Movie Review: The Hunger Games (2012)
A long, long time ago, I started doing something that changed the course of my life. It started out as a simple project, just for fun, really- I’d list all the books I ever read. Well, due to a shoddy memory and much procrastination, it died quickly. That list stayed, for a while, on a blog.
A brief while later, I began giving little opinions, and as time went by, I noticed a talent while I was in school- I could write. I could write well. Just about any written assignment blew away the teachers. Thus, I combined my opinions with my writing and started shoving them haphazardly up my blog. One of the first books I reviewed was The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins. I got good feedback- a little bit of feedback, but it was impetus to keep moving forward. Before I derail this review any further, I’d just like to say that The Hunger Games opened up a new chapter in my life. I know it sounds clichéd, but it’s one of the things that helped get me going. It’s part of why I’m here, and it’s part of where I’m going.
The long awaited film adaptation has finally emerged, and I’m proud to say that another chapter in the big book of my life has been opened.
For those who don’t know, the movie centers around one girl, Katniss Everdeen, and her struggle to stay alive. She lives in what was once North America on the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder. Her family- and the rest of the people in her area, or “District”, are dirt poor. You see, this future North America, Panem, contains twelve Districts and a Capitol. The Capitol is where the overprivileged, absurdly dressed citizens of Panem live. The twelve Districts are somewhat less privileged.
Sometime in the past, there was some sort of conflict between this Capitol and the thirteen original Districts. Seventy-four years ago, it was decided that each year, a Hunger Games would be held, during which twenty-four tributes- twelve boys and twelve girls from each District- would fight to the death. The winner would get to go home to a comfortable life, and plenty of glory. As I recall in the books, the bloodthirsty citizens of the Capitol would watch, absolutely thrilled by the slaughter, as the families back home would watch, and sometimes weep.
So, how good was the film? As a fan of the books, it’s awfully tempting to be biased- I’ve been waiting three years for this movie. Well, I’m happy to say that while the film did deviate from the books in some ways, it didn’t ruin their story.
Throughout the film, lead actress Jennifer Lawrence (Katniss) stayed true to her character- it’s as if the girl from the book was simply a brilliant retelling of the 74th Annual Hunger Games from the perspective of Katniss. Lawrence did a fantastic job at depicting Katniss- for once, I actually felt like rooting for the protagonist simply because I cared about her fate. Lawrence’s depiction of Katniss is raw, realistic, and sometimes hits like a blow to the gut.
Not to be outdone, of course, is Josh Hutcherson (Peeta Mellark). His depiction of the character was also, in my opinion, spot on. To be honest, I don’t think that Woody Harrelson (Haymitch) was quite faithful to his character in the books. Sure- he was an alcoholic, rough around the edges, but… He wasn’t quite as bitter or angry or “hard” as his character in the books. It was a good performance on all fronts but if you’re a fan of the books, it’s worth remembering that some things have been changed, presumably for the sake of speed, which seems to have been quite a driving factor in the movie.
The story, while quite well told through visuals and of course dialogue, wasn’t quite told far enough, I don’t think. The trouble is, it didn’t quite retain enough of the spirit of the books. Did the movie do a good job depicting life in the Capitol and the Districts? Certainly. However, I don’t think it quite sufficiently underscored the pain most of those people have to endure daily. Instead, the movie follwed around Katniss and what she had to go through, and while that’s great, the movie is supposed to be a dystopia. The suffering of the individual needs to reflect the suffering of the people as a whole- the movie didn’t quite do this enough. While it was clear where the seeds of revolution had been sown, where the indomitable human spirit could be felt breaking loose against the iron walls and lead bullets of a corrupt, disgusting establishment, it wasn’t enough. I could feel the human spirit- I just wasn’t quite sure why it felt the urge to come up sometimes. Sure, there is one scene that I do believe was handled very well. If you’re a fan of the books, you’ll remember a scene with a song and a girl- this scene is in the movie and it’s quite possibly the best part of the whole film. While, for the sake of spoilers, I cannot and thus will not tell you what happens, if you read the books understand that you won’t be disappointed.
I suppose it’s in the more intimate moments of the film that this movie really shines.
As far as cinematography goes, I can honestly say that I was quite impressed- while they did resort to shaking the camera about like mad for some fight scenes (presumably for the sake of retaining a PG-13 rating), the visuals in the film reflect what’s in the books very well. While I can’t quite give them points for accuracy in that area, I can give them points for extremely well delivered sights and sounds- the Capitol was beautiful, and from the costumes of the people living there, the absurd costumes that were the ordinary outfits of Panem citizens, I can honestly say that this is a very good looking film.
The CGI in the movie was also very, very well done. In the Capitol, the people controlling the (massive) arena managed to send forth fireballs, vicious creatures, and occasionally supplies into the arena. They were depicted as sitting around in a beautiful, Apple-store-esque room with control panels and floating, holographic controls that could be used to blow any person to bits at the swipe of a finger.
The film score was decent as well, and while it didn’t quite sweep me away, it still managed to set the mood for the movie. I do wish I heard more of the Capitol’s national anthem- it sounded valient, brave, strong- everything the Capitol tried so hard to depict itself as.
Unfortunately, I can’t be insanely positive about everything. There were some parts of the movie I didn’t quite enjoy. While I do understand that some parts of the movie simply had to be cut for the sake of cinema (the film would be bloated without such cuts), some things I feel should’ve been held onto. The way the people of the District were virtually baying for blood in such a happy-go-lucky manner I feel wasn’t adequately represented in the movie. While there was what felt like some “hinting” at the fact that these people are seriously sick to be entertained by such brutal displays of violence, it wasn’t enough in my opinion. In fact, while there was quite a bit of violence in the film, I feel like somewhere along the way, it managed to get separated from the feelings of sickness I should’ve felt. In short, the movie didn’t upset me enough. Over this, I’m upset. Ironic, eh?
The other problem with the movie was that it felt as if it was all just for a sequel. The ending of the movie fell flat, and I’m really quite disappointed over that. I’ll be honest- it was all of two minutes, out of an entire film. The trouble is, the ending will make you frown, and wonder “what happens next“? To be fair, the first book did the same thing. The trouble? The first book prepared you for the sequel. This, however, just might leave you feeling cold, bitter, and slightly betrayed. It’s as if the film just cut- thwack– without any real reason.
It’s also worth remembering that this is a mere couple minutes out of what was, for the most part, an enthralling movie. While it may be easy to complain about how little I cared about Peeta, the reason for his existence comes into play later in the series- it’s intended. You should feel more of a bond with Liam Hemsworth (Gale), even though he receives so little screen time.
Overall, I really appreciated (and enjoyed) this movie. Aside from a lackluster ending, it’s really worth watching simply for the sake of funding the sequels. And yes, of course it’s a very enjoyable film. I look forward to seeing the rest in the series, and hope that maybe next time, they’ll improve the ending- they’re free to leave us hanging off a cliff, but they should have the decency to provide a suitable root or other object for clinging to. I suppose this movie could be compared to a wedding cake that’s looks perfect, tastes perfect, and but lacks any aftertaste at all. After you’ve swallowed it, you feel as if something wasn’t quite there… The film is pretty memorable, yes, and has a character, good looks, great sound and a fascinating story, but… It could’ve afforded somewhat bigger scope. Regardless, it’s still good enough to watch, enjoy, and wait for the subsequent sequel.