*IN CASE IT WASN’T CLEAR, THIS IS A SPOILER HEAVY POST FOR THE HUNGER GAMES SO READ AFTER SEEING THE MOVIE & READING THE BOOKS*.
Okay so just so we’re clear, I may update my thoughts after the movie has soaked in more. Usually my first impression is the one I stick with but if I add other thoughts, I’ll find some way to make sure everyone knows that I updated this post. I simply had to get my initial impressions of The Hunger Games out now though.
Let’s start with my overall impression. I loved it. Seriously. There are a few issues that I had that I’ll cover further on but as a whole, I was very impressed. Those of you who know me, know that I’ve been very nervous about this movie. Some elements, like Katniss & Cinna, I’ve been sold on since the beginning. Others, like Gale & Haymitch had me cautiously optimistic, while the Peeta issue had me extremely worried. And then of course there was the fact that I know what happens. Could the movie really keep me invested? It did through and through. I was thoroughly invested in every moment and that is what makes me consider this movie a success. Still, I do want to dig a little deeper into some of my likes & dislikes, so let’s get to it.
Anticipation & Nerves: The fact that I was nervous about the ending showed me how well the movie captured the feel of the games. I went into this more in my conclusion but my actual worry about whether Katniss & Peeta would make it was something I didn’t see coming and very welcome.
Rue: I’ve never cried at the Rue stuff in the books. Ever. I don’t cry at her death or Katniss’ burial of her or anything. It just didn’t hook me or make me feel worked up over it. But I was sobbing in the movie so bravo. That was pretty much all Jennifer Lawrence’s doing but it made me invested in a part I’ve never cared about so that’s a win.
Cinna: I was pretty much good to go after the first preview with Cinna but Lenny Kravitz really did knock it out of the park. I just needed to reiterate that. And request more of Cinna in “Catching Fire”.
Katniss: Jennifer Lawrence was out of this world y’all. Like, I knew she could hack it after seeing Winter’s Bone and she’s kind of one of my favoritest people ever but I was still a teensy bit nervous. I didn’t need to be. Jennifer was everything I hoped and more. The two absolute standout moments for me were her last moment with Cinna before entering the arena and the moment she heard the cannon and didn’t see Peeta. I’ll get into the latter first. I note further on that the lack of a few bits in the Peeta/Katniss relationship bothered me but I was convinced that Katniss cared about Peeta in this moment. When they split off, just a few yards away and that cannon goes off and she sees the berries and goes into full on panic mode? I just wanted to yell at her that it would be okay, it wasn’t him. But what truly blew me away was that scene with Cinna. Jennifer played Katniss as nervous (as expected) but still tough and refusing to let anyone see her as weak. Like she told Peeta, she can’t afford to think about dying. But in that moment, it was like everything finally hit Katniss & she realized that in a few seconds, she would be in a battle to the death and there was no turning back. Jennifer played that to perfection. The quiver in her face and terror in her eyes nailed every emotion. I could hate every other part of the movie (I don’t) but I would forgive it all for Jennifer Lawrence.
Well, You Convinced Me Parts:
Haymitch: I was really worried about Haymitch. I like Woody Harrelson just fine but I wasn’t sure how well it would come off. SOLD. He nailed the role and I think played Haymitch with the perfect amount of drunken coherency. It makes me look forward to where he takes the character in future movies.
Peeta: I’m not a Peeta girl. I think he belongs with Katniss and I really love the character but when it comes to the characters I most identify with, Peeta isn’t one of them. So while I was pretty nervous about Josh in the role, I didn’t need him to be perfect, as much I needed him to be convincing. I don’t know if that makes sense or sounds completely bizarre but that’s how I felt. And I did think Josh was convincing. The only real issue I had was when they arrive at the Capitol & Peeta is waving and drawing in the crowd. That’s a very Peeta thing to do but I didn’t feel like the movie explained quite well enough that Peeta was acting. Which didn’t help when there were moments that Josh made it feel like Peeta was genuinely happy to be there. The other tough part was that Jennifer wiped the floor with Josh in terms of acting but she did that with everyone. And in a weird way it fit since Katniss is stronger than Peeta anyway. So yeah, not perfect, but sold me on Peeta, if not completely on the Peeta/Katniss relationship.
I Wish This Would Have Been Different (but I can understand the changes) Parts:
The Nightlock Berries. Sort of. Okay so in the books, Katniss & Peeta take this a bit farther by actually putting the berries in their mouths and I missed that in the story. I think it felt more urgent for the gamemakers when Katniss & Peeta had actually called the bluff and eaten the berries. Plus, I think just in the hand is the kind of situation where Seneca would call Katniss’ bluff. However, I don’t hate the change. I would’ve liked more intensity but at the same time, I think the rather anti-climactic end to the entire games works really well for the movie. We shouldn’t want to loudly cheer for two teen victors in a battle to the death. It should feel like a sense of relief and a sense of now what. That I do appreciate and admire in the writing & directing choices and so while I missed elements of that scene, I do think it ultimately worked well.
You Kinda Screwed It Up Parts:
Glimmer. I don’t know who Leven Rambin was sleeping with but I felt like Glimmer got a lot more focus than she did in the books. Now, I’ve always hated the character so I may not be remembering but it just felt like she was a bigger player than she really was. Especially since I would’ve preferred to see more of Clove & Cato, both of whom were legitimate threats.
