I actually got to go to the movie theater and see a new release. Caution Spoilers!
I never get sucked into book series. Didn’t read Harry Potter, never read Twilight, so I never had the experience of waiting patiently to see characters I loved come to life. But last year, I read The Hunger Games series at the recommendation of Hubby and cousins so now I feel like a part of the great human experience that is intense fandom. They announced they were making the movies while I was reading the books and I remember reading certain passages and thinking “How are they going to bring that to life?” But they were able to faithfully adapt the first novel, cutting material that was not missed and adding elements that strengthened the story.
What I love about the series is that it features a fiercely independent female protagonist, Katniss Everdeen. She continually thumbs her nose at the oppressive government that tries to control her. From volunteering to compete in her sister’s place, to refusing to turn into the killing machine the powers that be craves, she stays true to herself, and inspires her fellow countrymen, but more about that in the sequel. While Katniss is talented with a bow, she is an underdog compared to the “Careers” from the wealthier districts that have been specifically trained to compete in the games. She spends a good portion of her time in the arena avoiding conflict, forcing the gamemakers to push her back into the action. However, she never kills except in self-dense or to protect the few tributes she befriends during the course of the game. Her bravery and strength is a welcomed alternative to Twilight’s Bella, who has to be routinely saved and fought over. While The Hunger Games does have a love triangle (to be fair, most movies have some element of romance) it never becomes the center of the action. In the books it was easier to convey Katniss’ confusion about her feelings for Gale and Peeta and how she is unsure what is real and what is just for the games. I also love that the two boys respect Katniss enough to allow her to make her own choice instead of fighting over her, like the romantic leads of certain other series.
At first I question some of the casting decisions. While Jennifer Lawrence was not my first choice, I knew she was talented enough to do the role of Katniss justice. I was unsure about the male leads, Liam Hemsworth and Josh Hutcherson, but was pleasantly surprised to see them embody Gale and Peeta. Hutcherson in particular is very charming in interviews and I hope to see him in future projects. I was also a bit cautious about Lenny Kravitz as Cinna, but I had no reason to fear. Kravitz is a natural as the sympathetic stylist. I was also impressed by Woody Harrelson as Haymitch. It was fun to see him turn on the charm when needed, which shows how this drunken bum was once a winner himself.
There were some specific choices made by the filmmakers that elevate The Hunger Games beyond the typical blockbuster. During the film’s most emotional moments, there is no music. Also, there’s the controversial use of the shaky cam. I can’t really tell how much I would have noticed if it hadn’t been pointed out in all the reviews I read. However, I think during the arena scenes, it helps convey a sense of confusion. There’s also good use of flashbacks, making them quick but to the point and sticking one bit of important information in a hallucination.
There were a few additions that were really powerful. One being that after Rue is killed and Katniss covers her with flowers, we see her district reaction. A man who may be Rue’s father is seen overcome with anger, fighting against the peacekeepers. It reminds you that these are children fighting, with parents who are forced to watch. I’ll admit, it made me tear up. Another moment is when Cato prepares to die and says that he realizes he never had a chance. Here is a child who was trained to kill and win the Hunger Games, realizing it was all for naught. It made him and the other Careers sympathetic, something one would think was impossible when you watch them gleefully killing their fellow tributes.
While I’m not sure how I would feel about the film if I hadn’t read the books, or if I would have even seen it, it’s a loyal adaptation that doesn’t rely on the fact that they have a built in audience.
Effie: I don’t think they even get dessert, but you do!