Friday, March 23, 2012

The Hunger Games

I wasn't planning on doing a review for this movie until I saw it again (hint of what's to come: I just said I was planning on seeing it again) but, I feel now that it needs to be done before then.

I read the books. I own the books. I will read the books again. That being said, there is only so much a screenwriter can do when it comes to extraneous details. But, alas, I'm getting ahead of myself!

The Hunger Games
Directed By - Gary Ross
Written By - Gary Ross, Billy Ray, & Suzanne Collins based on the novel by Suzanne Collins

Top-Billed Cast - Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, & Stanley Tucci

This movie is set in Panem, a futuristic country located in what used to be the United States (and parts of Canada) right before, during, and right after the annual Hunger Games. The Hunger Games are, basically, a form of punishment from the Capitol to the rest of the districts for rebelling against them back in the day. Each year, two "tributes" from each district meet in an arena and fight to the death; only one tribute comes out alive.

On to the good stuff!

Pros - 

* Let's start with the set. This movie was filmed in the Appalachians and you can tell. No offense to my Canadian neighbors but when a book is supposed to be set in the Smokies and they make the movie in British Columbia because it looks "the same" bueno. Not only was the location well scouted, the sets themselves were pretty darn incredible. I believed I was looking at a coal mining town and could have been looking at one from the 1930s. The extras were perfectly cast (extras are extra important for me) and it just looked and felt exactly as I had imagined it.

* Speaking of the 1930s, those costumes...awesome. From the simple blue dress that Katniss wears to the reaping to the fiery costumes of Cinna's design to the extras in the Capitol, the costume designers here got it right. I'm really looking forward to seeing the next two movies just for this factor alone.

* Since I brought up Katniss, let's spend some time talking about Jennifer Lawrence. Playing a character that narrates a book is hard. Playing a character that narrates a book that also has tremendous inner turmoil is even harder. Playing a character that narrates a book, that also has tremendous inner turmoil, AND admittedly shows no outward signs of that emotion? Extremely difficult. Jennifer Lawrence, I salute you. It's not that Katniss was a stretch of a character, really, or that another actress couldn't have done it (I actually thought a young Natalie Portman might have been perfect for this role but time travel won't yet permit it), but Jennifer Lawrence was cast and Jennifer Lawrence nailed it. Subtlety is an art.

* I can't have a pros & cons list and Stanley Tucci on the bill without giving one asterisk to him. Caesar Flickerman might be more of a minor character in the books but Tucci makes him memorable and carries his extra duties well.

* This movie is really pretty. There are moments that I didn't agree with the choices with the cinematography (and, believe me, I'll let you know where) but for the most part...loved the look of this movie. The TrackerJacker sequences were just gorgeous.

* For being a young adult, non-sequel, book adaptation, this movie got a lot of screen time. Two and a half hours. I've read some reviewers who felt that this was too long and others who felt the story was too rushed. What do I say to this? Text-to-film is never going to come out perfectly on the time scale, you make time for what you feel the audience needs to see in order for it to resonate and get them to A) see it again B) tell their friends to see it and C) get them into the next movie. You can't have a 7 hour movie of this type; young adults (or people like myself) just can't handle that. I thought the things that were dropped were relatively unimportant compared to what was put in there. For instance, as I mentioned earlier, this book is narrated first-person by the main character and you just can't have an actress talking to herself for an entire movie OR show things that I really felt would have been missed had they chosen to do it that way. I won't delve as I don't want to spoil but for those curious, feel free to comment.

* There is a reason the soundtrack for this movie jumped to #1 the day it came out. That is all.


* As of this movie, I am not a fan of Lenny Kravitz's portrayal of Cinna. It to me. Especially the last scene we see him in.

* I was really worried that the first five minutes of cinematography was an indication of what the rest of the film was going to look like. I get motion sick very easy and I was not a fan of the Blair Witch homage.

* I'll use this single asterisk to discuss text-to-film discrepancies that I didn't like. I understood getting rid of Madge and I appreciated the way they "fixed" that. I'm a tad worried about Peeta' at the end of this movie but I have confidence that that will be fixed.

* I'm not yet convinced that I like Liam Hemsworth as Gale (but that might just be because I'm not a Gale fan, in general).

Now Mother..
This movie is about children killing children. It contains lots and lots of violence (though not as much as one might expect if you've read the book). It is rated PG-13 and does have minor bouts of language (again, very mild considering what passes as "ok" in similarly rated films today). Viewer beware..

Overall, I LOVED this movie. I will own it. I will listen to the commentaries on the DVD. I get that people wanted it to be this blood fest but, really? It's a movie about kids killing kids. I know I don't *really* want to see some little boy's head get bashed in; I can barely tolerate the child zombies on The Walking Dead. I think the use of implied violence mixed with actual violence was perfect. I also hear complaints about how the movie was SO different than the book. I really don't get that. Suzanne Collins co-wrote the screen play and I thought it was one of the best adaptations I've ever seen. I'm a Harry Potter fan but some of those movie...atrocities. While this movie could be a stand-alone product, I think that those die-hard fans should, firstly, see the movie again and then...wait for the sequels. There could be reasons why sub-plots were "missing" from this movie and they might turn up or be explained in the following films. I'm a nit-picker and I hate discrepancies just as much (probably more) than the next guy but, I think people are being too harsh on this movie. It's fantastic and you should see it. 4.5/5 stars.