There are book and movie spoilers in this review. LOTS OF SPOILERS. Proceed at your own risk.
— HEY! SPOILERS BELOWWWWWWWW!! —
I’ve been seriously anticipating The Hunger Games, just like most people I’ve come across in the past year or so. I was more than ready to be disappointed by it, because hey, I’m one of those people.
I’m happy to say that I wasn’t disappointed. It was obvious just how much they wanted to stay true to the book and I appreciated that. I felt like the deviations were necessary, not gratuitous. I’m concerned that Suzanne Collins won’t be co-writing the screenplay for the next film, because I think her presence was definitely felt in this film.
I loved the scenery. I’m a North Carolinian, despite being born in California. This is where I was raised, and where I’m from. There’s a scene in which Katniss is in her bedroom at The Capitol, and realizes she can change what her window depicts as outside. She rifles through a few settings (possibly scenes from other Districts?) before coming upon tall trees - North Carolina pines! I gasped right along with her. I live in a beautiful, albeit frustrating and sometimes backwards place. Some of my favorite shots during the film were of Gale back home, in the woods, where he and Katniss belonged.
I adored the Capitol fashions. Effie Trinket’s nails were on point with every outfit. Cinna - good God, Lenny you are a fine piece of man - was perfection. Lenny Kravitz has this zen aura about him, and that’s something I always imagined Cinna to have as well. His first meeting with Katniss was incredible, just the way he made himself and his politics very clear to her.
I loved The Girl on Fire. I loved their entrance for the parade. I loved it so much. I didn’t love the dress as much as the black jumpsuits, but I loved it too. I LOVED STANLEY TUCCI AS CAESAR. That smile! I loved Seneca Crane - his beard and his eyes and the look on his face when Katniss shot the apple. Wes Bentley was fantastic. I’m so glad he’s back on track - I’ve loved him since American Beauty.
I loved the little girl that portrayed Rue. She was great, and made me care even more for that character than I already did. I sobbed like a friggin’ baby when Katniss was singing and surrounding her with flowers.
The ending scene was perfect. It was so tense and succinct. Ten seconds, if that, and I was basically drooling for Catching Fire - which is my favorite of the series.
Annnd, what I didn’t love:
The direction. I thought the handheld camera during the fight scenes was a great way to stay within the confines of the PG-13 rating, while still capturing just how brutal the fighting was. The fighting was between children, after all. Although, it did get old quickly, because it wasn’t nearly as well done as it can be (see: The Bourne Trilogy). I also enjoyed the tricks used to highlight how surreal everything was for the Tributes, like when everything was muted for Katniss before her interview. Other than that, I thought that there were too many times I noticed it. I think, for films like this, good direction is pretty much invisible direction. I don’t want to be shaken out of the experience by some extravagant turn of the camera. It’s jarring, and unpleasant. I’m not sure if Gary Ross was trying to make a mark or just didn’t know what to do with himself sometimes, but either way - I wasn’t a fan.
The score. I thought it was overwrought and cheesy. A score is very important, in my opinion. The soaring music when Katniss and Peeta are looking over the food in the traincar? Too much. The triumphant music when they are riding in their chariot? Too much. The music other than those two occasions? Barely noticed it. Not good. Scores are a passion of mine, so integral to making a good movie.
THE MUTTS! They didn’t even attempt to approach what the wolf mutts at the cornucopia were! I felt that that was important, because it was the first time in the book that I realized just how advanced The Capitol was. It had already been obvious, with the medicine and the tracker jackers and everything, but when the muttations showed up and their origin realized, I remember thinking “holy shit.”
Haymitch was eh. Gale was eh. Peeta was most definitely eh. And what the hell was up with him being smaller than Katniss? I don’t remember that being in the books? Just threw me off. Also - his bleached eyebrows. That threw me off too.
The main thing that I was concerned about when I found out that they were adapting The Hunger Games to film was how they’d accomplish documenting Katniss’ introspection - I feared that it’d become lost in translation. Her thought process during the books is important, during the development of her relationship with Peeta in front of all of Panem, especially. In the books, most of her affection toward him is for show. It’s a survival method. In the movie, I don’t think that was clear enough. I can see some people becoming confused as to how she actually felt - thinking that she actually fell in love with him. I hope they can fix that in the next film. I don’t want it to come across like she’s just stringing Peeta and Gale along because that’ll change how the audience feels about her.
All in all, I thought the film was very well done, and I’m looking forward to seeing the next one.