Opening weekend has come and gone, having secured $155 million dollars in the bank, and making The Hunger Games the 3rd highest grossing opening weekend of all time (behind Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 and The Dark Knight). I saw the movie again last night (yay!) and I think enough time has passed that those who OMG!DESPERATELY needed to see the film probably have, so I can go into more depth and be a little more critical than I was in my last post about it.
Consider this your official warning for those who hate spoilers and/or those who hate The Hunger Games to stop reading now. (Though if you’re in the latter category, I have to ask, why? Just… why?) If you haven’t read the books yet, but intend to, you might also want to consider coming back to this entry later, since I’m sure there will be a few non-movie spoilers in here, too. I also apologize that this is probably going to be a really long and really wordy post, since, you know, I REALLY love The Hunger Games.
As you already know, I loved the movie overall, and it was just as good the second time. Turns out, going at 6:30 on a Monday means an almost empty theatre which made it the perfect second-viewing experience. I’ve never been the kind of person to nitpick the little things when it comes to book-to-movie adaptations. In fact, my favorite Harry Potter films were not the ones that followed the books to a T (like the first two), but the ones that took a few artistic and film-making liberties without detracting from the overall storyline (like 3, 4, and 8). As long as all the major plot points and characters are included, who cares that things didn’t happen exactly “the way it was in the book”? It’s only natural that some things will be left out and changed to make these adaptations into good MOVIES, as opposed to just page-by-page retellings of the books (which, granted, I would love, but any non-book-readers would decidedly not).
The movie is action-packed, well-cast, and extremely well-acted. I’ll start with casting: I thought they really hit the nail on the head with both of the main stars. Jennifer Lawrence made a fantastic, simultaneously vulnerable and stoic, Katniss. I thought she really looked the part, too. (Am I the only one who thinks she looks better as a brunette?) I heard a lot of initial complaints about Katniss’ casting at first: Lawrence is 20 but Katniss is supposed to be 16. Lawrence is too healthy-looking to be Katniss, who is supposed to be petite and kind of waifish. And I swear, if I hear one more thing about how she’s not the right race because she’s described as having “olive skin” in the book, I will shoot myself. I mean, seriously. Of all the things to care about!
Not only is it a non-issue for 20-somethings to play high school age kids these days (hello, ANY show on The CW!) but Katniss is supposed to have a very mature quality to her. After all, she had to essentially take over the role of provider for her family after her father died and her mother subsequently went catatonic for a while. As for the “too healthy looking” comments, yes, she is from a district where food is scarce and her family is poor, but Katnissis a badass hunter, yo! The book makes it very clear that once Katniss started hunting (which is illegal, so it makes sense that it took some time for her to start doing so regularly), her family didn’t starve.
Hopefully all qualms with regard to the casting of Katniss (say that 10x fast!) have been put to rest after seeing Lawrence’s performance anyway. That scene with her and Cinna (Lenny Kravitz, who was a surprising delight!) before she goes into the tube? Chills. Also, as mentioned, tears.
I also have mad love for the casting of Peeta. I think Josh Hutcherson is adorable, has immense charm, and is still boyish which is exactly what Peeta needs to be. I know that a lot of fans were upset that they didn’t cast more of a stud to play the part of Peeta, but I thought that he did a great job (and the blonde hair was very natural-looking, IMO). I also loved the contrast that you get between him and Gale, who is a giant with rakish, manly handsomeness, and is pretty much a physical opposite of Peeta. Aside from the physical though, I can kind of take-or-leave Liam Hemsworth as Gale. Perhaps it’s because he had so little screen time, or because he’s tainted from being Miley Cyrus’ boytoy but in general, meh.
My overall favorite casting choice was probably Stanley Tucci as Caesar Flickerman though, teeth and everything. That man is truly flawless in every role he plays.
Moving onto the main plot: As mentioned, I honestly didn’t feel like they left out anything crucial. Of course there were some things that happened in the book that would have been neat to see on the silver screen (the flashback of Katniss and Gale witnessing the redheaded girl being captured by the hovercraft outside District 12, or the muttations having the eyes of the Tributes, as examples), but leaving them out didn’t detract from the story in any way. In fact, not including those kinds of details may have increased overall understanding of what was going on to those that haven’t read the book. One example of this is how in the book, Katniss’ friend Madge was the one to give her the Mockingjay pin, and getting to wear it in the Arena wasn’t a secret, it was allowed. But the way they did it in the movie was still effective even without that exposition.
When talking with Sean (who hasn’t read the book) about whether there were any parts of the movie that were confusing, he said that the only thing for him was the flashback between Katniss and Peeta. In the book, the occurrence of Peeta purposefully burning the bread from his family’s bakery to be able to give to a starving Katniss is extremely significant to both characters. Without the narrative inside her head, however, we have no way of knowing how Katniss feels when Peeta’s name is called at The Reaping. There’s no way to know of the connection that already exists between them, despite them having barely ever spoken. For this reason, I also feel that Peeta’s revelation of being in love with Katniss while he’s being interviewed may have had slightly less impact to a non-book-reader as well (though I still loved it, obviously).
