In the past, I used to go to the movies like every week. These days, I may go one-to-three times in a year. There are many things that have curtailed my going to the movies: (1) People (bringing babies and uncontrollable children, talking on cellphones or cellphones not on vibrate/off, and incessant chattering throughout the film), (2) theater prices, and (3) a lack of films I actually want to watch and deal with both (1) and (2).
PLEASE BE ADVISED THERE ARE SPOILERS CONTAINED WITHIN THIS REVIEW. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED! 🙂
After reading the Hunger Games, I actually wanted to see the film. I was skeptical, and I remained one throughout the film.
Overall score: B-
When watching the film, I am not going to lie, I was sizing up the settings, the actors, the dialogue, the changes, the pacing… let’s just say everything was open to critique. Believe me, when I thought about these things I also thought about the controlled, remote, and narrow nature of time and monetary allowance for the film. There are things you find yourself excusing – like the need to speed through the initial history of Katniss, Prim, her mother, Gale, and others, including the town. You are thrown into the concept and history of The Hunger Games fast. While acting wise, the sentimentality of Katniss and her sister are played out well by the actors. The pacing destroys some of these efforts. There is a forcible, let’s go on shall we — stupid rabbit and his pocket watch.
For some reason, I just didn’t find myself on edge when it came to the Reaping. I wish I could put a finger on why I didn’t feel it. Perhaps, Ms. Lawrence should have upped the volume and intensity of Katniss’ passionate cry for her sister?
Changes I Noticed
- I noticed right off that they totally cut out the Mayor’s daughter and the parents of Peeta.
- The Mockingjay pin was something that the Mayor’s daughter gives to Katniss. Instead, they had Katniss give it to Prim then Prim give back to Katniss. It was a touching gesture and perhaps a consolation to cutting out a lot of the exposition that sets up the events to come. Since they changed the origin of the pin, I do wonder how this potent symbol will be worked in appropriately in the remaining two films.
- No drunk and teetering Haymitch at the Reaping ceremony. The Haymitch character is less complex and there is less stress placed on his role. I also feel that there is not enough juxtaposition between his drunken fugue and sober states to demonstrate that complexity. While we do see him demonstrate his usefulness by securing things for Katniss and convincing the Gamemaster not to off them both – I still think he loses some of his complexity and devalues the experiences and struggle he endures within himself from being a winner of the games and being subject to the whim of the Captiol.
- Foxface’s death just lacks potency.
The True Achilles Heel
The central weakness of this film is pacing. I feel that certain character backgrounds/relationships/interactions are glossed over and not fully developed or developed to quickly. This affected the tense and gruesome atmosphere of the game. This affected how I viewed and felt when Rue died. They spent little time developing the relationship between Rue and Katniss. The only thing I got from their relationship is Rue reminded Katniss of Prim. They changed the death sequence, and I think really impacted the emotional impact for me. I cried profusely when I read her death in the book. The sequence of events built up the urgency of Katniss locating and coming to Rue’s aid only to find her fatally wounded and dying. Combine this change with the pacing and it just didn’t have the emotional impact as something say like the Crayon Dragon short film by Toniko Pantoja.
Good To Be Found
I am not trying to bash this movie because honestly at least the actors and actresses can act and it was a good plot formed from a good book. So to be fair, what did the movie get right?
- Jennifer Lawrence. Despite the uproar that her selection caused she carries Katniss perfectly. Her emotions and motivations are fully realized on the big screen.
- Josh Hutcherson. At first, I was skeptical, but I think he managed to actually show earnest affection as Peeta unlike Robert Pattinson in Twilight. Sorry, Robert’s acting as Edward Cullen (for the majority of the film series) is just too forced and way too restrained to the point he is emotionally stunted, unsociable and rather wooden. I just don’t find Edward and Bella’s love very convincing, especially played out on the big screen. Yes, I am criticizing Twilight. This probably won’t earn me any brownie points with his fans or Twilight fans. However, I stand behind my opinion. One of the best and most convincing scenes is when Katniss finds Peeta hiding and injured and the scenes they share thereafter. I feel the chemistry. Since I feel the chemistry between Jennifer and Josh’s interpretation of their characters – it makes it easy for me to sympathize with Peeta because Katniss is only pretending to love Peeta for the sake of the game.
- The action sequences were well done. I enjoyed the fireball scene, the tracker jacker after attack effects, and the fight between Clove and Katniss was vicious. Dayo Okeniyi’s portrayal as Thresh was terrific. Thresh rescues Katniss and emotionally pays back Clove for the death of Rue; the scene is very affecting and palpable.
- If there was a surprise in the film, it would be Lenny Kravitz’s performance as Cinna. Lenny is definitely how I imagined Cinna to be. I also didn’t know that Lenny could act so well. He seemed like a pro and slipped into the role with such a natural swagger. He owned the role of Cinna.
- I want to give props to the costume designers and CGI artists. The outfits that Jennifer wore as Katniss were exactly how I envisioned them to be and the effects were breathtaking.
- The filmmakers showed us more of the Capitol and some of the characters, whose motivations and behavior are represented less in the book.For instance, we get more screen time with President Snow. Snow works in his rose garden while doling out advice and subtle threats to Head Gamemaker Seneca Crane. This information about the people pulling the strings is valuable and let’s us see for ourselves how Panem operates.
- The filmmakers show us the prospective of the districts, especially Rue’s district, as Katniss is comforting Rue as she dies and the process of which Katniss honors the death of Rue. We get to see the uprising but also Panem’s smackdown.
- The treatment and lingering moments between Cato, Katniss, and Peeta allow us to better understand Cato and even feel sorry for him unlike in the book.
Unlike Twilight and despite the issue of pacing, I think this is one of the strongest teen films I have seen in a long time. It also happens to be one of the strongest science fiction films I have seen in sometime since Moon. There was definite potential in many areas for this film to veer off track and become very campy and silly. However, it remained focused and despite the tweaks, the good or the less than perfect moments, this film rises to the hype. It’s worth watching.