Yesterday I painstakingly counted down the hours, the minutes and then excitedly, the seconds, until entering the cinema for the advanced screening of The Hunger Games. You could feel the excitement, the tangible buzz of everyone in the cinema. Friends whispered enthusiastically to one another, others shuffled impatiently in their seats, and when the lights finally dimmed clapping and cheering ensued, but when the first set of words were flashed up on the screen, everyone became entirely silent, utterly focused.
This was the moment we had all been waiting for.
A glimpse of the girl on fire.
I don’t think I need to going into my usual extensive recap of the plot for this one, because let’s face it, pretty much everyone knows the story by now (plus this post is already really long). If somehow you’ve miraculously managed to avoid it, you can take a look at the summary of The Hunger Games book blurb below:
In the dark vision of the near future, twelve boys and twelve girls are forced to appear in a live TV show called the Hunger Games.
There is only one rule: kill or be killed.
When sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen steps forward to take her sisters place in the games, she sees it as a death sentence. But Katniss has been close to death before. For her, survival is second nature.
Firstly you should be aware that this review is totally biased. I am a huge fan of The Hunger Games books and therefore simply seeing the story translated to the screen was fantastic, I’m not exactly going to be objective. But with that said, on with the review!
The film overall, remains very true to the book in terms of both, pace and structure. The first half of the film sets the scene, introduces the characters, and builds up your empathy towards them. Then the second half is completely focused on the Hunger Games, the terror, adrenaline, and hopelessness that the tributes face.
Several scenes have also been added that are not actually in the book, which I think worked really well. We see a lot more of president Snow and the games master, and are given much more insight into what goes on behind the scenes of the games, and the technology used to control the arena. I thought this was a really innovative idea on the producers part, it was a great way to convey how the arena actually worked to the audience without using the internal dialogue that runs through Katniss’ head in the books.
However, before seeing this film I must strongly advise reading the books first. I repeat. READ THE BOOKS FIRST! Why you ask? I feel like viewers were robbed of a few very important details that were key to the story, and I also felt some parts may have been a bit confusing for someone who hadn’t read the book. For instance, the symbolism behind the hand gesture used by the districts, the visit from the Baker, and most importantly, the symbolism and relevance of the Mockingjay pin! I know these may not be seem as vital details, but they certainly are to me, they help to build Katniss’ character and make you empathize with her. There are also some other similar details left out, like the Avox girl that plays a large part in forming the readers opinions of the Capitol.
The characterization was perfect. Katniss appeared even stronger in the movie than she was in the books. Although at points I did worry they were getting close to the line of her being too hard/stoical, but then they quickly pulled it back with some emotional scenes. Lawrence captures Katniss’ stiff upper lip, but also her vulnerability with glassy eyed looks, bleak helplessness and moments of panic.
I was quite concerned about Josh Hutcherson acting skills from the trailer, but apart from the one cringey line “I just keep wishing I could think of a way to show them that they don’t own me” which sent me and my friend into uncontrollable hysterics he actually did pretty well, and certainly managed to capture the essence of Peeta’s character.
Liam Hemsworth seemed like a good pick to play Gale too, although we didn’t get to see much of him in the film.
However it was Cina, Effie and Caesar Flickerman that I was most impressed with. They really captured them perfectly! Cina’s calm and defiant nature. Effie’s perfect combination of being irritating and somehow loveable at the same time, and Caesar’s kindness and his ability to extract information from the tributes in a pleasant way. The actors really did do an excellent job.
I was slightly disappointed however, that some of the characters I knew and loved from the books were missed out completely. We are not even introduced to Katniss’ prep team, and Madge is nowhere to be found. I think this was a real shame, not only would they work as great plot devices for the subsequent films, but Madge is also the one that is supposed to give Katniss the Mockingjay pin!
As for the cinematography……well, someone had fun with the shaky camera effect! In most cases it worked extremely well – portraying the tributes disorientation and pumping adrenaline, but they did take it a bit to the extreme. A lot of the camera work in The Hunger Games is very fast paced in order to bypass the violence aspect that would make it unsuitable for younger viewers. There always seems to be a difference between reading about violence and seeing it portrayed on screen. Overall I feel they managed to do this very successfully – it was enough to give you a taster but not enough for Lionsgate to receive hatemail. However, I do feel that the film would have benefitted more from a 15 rating, but I understand why they couldn’t do that.
I also have another little nitpicking point to make in terms of music. The director kept opting for silence to dramatize the scene, we all know this technique from horror movies of course – sometimes no sound is more effective. However I don’t think it worked that well in this case, and I feel it would have been much better to use at least some form of dramatic music instead, but that is probably just a personal preference thing.
I feel like I have listed a lot of negatives for such an excellent film, but as a fan of the books I had a very specific idea of how I wanted certain scenes to play out, and I also found it much easier in this case, to pick out what I didn’t like rather than what I did like. But don’t get me wrong, the film was excellent! I would definitely recommend it! What I truly loved about it though, was seeing all the characters I’d pictured in my mind transferred to the big screen, and nothing can describe that captivating moment, when I saw Katniss shoot her first arrow…
I would recommend this film to both males and females, 10 upwards. (Although technically its a 12A it’s really not very violent and I think it would be perfectly fine for a slightly younger audience.) I think people will enjoy this film, whether they are fans of the books or are coming to it with a completely fresh mind, however, I really do recommend that you read the books first. 🙂
Happy Hunger Games!
May the odds be ever in your favour.
CGI (Computer-Generated Imagery): 5/5
P.S. I don’t feel this is a very good review, instead it’s more of an incoherant babble comparing the film to the books haha. To read a much better review of The Hunger Games you can check out Surly Gurls who have done a really excellent review! 🙂
Katniss at the reaping: : http://www.shineon-media.com
Peeta running: http://www.cinemablend.com
Katniss hand gesture: http://thehungergames.wikia.com/wiki/District_12_respect_sign
Mockingjay pin: http://www.cinemablend.com
Haymitch, Cina, and Peeta: http://www.cinemablend.com
Katniss with bow and arrow: http://www.spaweekblog.com/