Sunday, March 25, 2012

The thoughts about The Hunger Games.

Having already read all three books of The Hunger Games series, I was one of the masses eagerly awaiting the film's release this past Friday (ironic how you could compare us fans to the citizens of Panem's Capitol... but that's a different post).  Unfortunately, the earliest showing we could get to on Friday night was 10:30 and my friends didn't care to stay out that late.  Yeah... we're pathetic adults now with real lives and stuff.  I wouldn't've minded; I'm always exclaiming, "Midnight or first day showings for films that could be awesome!  WOOOO!!!"  (Imagine my disappointment with the midnight showings of King Kong and Star Wars: Episode II).

Despite my disappointment at not going on opening day, my patience was tested and became stronger, and I was rewarded with being able to see the film today.  I did my very best to sit back and enjoy, and wait to analyze when the film was over.  I did take some mental notes, which were afterwards discussed with the hubby on our walk home.

We decided the book is still better in terms of storytelling.  For those of you who haven't read the book, the rest of this explanation may not make sense to you, so proceed with caution.  The film stays close to the book - SCARILY so for today's film-making industry.  However, it differs in two areas that I think distinctly separate it from the book:

1.  The book keeps hidden for longer the true depths of the Capitol's hideous nature/intentions as well as the lengths to which it (or rather, President Snow) will go to keep its power.  For example, the film shows President Snow up close and personal, and his interaction with Seneca Crane, scenes that were only implied in the book.  I don't think this detracted from the film itself, because, for the filmmakers' sake, them knowing that not all of the audience would have read the book, I think it's safe to say that the filmmakers simply had to reveal more of the Capitol and its leaders than the book did, to hold onto the audience and help them understand the situation in those mere 2 1/2 hours.  I simply think that I was more intrigued with the story when I didn't know entirely what was going on, and this is something only the book delivered to me (yes, I know I went into the film already knowing what was going to happen whether or not the film showed me, but I am going to say that I am certain many of the book readers will agree with me on this point).

2.  The film ends not with Peeta and Katniss, but with President Snow.  Again, I think this ties back to the filmmakers needing to show the audience the gravity of the situation, but unfortunately, we don't know about this until the second book.  The first book ends with Peeta and Katniss arriving home, both being very unsure of what they have sparked and also being very awkward about their feelings toward each other.  The focus is still on them, as it rightly should be since the book is told from the first person perspective of Katniss.  I believe that the film ending with President Snow takes the focus off of Katniss and her inner struggles, one of the many reasons the previous fans of this series were so addicted to her character and the series as a whole.  I also realize you can't show a film from a first-person perspective, and therefore the Snow ending was not out of place in the film.  I merely prefer the first-person perspective, struggles, and ending of the book.  So, really, maybe my complaint is not about how the film ends, but how the film's ending represents the separation from the book's unique perspective, and how I feel that perspective is part of the reason The Hunger Games initially built such a strong fan base.

Okay, enough of the complaints.  I was actually highly impressed with the film in many ways:

1.  The acting was top-notch and far better than most young people I see in current films (*cough*Twilight*cough*).  This created very, very strong character development.  You feel everything Katniss feels thanks to an outstanding performance by Jennifer Lawrence (I pretty much bawled like Katniss when Rue died), and you can't help but want to hug Peeta because of the kind and caring way Josh Hutcherson portrayed him.  The adult actors were also excellent casting choices, every single one.  Somehow I can't see anyone other than Elizabeth Banks as the annoying Effie, or Woody Harrelson as the rogue-ish Haymitch.  Also, Stanley Tucci as Caeasar Flickerman almost made me LIKE his brainwashed character.  We can't help but love and hate them all!  The odds were definitely in these actors and actresses' favors.   I am holding judgment on Donald Sutherland as President Snow; he looks like he has the potential to be a lethal villain, but we only saw glimpses of this in the film, and I am hoping this develops with the (most likely) release of future films.
2.  As mentioned above, the film was one of the best adaptations from a novel I have ever seen in my life.  It's sharing some of the top spots on my list with the Lord of the Rings trilogy and the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice.
3.  Cinematography/filming was appropriately shaky, hand-held, and rapid, easily conducive to the frantic and desperate nature of the story.
4.  Sound effects were sharp and well-chosen; the mockingjay songs in particular made me smile at their light-hearted innocence.
5.  The scenery was breathtaking, and the sets were uncannily familiar to the mental pictures I had formed in my mind while reading the book - the grit of District 12, the ritzy opulence of the Capitol, the lush forests both soothing and frightening at the same time.  I quite literally gasped when Katniss walked into her room in the Capitol's District 12 tribute penthouse.  It looked EXACTLY as I had pictured it... minus the funky lamps.
6. The costumes were Gaga-esque in such a way that they actually felt right in their appropriate setting.  You know how Gaga walks around, 1 out of millions of people, dressed like none of those other millions of people would?  This was completely opposite.  Katniss, someone entirely normal and even reminiscent of destitution in her plain, 1920s-inspired dress, suddenly looks out of place in a sea of colors, jewels, and painted faces.  Not that her or any non-Capitol citizen had bad costumes; theirs were highly fitting, as well (no pun intended).  Every single character, even the extras, were appropriately decked out for whatever their respective backgrounds implied.

Overall, I feel The Hunger Games stayed true to the morals, themes, mood, and message of the book.  There were, as I mentioned above, some concerns I had that made me prefer the book over the film, and I'm sure there are many more complaints (one such that I've heard is that the film slows down too much once the Games actually commence... I'd agree with this except for the fact that the book did this, too, and there's no real way in my mind for the film to have sped up this section without leaving out lots of vital character development).  However, my money was by no means wasted; I was rewarded with a highly entertaining and well-constructed film that ultimately made me continue to compare some of the Panem realities to our world.

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