Thursday, April 19, 2012

My Hunger Games Movie Review: Part 1

What did Siskel and Ebert call their movie reviews? Because it feels pretty lame-o to title this blog post "Hunger Games Movie Review". So uncool that I smiled and it felt hipster cool. Funny how that works.

But let's get down to the meat of things since this review is already nearly a month after the movie's release date. To people who read the series, the movie is still relevant even if it's a few weeks old so I still feel within my limits to rant about it.

The best way I can sum up my feelings about the movie is to say that I loved it the way that you love an alcoholic parent; it's all you've got so you cling to it. The Hunger Games trilogy of books were some of my favorites ever. Classical literature? Perhaps not. But compulsively readable? Totally! I legit locked myself in a spare room with snacks so I could totally focus (and keep my energy up) for hours at a time. I remember finishing one of them at like 2 am and instead of finally going to sleep, I went downstairs to retrieve the next one and start in on that. The point is I loved those books, the storyline, the characters... and I was pumped to see it come to the big screen.

Image from IMDB

I saw the movie three times. First, I took a day off from work and went with my cousin who had also read the books. We talked about book/movie comparisons enough to get shushed by the old lady in front of us. I almost threw down but I didn't want to miss any of the movie. My first impression was mostly positive because I really wanted to like it. The second time I went with a friend who had also already seen the movie. It was playing in the 21+ theater that includes popcorn and soda and we were hungry and thirsty and seeking some escapism. It was then that I started to dislike the movie. The third time I went with my husband who did NOT read the books and I wanted to see if he understood the flow or if he would want to read the books after. There were some pretty big gaps in the relationship development and I wanted to see how he perceived it all. I also wanted to see if he jumped when the muttations came out of the woods. He was a wonderful test subject and didn't disappoint on any of the test variables.

So what's so hard to love about this movie? This requires a list.
1. Katniss and Peeta's young love. Let's just start with the biggest. The development of this relationship is pretty essential to the whole series so to mess that up feels like a big deal to me. I felt like the movie didn't make Katniss's ambivalence clear enough or explain it enough. In the book, it's much more clear that she is playing up the romance based on Haymitch's advice but that gets really glossed over in the movie.
2. Rue and Katniss's relationship. To be fair, the movie did a good job conveying the grief Katniss felt about Rue. I think this issue was more about time; the inevitable lack of time a movie has to get across so many nuances. There wasn't enough time in the movie to give a lot of air to create more depth to this relationship. However, it could have been more spelled out that Rue reminded Katniss of her sister.
3. Haymitch's air time. Woody makes a great Haymitch, don't get me wrong. While I read it, I pictured more of a Robert Downey, Jr, to be honest but I was not disappointed with the casting choice. Nor can I justifiably complain about how  he played the role or developed the character. There were just a few more details that felt important to me while reading the book that were omitted. Again, I recognize that the movie had quite an undertaking to capture the whole story and edits were needed. That being said, Haymitch falling off the stage and then when Peeta put him to bed so Katniss didn't have to felt like they would have been easy enough additions. Especially the putting to bed part because it helped develop the relationship between Peeta and Katniss.
4. The reaping. Two things about this, one of which is partially resolved. The clothing and setting seemed very antiquated. A futuristic setting was not translated. Even in a really poor community, I would think the hand-me-down clothing would be more from our current day and age than what appeared to be from the 50's. And the black and white pictures?? This is the one that is partially resolved for me, though, because my husband hypothesized that simple, handmade clothing would be cheaper as would non-colored photography so that was what I was seeing. I'll take it.
The one that is not yet resolved for me is when Katniss volunteers in the book, Effie makes a bigger statement about participation in the games being an honor and that she didn't want her sister to steal the glory. A little detail, a simple scripted line, but it really drove home the Capital's lack of understanding the population, an especially valuable point in relating the Capital to our own government and times when the collective "we" don't feel we are represented.
5. Gale and Katniss. Well, Gale at all. He was good to look at but we didn't see much of him. And for  my taste, the feeling that the two were romantically involved was more strong than I took away from the book. This relationship will also be key in subsequent movies so I am curious as to how it will be handled.
6. President Snow. He was a villian in this movie in a clearer way than I felt when reading the book. And so many of those conversations didn't actually happen. To be honest, I don't know totally why some of them were added to the movie. Some, I know, were added to move the plot along but others could have been omitted to make more room for some of the things I listed above.

Ok, so this is really long and I haven't told you the positives yet. I'm just being a Negative Nancy and that's not fair because, overall, I am still really grateful for the movie. I enjoyed the hype and will still be super excited for #2. Despite the myriad of evidence in this post to the contrary, I'm not mad at how the movie came out, overall. Which makes me think that tomorrow's post will tell you all the things I enjoyed about the movie. Because I'm a glass half full kind of gal and want to leave you on a high note:)

1 comment:

  1. Those are good points and I agree with you. I wish they'd developed those things better too; it only would have taken a few lines here and there. A movie reviewer said he respected Katniss so much more after reading the book (he saw the movie before reading the book), which shows that there were some details and depth missing in the movie.