Monday, March 26, 2012

The Hunger Games Premiere

The Hunger Games premiered in cinemas this past weekend, pulling in a staggering $155 million domestically. After seeing it twice, I'm ready to deliver the verdict. I realize this makes me sound a bit obsessive, but in my cinephile family we're very much into repeat viewings. And the verdict is...

Well done! Very well done!

I admit I felt nothing but trepidation leading up to the movie's release. Perhaps this is due to the fact that I'm still astounded the Twilight films managed to turn poorly written books into movies that somehow surpassed their source material in pure awfulness -- leading me to suspect all YA adaptations were a train wreck waiting to happen. I also worried about the complications that come from translating a futuristic sci-fi novel to the big screen. Would the movie come out looking like a low-budget Star Trek? Suffice it to say, these and other concerns forbade me from anticipating the film with any sense of excitement.

I was, therefore, thrilled to find that The Hunger Games impressed me much more than I thought it would. Indeed, I enjoyed it as much, if not more, upon a second viewing. Is it perfect? No. I don't think any adaptation can be. But all around, Lionsgate succeeded in producing a film that is a credit to the book which inspired it. 

The Hunger Games sets itself apart from other teen films by casting young soon-to-be stars with the acting chops demanded by their rigorous roles. Katniss is not an easy part to play. She's prickly and not the most demonstrably emotional girl; much of the what the reader knows about her is gleaned through internal dialogue. Yet Jennifer Lawrence blew me away with her performance. Physically speaking, she's doesn't strictly follow the description of Katniss Collins provides, but I don't think they could have found another young actor who embodied the character like she did. The entire film is hinged upon her performance, and she carries it off nicely. I was also pleased by Josh Hutcherson's portrayal of Peeta, and while we haven't yet seen much from Liam Hemsworth as Gale, he didn't bother me like I thought he would. (He's primarily known for starring in a Nicholas Sparks adaptation with Miley Cyrus. Can you blame my skepticism?) 

An array of better known adult actors fill in the cast of minor characters. I was particularly impressed by Elizabeth Banks and Stanley Tucci who play Effie Trinket (fantastically clad in neo-Victorian clothing) and Games host Caesar Flickerman, respectively. Both provide nice comic relief in what is an otherwise bleak narrative. My main complaint with the movie is the casting of Lenny Kravitz as Cinna. The District 12 stylist is one of my favourite characters, but he's subtle and nuanced. They needed an actor, not a has-been musician, to adequately convey Cinna's depth. 

Finally, I wanted to point out that the violence was handled well by the filmmakers. It never felt gratuitous. Hand-held shots during action sequences prevent the audience from seeing anything in graphic detail, but it was enough to express the horror of the situation. I, for one, was filled with nothing but repulsion that such young defenseless children were subjected to such a fate.

In short, I heartily recommend The Hunger Games to any fan of Suzanne Collins's trilogy. I'll be looking forward to the next installment! May the odds be ever in your favor, and Happy Hunger Games!

Waiting for the movie to start
My mum is looking peeved, because my dad leaked a major
spoiler from book three (she's only read the first two)

And I am looking happy because I won 
a ten dollar giftcard to the cinema at our private screening
The odds were in my favor!

Have you seen The Hunger Games yet? What did you like about it? What do you think they could have done better? I'd love to hear your thoughts!


Maggie said...

Well, Miss Diana, I just have to say that I totally -- as in 100% -- agree with your well-written account of the movie. As the books are certainly better written and more interesting than the "Twilight" series, I too was hopeful that the story wouldn't be massacred by a poorly acted and filmed adaptation. And man did it actually surpass my hopes for greatness!