One issue I’ve heard some people have with the movie is how Katniss’ first couple of days in the Arena don’t play out the same way as originally written. In the book, she nearly dies from dehydration at first, way before the whole forest-fire-plus-fireballs scenario. I totally understand why they chose to change this. Not only would it have slowed down the pace of the movie immensely, but it’s hard to showcase something like the effects of dehydration in a way that A) makes sense but is B) not boring. This change, as well as the general brevity of Peeta & Katniss’ time in the cave, are things that I can support because I felt that they really helped the pacing of the film overall.
Another thing that I’ve been hearing a lot about is critics’ displeasure with how the movies “glosses” over the multitude of deaths that occur. I actively disagree. Yes, this is a PG-13 movie so it’s obviously not as gory as the book describes, but I thought that the portrayals of the Tributes’ deaths were plenty gruesome and disturbing — especially paired with the aftermath shot of the initial bloodbath where the camera pans in on several of the dead Tributes’, including the face of one girl with her eyes still open. *shudder* Cato breaking the neck of the District 3 boy after Katniss blows up their food supplies was also particularly jarring to me (ugh, the sound!).
As I mentioned in my first impressions post, there was really only one part that detracted from the movie, for me. (I should insert that I didn’t really feel this way the second time around, but this is definitely how I felt after the first viewing.) I didn’t feel that the movie gave enough time for Katniss and Rue to forge their bond. The story moves incredibly quickly, from the tracker jacker attack (I imagined tracker jackers MUCH bigger, by the way) to their plan to blow up the Careers’ food, to (SPOILER ALERT!) Rue’s death. While I enjoyed the actresses’ scenes together (I also thought that Rue was extremely well-cast, and looked exactly as I pictured her), they really didn’t spend that much time together. I don’t think that Katniss’ hysteria over her death made as much sense to someone who hadn’t read the book, for that reason.
The book makes it very clear how protective Katniss is of Rue, how she reminds her of Prim and of how she COULD have been Prim, had Katniss not volunteered in the first place. Through her discourse with Rue, we learn so much about how the Districts operate, and why District 11 in particular is so ripe for rebellion. You just don’t get much of that from their short scenes together, unfortunately. Of course, I do think that Gary Ross (the director) did as good a job as he could with the time allotted for their relationship to develop. Goodness knows I cried! One of the most unfortunate effects of the midnight release viewing was that after the death scene (during which there was some intense SOBBING coming from the row behind us), the movie cuts to the riots in District 11 and then back to a hysterically crying Katniss. When they cut back to her, unfortunately the theatre erupted in laughter. I know it was likely because of all the residual emotional tension but still. I was ready to pimpslap some teenage girls, you better BELIEVE.
Okay, so let’s move onto some of the deviations from the book that I absolutely LOVED. I see movie adaptations of books as an opportunity to explore things that we don’t get to see in novels (especially ones that follow a single character, like The Hunger Games). I really enjoyed getting to see into the Gamemaker’s control room and the tete-a-tetes between President Snow and Seneca Crane. I felt like the latter especially set up President Snow to become the truly heinous villain we see in the 2nd and 3rd book (since we don’t really see him at all in the first book, actually). I also loved the emphasis that the movie placed on the fact that The Hunger Games is a reality TV show. Yes, a totally sick, horrible one, but a show nonetheless. When you’re reading the book, and you’re there IN the Arena with Katniss, you kind of forget that’s what’s going on outside. The sports-like commentary with Caesar Flickerman and Claudius Templesmith really helped this hit home, too.
Showing the District 11 riot is also something that isn’t present in this book, but I was utterly enthralled by it and thought it was a really great addition. Unlike in the books, where you don’t get proof of unrest in the Districts for a long, long time, we were afforded a glimpse of the unhappiness of Panem’s citizens. I felt it was powerful and appropriate.
On a totally superficial note, I pretty much expected that Katniss and Peeta wouldn’t look too banged up at the final confrontation at the Cornucopia. I mean, this is still Hollywood, after all. They can’t get their beautiful stars too uglied up! I also was selfishly kind of happy that they didn’t end up amputating Peeta’s leg. After all, it was barely mentioned afterward in the books anyway! And I like my Peeta WHOLE. Always.
So there you have it! I’m sure I have even more (erratic) thoughts that I could go on about further, but let’s be honest: I’m probably pushing my luck with you lot as it is. Kudos to anyone who actually read through all of this, haha. The bottom line is: I clearly loved it, I think it’s an incredibly provocative book AND movie, and cannot wait until the second installment is released (slated for November 2013!). Happy Hunger Games!
Thoughts? Do you agree? Disagree? Just want these Hunger Games posts to stop?