are only twelve that send tributes, but it remains a mystery in the film. Personally, I was more curious as whether the thirteen rebellious districts being treated harshly after being brought back into the fold was supposed to remind me of the Reconstruction Era. Panem seems to be much more of a fascist state than a democratic republic with an axe to grind after attempted secession. Still, Katniss and Peeta come from District 12, while looking more like West Virginia or Kentucky (not officially CSA states), has a Southern feel to it. And that is where it ends up on the map I found online.
There are some odd instances of costuming going on. Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks) immediately reminded me of Volmae (Angie Miliken) from the Farscape episode "Thank God it's Friday...Again" (this was reinforced by having Peace Keepers in the story). Seneca Crane (Wes Bentley) gets to wear a stylized beard and suits that are always hinting at him being some sort of devil. There is a parade of tributes – on chariots – where some are dressed to look vaguely like fish and others like raggedy ice dancing partners. Katniss and Peeta get some stylish dark suits with blue flames, and it looks good. Not even a tiny bit ridiculous.
There isn't much attention to developing the various tributes. This is fine, largely because all but one are slated to die; such are the rules of the games. But it is clear that several of them are supposed to have larger roles to play, and in the film version, they are almost all reduced to just being there. Yes, Rue (Amanda Stenberg) gets more definition than any of them outside the District 12 pair, but it is presented only in relation to Katniss. I would have preferred trimming about five minutes off the home town build up to give more definition to the tributes, especially those who have the most impact during the Hunger Games. More than that, it would mean something more when the tributes start dying if I had been given the chance to develop some investment in them. The film doesn't glorify the killing of the children, but I think it could have (and should have) been more chilling, more shocking for the audience.
|I have no idea of this is a more faithful rendering of the characters. I do know the ones I saw in the film didn't look like this.|
I'm not really sure how this big screen adaptation will play to devotees of the book. I assume there will be those who think that it dumbs down the more complex elements of the novels. I likewise assume there will be those who simply like that it gets enough right and looks good to boot. I hope that what I witnessed is not some Jurassic Park (1993) kind of butchering of a fun novel to quasi-watchable film (at least to those who read the book first), because I enjoyed the movie version of The Hunger Games. I don't want to be part of the group destroying other people's enjoyment by embracing this version.
Still, this did not make me want to pick up the novels. Largely because I have a reading list over 30 books long now, several of which are well-regarded classics. But also because I would have to start at the beginning, and I feel that would impinge on my current level of happiness with the film. No, The Hunger Games is not some enduring classic of cinema. Very few films are, and most of us don't watch them. It is solid entertainment that clearly has a well meaning point. It is well acted (hell, Lenny Kravitz managed to find a way to play his character that has me questioning my eternal hate of Lenny Kravitz) and well directed. If you get a chance to see it, I say take the opportunity.