Movie Review: The Hunger Games
Some coworkers/friends and I went to see The Hunger Games movie on Friday, which, if you didn’t know, was opening night here. It was completely berserk. Fortunately, we had advance tickets and lined up early, but I haven’t seen movie lines like that since the opening nights for Harry Potter movies. But before too long we were inside out of the wind and nestled snug in our seats with snacks of choice and anticipation.
The good: There’s a lot to like here. Good job casting almost all roles here. Jennifer Lawrence shone as Katniss (though I had no doubt after her captivating performance in Winter’s Bone), Peeta, Haymitch and Cinna were well cast (and who knew eyeshadow could make Lenny Kravitz even more attractive?!), and it all felt authentic. Less good were Elizabeth Banks as Effie and Liam Hemsworth as Gale, but the latter could partly be attributable to the pace of the film, where we got to see very little real closeness or history between Gale and Katniss. Kudos to the costume designers, too, particularly on the people who live in the Capital – they struck the perfect balance of opulence and offensiveness in the fashion choices.
The pacing of the movie, while too rushed-feeling for me, would probably be about perfect for most people, who are content to have this be a gut-wrenching action movie and might be a little less concerned with the character development and connection. It achieves that beautifully, and the screenwriter and director deserve credit for keeping in much of the relevant subtleties and all of the relevant action, and making the arena feel real and terrifying.
The bad: I understand the need to keep movies to a reasonable length, and at 142 minutes, this qualifies. It didn’t feel too long at all. But as a result, the character development really suffered for me. I felt much less connection to Katniss than in the book, and characters like Haymitch, who in the book was allowed to reveal his true self and develop fairly slowly and organically, became one-dimensional and much less believable when forced to become fully realized so quickly. It felt like “Hi, I’m Haymitch, I’m an indifferent drunk, apathetic to your needs and totally self-involved! But now I have a heart of gold and am practically your savior. Hooray!”
Again, due to brevity, the history of the world and the creation of the districts was not explained in thorough enough detail, but I even found that to be the case in the books. I wanted to understand better how they got where they were.
Also, they were missing some of the really fun descriptive parts of the book – in the movie, the richness and sheer wonder of Katniss’ lodging in the Capital are largely glossed over, but in the book she is astounded by the surroundings, the luxury of the bathing process with different scented products and everything conveniently at the touch of a button, the food (where was the lamb stew?!?) and more. Much of the detail was missed.
The ugly: I was surprised at myself, having loved the books and reading them fairly unflinchingly, that I had a hard time with the violence. It was just so fast, and brutal, and ugly and desperate, and I guess the reality of children being forced to kill each other to survive punched me harder in the stomach on-screen than it did in writing. But there were a few times I felt a bit nauseated and disturbed. Which I guess is another mark of a good film.
OVERALL: I’d recommend it. I think in terms of a standalone film I’d give it an 8.5 out of 10, and for a film adaptation from book, I’d give it a 7.5. Definitely worth watching.