I’ve read the Hunger Games books and I thought they were really good. When I heard that they were making a movie based on the book I was like, meh, I’ll wait until it comes out on DVD. Then I saw who they cast as Katniss: Jennifer Lawrence. If you’ve ever seen Winter’s Bone, then you know Jennifer can pull off Katniss Everdeen. That moved the Hunger Games movie right up into the “must see” category.
Warning: spoilers ahead. I don’t give away anything, but I do mention certain scenes.
Last Saturday night my wife Michelle and I headed out to the theatre to watch The Hunger Games. I had already read a review of the movie that said it was good, but I also heard/read that a lot of people didn’t like the whole shaky cam effect. My wife loathes the shaky cam. I think she nearly tossed her biscuits when we watched Cloverfield. I don’t mind the shaky cam too much, as long as it isn’t distracting. 15 minutes into the movie and the shaky cam thing was definitely becoming a problem. The camera is bouncing all over the place even when there is no action happening. Thankfully the camera does calm down a bit as the movie progresses.
The first 45 minutes of the movie are spent providing back story to the games and developing the characters. The first thing that struck me as strange is how District 12 is so much more realistic than what I imagined while reading the books, realistic as in “normal”, not science-fictiony like I thought it would be. I imagined that the city of District 12 was enclosed by this huge wall and that you’d see peacekeepers dressed in black with visors covering their eyes. If you’ve ever played Half Life 2…that’s what I imagined. When you see the movie it seems more like a regular ol’ run down city surrounded by a regular ol’ electric fence with peacekeepers in really white outfits just standing around. I think the movie could have done a better job of portraying a city that has endured many, many years of persecution and struggles. That being said, Katniss is believable as the older sister trying to keep her family alive in a city that is closely monitored and controlled by the government.
One of my favorite scenes early on is the reaping where all the citizens of District 12 have to gather to watch the tributes from their district be selected. Everyone is dressed in their finest clothes with their hair neatly done, as if they were actually looking forward to the occasion (which of course they are not). The reaping does seem rushed, but I’m sure it seemed rushed to those who have read the book. Those who hadn’t read the book are probably wondering when the heck the games are going to start.
Following the reaping the tributes from District 12 are whisked off to the capital. On the way we meet Haymitch played by Woody Harrelson. I had a hard time picturing Woody Harrelson as Haymitch, but I have to admit that he played the part really well. We also meet Effie Trinket played by Elizabeth Banks. She did well, but I think it would have been cool to see someone like Imelda Staunton (Dolores Umbridge from the Harry Potter movies) play the part. The interviews with Caesar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci) were great. They got his smile just right :-). The lead up to the games was actually really well done and for the most part stayed true to the book.
The Hunger Games event itself was interesting. The movie review I had read complained that the fight scenes were nearly removed from the movie in order to keep the rating at PG-13. There were a couple somewhat graphic scenes, but you really didn’t see much blood and definitely no gore. What was really annoying was how the fight scenes were super blurry and zoomed in. Most of the time you couldn’t tell what was happening during the close-ups.
There is a pretty involved love story in The Hunger Games books that was likely very hard to adapt for the movie. The movie hints at what is going on, but I imagine that the second movie is going to go into the whole love story much more.
Overall the movie was very well done. The pacing felt a bit fast…I kind of wish there was another 30 minutes to the movie. Jennifer Lawrence was absolutely fantastic and the rest of the cast was very good as well. I assume they’ll make movies around the other 2 books as well…as long as Jennifer stays on as Katniss, they’ll be on my “must watch” list.