The Mutts. I wanted them to be more intense. I’ll admit that it was fairly chilling to see them just create these things on a computer and send them after the others and I didn’t mind the build of the mutts too much. They were a little too typical dog and not distorted CGI mutts (which you’d think the budget would allow for) but that wasn’t the deal breaker for me. It was the fact that the dead players weren’t in the mutts. I felt that was a very dark moment in the books and also helped set a tone for just how twisted these games were. I missed that in the movies. I think even a comment from Katniss on it would’ve sufficed.
The Capitol People: First, I really did miss the rest of Katniss’ team and having a focus on them. Second, the Capitol’s citizens seemed a bit blah. Where were the face tattoos, the exotic eye decor, the completely insane outfits? These looked like something Gaga came up with in preschool. And I’ve always felt like the insanity of Katniss’ fashion team helped show even more strongly just how normal Cinna was. We need them to show us how shallow and vapid the Capitol citizens are and just how much they don’t understand. Lenny Kravitz did a phenomenal job as Cinna, but I think there’s a missed opportunity in the movie to highlight specific people in the Capitol and that could hurt the story in future movies.
Peeta/Katniss Relationship: I got that there was a strong bond between Katniss & Gale in those few scenes. But I didn’t feel like there were enough scenes to really show what Peeta & Katniss have. Jennifer convinced me that Katniss came to care about Peeta but I wish the movie had gone into some of the ambiguity more. It would’ve been nice to see how Katniss did finally rely on and need Peeta, while he was upset to learn that she’d been working the system, even as she learned to care.
At the end of the day, if you were asking for a rating, I would say that on a book to screen it gets a 7.5 but on a story to screen, I give it a 9. I, like most people, have a really hard time remembering that a book adaptation isn’t going to feel like the words on the page were simply lifted to the screen. It’s like, I know that, but I forget a lot. Because of course there are scenes and emotions and dialogue that I desperately want to see come to life. Did I get all of those in The Hunger Games? No. But I don’t know that I could. Take the fashion. I didn’t think that the costumes totally sucked in the end but they weren’t as amazing as I’d hoped. But at the same time, could they really be? This is a series set several centuries in the future and with technology that we don’t have. Truly capturing the horror of the mutts probably wasn’t going to happen either. So I have to remember that when judging an adaptation.
The things I’ve learned to truly care about are the themes and the emotions. The themes were there in The Hunger Games, though not quite as strong as I would’ve liked. I think the movie could’ve delved more into just how creepy kids battling to the death is. But then there were darker themes in The Harry Potter series that really weren’t brought to light in the movies. I’ve sort of come to terms via a personal theory on that one. I think a lot of adults (not most of you reading this but a lot) tend to think young adult and think innocent. It’s for 10-14 year olds so it can’t really be that dark. Those of us who read YA books, especially good ones, know that a talented author can make some seriously striking political/social commentary and dig into darker material in 200 pages than an adult contemporary author can in 500 pages of shock value murder, profanity, and rape. But I get the impression that other adults, especially those who make movies, even if they see the darkness, think that movie goers don’t want it in a YA movie. Personally, I think that’s more than a little stupid. But since so many YA books get made without some of the deeper material being brought to light, I feel like I can’t single out The Hunger Games for this.
I can however, look for the emotions and the heart of the story. To me, the first book is all about Katniss. It’s HER STORY. The other two books bring other people in a bit more but in the end, this is all Katniss’ point of view. So when telling the story, it really needs to capture who she is and her emotions throughout the Games. We need to be nervous, wondering if she really will make it out alive and when she does, it should feel sort of like okay she made it but is this actually a good thing. And I felt like the movie did that. There wasn’t nearly as much time with Peeta, or Gale, or Cinna as I might have liked, but in making this be truly Katniss’ story, not a story of Panem, it worked. But the biggest thing that I loved was how nervous I was. I was on the edge of my seat the entire time, with my stomach a bundle of nerves throughout the movie. AND I KNOW HOW IT ENDS. I wasn’t the only one either. So many others in the theater were freaking terrified beyond belief that Katniss might not make it (we talked about it afterwards) and yet we all knew how it ended. To capture that feeling and that anticipation wasn’t easy and I give serious props to the director, editors & Jennifer Lawrence for that.
I walked out of the movie feeling exhausted, overwhelmed, and genuinely happy about it. As things settle, I’ve seen some issues and I’m sure that a second viewing will also make me think of other concerns. Or maybe it will alleviate some of my earlier issues. Who knows. My point is, that if I can walk out of an adaptation feeling happy about the movie, it’s a success to me. I nearly walked out of the theater in Goblet of Fire, it pissed me off that much. So I know I liked it.
What were y’all’s thoughts? Is it an overall success, despite missing some elements or were you too disappointed?
I saw it again tonight (Friday). So twice within a 24 hour period. And if I’m being perfectly honest, I could watch it again right now and be totally happy. THIS MOVIE IS THAT GOOD. But I did change my opinion on two key elements. Peeta. I liked him a lot more the second time around. I think my apprehension was so strong that the best I could do was accept & sort of like Peeta. But watching it a second name and knowing that Josh pulled it off allowed me to watch less stressfully. And as a result I found myself loving him in the role. Especially in the cave. I also caught where Peeta literally picked Cato up and threw him backwards over his head and the first viewing, I thought Peeta just pulled him away. COOL.
The other was in how little they showed of the developing Peeta/Katniss relationship. Watching it again, I think I’m more okay with the fact that less was shown. It allowed the movie to make Katniss a clear heroine, regardless of love interests.
So yeah, a second viewing and the movie got even better.