Happy Hunger Games!
All weekend, people have been asking me how I found the Hunger Games movie so I decided a blog post was in order for the occasion.
I think I’ve been half-excited, half-scared ever since the movie was announced, the way I am whenever a favorite book hits the big screen. Everyone knows I’m not a big fan of film adaptations — I’d be perfectly happy leaving my favorite books as they are, in my imagination, where, in my experience, they’re a whole lot better.
Lately, though, I’ve been quite, erm, reckless (hehe!) in watching film adaptations — I think, now that Harry Potter is over, I’ve conditioned myself to thinking it can’t get any worse. I’ve caught quite a number of them in the past few months — and of books I love, too! — and I admit it hasn’t been half bad. The Adventures of Tintin was awesome (but underappreciated, I think!); The Girl with A Dragon Tattoo was a bit too Hollywood for my taste (too pretty!), and Noomi Rapace will always be my choice for Lisbeth Salander, but the Hollywood version did work well as a narrative. and Hugo — it was, hands down one of the best movies I have ever seen, and *gasp* I actually enjoyed it more than the book!
So anyway, I got to watch Hunger Games on the very first day, thanks to the special screening arranged by National Book Store (thanks NBS!). I was feeling panicky because we very nearly missed the start of the movie, as the cabdriver thought we were going to Shangri-la Makati instead of EDSA!
From the trailers I’d seen in the last few months, I was quite hopeful about how the movie will turn out, and I wasn’t disappointed. On the whole, I thought the film did a good job of adapting the book onscreen — no major (objectionable) deviations (even for nitpicky me), which is always the dealbreaker for me (*cough*CirqueduFreak*cough*).
In general, I liked how the film brought the book to life. I was tearing up as early as the Reaping — I really liked this part, even from the trailers. It has always reminded me of a scene out of a Holocaust movie, and the whole district assembling for the Reaping like the lines being herded into concentration camp, and I thought that was a nod to Suzanne Collins‘ depiction of the cruelty of war in all her books.
The Capitol in the movie was uncannily close to the way I pictured it — outrageously lurid fashions, vacuous people, and an overall feeling of excess.
Understandably, the violence was toned down for a PG-13 audience. Knowing the sequence of events in the book also diminishes the shock factor for the readers, but telltale gasps inside the cinema told me this was working for those who haven’t read the book yet. Despite those drawbacks, I appreciate the alternate perspective offered by the movie in terms of the actual Hunger Games. In the book this has always been Katniss’ point of view, and I like how we see what’s happening outside the arena: how the gamemakers were reacting to how the tributes were playing the game, how Haymitch was diligently campaigning for Katniss back in the Capitol, how Gale was watching Katniss onscreen, and how the districts were reacting to what they were seeing onscreen.
I really wanted Jennifer Lawrence to be fiercer as Katniss; I don’t think she’s played it to the hilt yet. The sullen Katniss she’s got down pat, and the spectacle of the girl on fire (during the tribute parade) helps, but in the arena, I wanted to see more of the introspection and inner turmoil that Katniss had in the books. I found her adequate (I was sniffling through that scene with Rue), but she has bigger shoes to fill for the next movies in the trilogy, and I hope she grows into that Katniss, even when the film has already catapulted her into Hollywood it girl status.
Josh Hutcherson, however, was the Peeta I had hoped for, he plays the role wonderfully: candid and charming, and with just the right amount of self-deprecation and tenderness that the character has always shown in the books. Peeta was one of the things I enjoyed most about the movie, period.
I also thought Woody Harrelson was lovable as Haymitch, and Seneca Crane (and beard, hahaha!) performs quite admirably, considering the movie thrusts him into a bigger role. Thumbs up to Cato, too, with a creepiness that’s totally opposite his baby-faced looks. Cinna was okay, but Lenny Kravitz really isn’t how I pictured Cinna.
I don’t think anything will match my experience of the Hunger Games novels, but for a film adaptation, I’m pretty satisfied with how the movie has turned out, and how it lays the foundations for the rest of the trilogy, showing the revolution brewing just beneath the surface outside the Capitol (on a side note: I really think people adapting series books should wait until the series is completed before making the films *cough*HarryPotter*cough* you never know when the elements you’re taking out of the movies will be significant later on).
As a standalone film, I think the movie was a solid effort, but it’s hard to judge a franchise on the basis of one movie. The next two films will be harder to pull off, and I hope they do the trilogy justice… and PLEASE, for crying out loud, no two-part Mockingjay!
P.S. If you’ve seen the movie and haven’t read the books yet I hope you’ll read them — there’s really nothing like the written word, and you still have time to catch up while they’re making the next two movies.
The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins is available at National Book Store.
*THG stills courtesy of Mammoth NYC on behalf of Lionsgate Film