Monday, March 26, 2012

Review: The Hunger Games

The Wife: First off, Happy Hunger Games, and may the odds be ever in your favor! I was beginning to wonder if there would ever be another series that would send me into a fangirl frenzy like my beloved Harry Potter. Several months ago someone recommended that I read The Hunger Games trilogy. After speaking with other friends regarding the series, I decided to give it a whirl. While Harry Potter will always be my number one, I have to say that The Hunger Games is an amazing series. I breezed through all three books and developed an attachment to the core characters, like my love, PEETA <3! I now fully consider myself a Hunger Games fangirl and I admit it proudly! After I finished the final book of the series, Mockingjay, I allowed myself to really get excited about The Hunger Games movie. For weeks I anticipated the film's release by watching trailer after trailer; downloading Hunger Games music; watching live coverage of the movie premiere online; purchasing my movie tickets well in advance; and of course, getting the China Glaze Hunger Games nail polish collection. Yes, it's ok to be a fangirl sometimes, I promise!

So naturally, when Friday came I was super pumped that it was FINALLY Hunger Games Day! (I didn't go to the midnight showing because I am old and have to be at work very early like an old person.) I really fangirled it up for the movie by wearing my Hunger Games t-shirt, District 12 Peeta/Katniss lanyard and my mockingjay pin. I even did my nails for the occasion, painting them in the China Glaze Hunger Games shade "riveting." Needless to say, I was EXCITED! Well, the movie did not disappoint at all. I thought it was an excellent adaptation of the book. Obviously it couldn't be exact due to time constraints. As with any book to movie adaptation, there were some minor details changed. However, I think the film was almost spot-on in terms of the main plot/details at hand.

The Hunger Games is set in a post-apocalyptic era. The Capitol controls twelve districts, and each year as an attempt to show the districts that it remains as the powerful center, The Capitol conducts The Hunger Games. The games pit two youths from each district into an arena where a fight to the death takes place, with the eventual lone-remaining tribute being crowned the victor. Obviously, that plot point right there indicates that The Hunger Games isn't your "happy, fuzzy feeling" film, but one that encompasses many dark and disturbing tones. This movie could have easily earned an "R" rating if it kept pace exactly with the gory nature of the book, however, a PG-13 rating is where the money is, so I can see why it wasn't.

The movie began basically in the same fashion as the book. The audience is introduced to the series protagonist, Katniss Everdeen of District 12, portrayed by Jennifer Lawrence, known for her work in films such as, X-Men First Class. We are given a brief synopsis of The Hunger Games and their purpose, and then the movie really kicks into gear as Katniss' sister, Prim, is announced as one of District 12's tributes for the 74th Annual Hunger Games. Upon hearing this, Katniss volunteers herself as tribute in her sister's place — this act marked the first time District 12 had ever had someone volunteer as tribute. Katniss is then joined on stage by District 12's chosen male tribute and my favorite character of the series, Peeta Mellark (portrayed by Josh Hutcherson)! Yes, I love the boy with the bread! After being announced as tributes, Katniss and Peeta are whisked away via train to the Capitol, where they will soon compete in The Hunger Games. That is where my plot spoilers stop as I don't want to ruin either the book or movie for you Hunger Games newbies.

Aside from some minor details that were changed, like the way Katniss received the symbolic Mockingjay pin (which yes for this movie doesn't matter, but down the line it could) and some shortened scenes, like the Katniss-Peeta cave moments (which obviously had to be decreased due to a movie time-clock), I thoroughly enjoyed The Hunger Games movie. As I mentioned earlier, it was an excellent adaption. The Capitol was almost exactly how I pictured it to be in the book. Lawrence, who I was initially unsure of in the Katniss role, did an outstanding job. I think Hutcherson nailed his role as Peeta as well. He really brought about Peeta's loveable, simplistic nature, which contrasts perfectly with Katniss' personality. Woody Harrelson was PERFECT as Haymitch. Simply perfect. So perfect that I could never picture another actor in the Haymitch role. When I re-read the books, I know I will now picture Harrelson as Haymitch every time! Although his scenes are cut short, I was very impressed with Lenny Kravitz' portrayal of Cinna, one of my other favorite Hunger Games characters. Elizabeth Banks also did a great job as Effie Trinket, which sort of surprised me. Finally, I thought Stanley Tucci, who rarely disappoints in any role he plays, was excellent as Caesar Flickerman.

Almost everything about The Hunger Games film was spot-on. I felt attached to the characters on screen just as I did while reading the books. Despite not knowing Katniss' inner thoughts, like we get from the book, I could sense her emotions and confusion regarding situations, such as her relationship and what it really means with Peeta as well as her bond with Rue. I enjoyed that the film took some liberties in showing the audience the game's control room, which is something that is unseen by book readers. I only wished the mutations (dogs) had looked more like how they were described in the book, but even CGI would be hard pressed to accomplish that task on screen. As for the shaky cam, which I am sure the husband will gripe about below, it wasn't necessary at all points, but it didn't bother me. For the actual games, I think it added to the movie. As I discussed with a good friend earlier, the games themselves are like a "reality show," so, the shaky cam fits for this.

I know I've talked forever (sorry that's what comes with being a fangirl), but I really do recommend everyone see The Hunger Games. I also encourage everyone to read the trilogy. It is very well written and will not disappoint. Ahhhh now the long wait starts for Catching Fire (book two of the series) to hit the big screen! I don't know about you, Hunger Games fans, but I am ready for some Finnick Odair!

Hobo Dan: I have to admit when I first heard of this movie, I instantly thought it was going to be Adam Richman from Man vs. Food and Guy Fieri from Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives buddying up to destroy hunger in the third world via various, semi exotic, team based eating challenges. One game would have Paula Deen cramming butter sticks down every one's throats. Then Anthony Bourdain shows up and shoots her with an AK47, before providing the soothing voice over for the final meal, sowing everything together with class and elegance as Richman devours thirty pounds of steak and Fieri gets brutally beaten by some natives for constantly calling all their indigenous food “money”. I was wrong.

This could have very easily been rated R. Not that it needed to be, but the content of the film is much darker than any of the commercials really let on. It took about ten seconds into the games themselves for me to realize this. If you're one of those men who've seen the adds for this and are thinking it just another Twilight, but science fiction you are mistaken. I think people of all ages and sex can appreciate the story here. I've not read the books myself, but I don't feel I missed too much by it. There is always back story and character development missed  when doing text to film translation, but I didn't feel there were a lot of gaps. I was able to fully enjoy the film without my prior knowledge.

All that said, this was not a perfect movie. My biggest gripe is the shaky cam. I don't think the director has ever heard of a tripod before. This is not to say the camera style is imperfect and without use. I liked films like Cloverfield, but the shaky cam had purpose in that film because of the way the story was being told. Here the camera was all over the place at times when it wasn't necessary. It's fine in intense action to portray confusion, but other times I just want to see what the hell is going on, and this camera shaking prevented it. But this is by no means a show stopper. The Hunger Games is the kind of movie we should be supporting because it is the anti-twilight in every way. I am recommending any and everyone go see this film.

Oh, by the way, The Wife and I played a little hunger game of our own before the movie when the restaurant we ate at got the Wife's order wrong about three times...

2 comments:

  1. The film doesn't really get going until they actually do get to The Hunger Games, but when it does get started up its entertaining, tense, unpredictable, and very well executed from Gary Ross. I also couldn’t believe that this was his 3rd film after other flicks such as Seabiscuit and Pleasantville, which are both good but are different from this one. Still though, great jobs from everybody involved and I cannot wait for the sequel. Good review Dan.

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