Thought the casting was pretty spot on, except, like you, regarding Cinna, who was nothing at all like how I pictured him or felt that he was written. It even seemed like there was some sort-of weird sexual interest in Katniss on his part which I found creepy and disappointing. Jennifer Lawrence was SO good as Katniss. A really good actress, too, as I could feel the emotion and energy through her silent demeanor and penetrating eyes. One of my friends on facebook compared her to the vacant and robotic Kristen way! In fact, I thought the casting/acting was so effective that I found myself having MORE of an emotional response to what was happening than I did when reading the books.

Finally (since this was YOUR review, not mine, so I don't need to take up your whole blog with my response...ha!)...I thought the pacing of the movie was perfect. I've heard people say the beginning was too slow. Disagree. I really thought it set up everything so well and allowed the characters to develop before jumping into the bloodbath action. It was very similar to the pacing of the book. I actually found myself wanting to check on the time because it felt like I'd been watching the movie for a long time but there was still a lot of plot left...but I mean this in a good way...I love when a good movie leaves the impression of stretching out like that. It didn't explain things in awkward ways either (like having one of the characters say something like, "When we had those tough times, you know, when your father died in the mining explosion" know, those conversations that no one would ever actually have that they use in movies to explain things. Any time that happened it was done in a natural, even artistic, bringing out her father's death after Katniss was hallucinating from the tracker jacker stings. I appreciated this.

Okey dokey...I feel I've said quite enough! But wanted to let you know that I'm very much in agreement with you. Glad you had time to enjoy it...twice!

Oh, but while we're at it...I think you asked me awhile back what I thought about the 3rd book. Not to go into too much detail...but I actually found the book to be perhaps the most engaging/exciting of the 3 (even though it didn't have an actual "game" in it). However, the ending felt extremely rushed, and all of the momentum that had been building up fizzled out very rapidly. It was rather annoying. Don't understand why Suzanne Collins did that. Definitely not a great way to end a series on which people have been hooked. Strange!

Ok...bye for now! ;o)

Violet said...

I haven't read the books or seen the movie, and am not likely to. I have an ethical problem with the concept of violence as "entertainment", and with corporations making a lot of money from movies & video games that portray violence. I have a much bigger ethical problem when adults sanction (even simulated) violence perpetrated on, or by, children. I know The Hunger Games is fantasy, and people can distinguish reality from make-believe, but it still doesn't sit right with me. It makes me feel uncomfortable. I feel sad that people want to watch movies like this. I just don't see the attraction of watching kids kill each other.

Diana said...

Maggie: I'm so glad you enjoyed the movie too! Funnily enough, I had been discussing that strange aspect to the Cinna/Katniss relationship. I'm glad to hear I wasn't the only one who got that vibe. It seemed touchy in a way that's really inappropriate. I don't know if that's what the filmmakers were trying to convey (I hope not!) but it sounds as though that's what came through for a lot of viewers.

I also feel similarly regarding your feelings on the third book. It was so rushed and hurried towards the end that I couldn't really process everything that was happening. To this day, I don't how I truly felt about it. If I had to sum it up in two letters, I'd go with, 'Eh.' I wish the publishers had given Collins more time to finesse the story rather than getting it on the market as quickly as possible.

Diana said...

Violet: I definitely understand why you take issue with the subject matter of The Hunger Games. In fact, it's been suggested that the writer is slyly getting a dig in at the audience for reading the book. They are, after all, being entertained by the events of the 'games' just like the depraved Capitol citizens in the novel obtain a sick sense of enjoyment from them.

But then, you could also lay a similar charge at the author for experiencing these horrific events by writing/creating them. It's all very paradoxical, but I think there's a lot to be said for the argument.

Danny said...

Just saw it in Rhode Island last week. Thought it was conceptually interesting, the whole love triangle thing was a bit heavy-handed, the eccentric facial hair of the rich men from the capital was,um, strange. And.. for a movie which explores our obsession with violence--the way we often view violence as entertainment--it's quite interesting that this film (about violence) did so well at the box office


Diana said...

The facial hair was so bizarre! Sometimes I found it difficult to concentrate, because I was so distracted the whiskered designs.