Last night was the midnight release of the Hunger Games, and I was fortunate enough, well awake enough, to see the movie. I arrived at the theater parking lot around 5:30pm and found my place in line for the next six and a half hours. For those of you keeping me company on Twitter, I thank you for helping me pass the time. I really did get a lot of tweet pictures of people doing the same thing I was doing all across the country. I will make another post containing all the pictures I received!
First, the casting choices are spot on. I know a lot of fans had their reservations about certain actors or actresses (I know I had mine), but I am here to tell you that the cast pretty much nailed each one of their characters. Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson as leads in the movie really portrayed the pain their characters are going through during the course of the movie. Jennifer has a number of really moving scenes (hi, Rue) where she brought audience members around me to tears, so don't feel bad if you got choked up by some of her performances. Josh plays Peeta perfectly. From the look on his face during the Reaping to the interview before the arena, Josh's portrayal of the beloved Peeta is amazing. Also worth mentioning, Liam Hemsworth only had a few scenes, but he did a great job in each of them. The supporting cast members really rounded out the performances. Woody Harrelson (Haymitch), Elizabeth Banks (Effie), Stanley Tucci (Caesar), Wes Bentley (Senaca) and Donald Sutherland (President Snow) all gave wonderful performances. As a character side note, I do love the flirtatious relationship that seems to be developing between Haymitch and Effie.
The sets for the Hunger Games were well done. Gary Ross and his team did a tremendous job making District 12 look the way it felt while reading the book. District 12 looked like a rundown Southern mining town that was on the brink of collapse and destruction. The Capitol is filled with people who care only about themselves and the way they look. Every part of the Capitol is filled with excessiveness in a utopian metropolis. The arena is a vast forested battleground that is scattered with trip and tricks from the Gamemakers. Visually, the whole movie is appealing and easy on the eyes to watch. There is not an overuse of CGI, and the CGI that is in the movie looks realistic and well placed.
The director, Gary Ross, put on a clinic for how to keep movies upbeat and fast moving. I wasn’t bored for a minute because I really didn’t have time to dwell on mundane details before we were moving on to the next scene. However, there was time I felt a little rushed and yearned for just a little more character development. But I will sacrifice a few character tidbits for a fast moving, high octane film any day of the week. I know a lot of people were worried about the PG-13 rating and how the violence was going to look on the big screen, but Gary Ross pulled it off without a hitch. Just like he said in a number of interviews, he doesn’t overuse violence or exploit violence. The audience is going to understand kids are killing kids, so extra blood and gore would have been unnecessary.
Finally, as the credits started to roll, I found myself sitting in my theater chair smiling with happy thoughts that my favorite franchise is in good hands. Is Lionsgate, Gary Ross and the rest of the crew going to make perfect decisions about translating the book to the big screen? No. But, I don’t need perfect. I need great and that is what I watched last night, a GREAT movie. If you haven’t seen the movie yet, let the book go. Come into the theater with an open mind and don’t spend too much time worry about what is there and what isn’t there. If you do this, you will have a great experience and left wanting more…
My Grade: A- / B+
SPOILERS AHEAD! I am going to be talking about scenes/situations that were cut from the movie and scenes/situations that were changed in the movie. If you haven't seen the movie, proceed at your own risk! If you haven't read the books or seen the movie, I would not recommend reading any further! Also, I do not hate the movie. The purpose of sharing this information is to create discussions on some small aspects of the movie. I loved this movie and am eagerly awaiting the second installment in this GREAT franchise.
Haymitch Falling off the Stage at the Reaping
This was one scene that I was looking forward to before we got into the Reaping. While reading the books, we were able to understand that Haymitch was trying to forget or get over something through alcohol. He was described as the town drunk that culminated into him falling off the stage during his Reaping speech. I am sure Gary Ross left this out of the movie because it didn't fit the tone or theme that he chooses to go with. The comical aspect of this scene would not have fit with how the Reaping was portrayed during the movie.
Peeta & Katniss Confronting Haymitch on the Train
This was "sort of" in the movie but not even close to the way it felt in the book. In the book, Haymitch jokes about the advice he gives to Katniss & Peeta, "Here's some advice. Stay alive." He says this while laughing which upsets Peeta, "That's very funny, only not to us." Peeta slaps a drink out of Haymitch's hand and receives a punch to the face from Haymitch. When Haymitch tries to reach for another drink, Katniss drives a knife into the table right between his fingers. Haymitch finishes the scenes with, "Well what's this? Did I actually get a pair of fighters this year?" What are your thoughts as to why this scene was taken out of the movie?
The Bread from District 11
After the death of Rue and Katniss shows District 11 just how much she cared for Rue, District 11 sends a parachute of bread to Katniss as a thank you message. Was this taken out of the movie because they didn't explain different bread types during training? In the books, Peeta breaks down the different types of bread from each District. However, I feel that this scene might have been replaced by the District 11 riot scene that was added to lay the ground work for 'Catching Fire'.
The Sleep Syrup to Knock Peeta Out
This one stung a little. It was one of my favorite interactions between Katniss & Peeta during their time in the arena. A feast was called to get tributes to meet up at the Cornucopia to get an item they most needed. Even though Katniss says she wasn't going to go, Peeta knows she is lying, "You're such a bad liar, Katniss. ... Never gamble at cards. You'll lose your last coin." Peeta was insistant on Katniss not going. If she did, he would hobble out of the cave screaming and yelling to draw attention to himself and away from Katniss. Eventually, Katniss agrees not to go and decides to go outside to think. When she gets outside, a parachute is waiting for her. It is filled with sweet syrup that will knock Peeta out for 24 hours. After mixing it in with some berries, she feeds it to Peeta, knocking him out. The part that makes this scene great is what she says next, "Who can't lie, Peeta?"
Katniss Injuring her Left Ear while Destroying the Career Supplies
Not a huge detail, but something that could have been in there without taking much time to explain. When Katniss blows up the career supplies, she severly injures her ear to the point she cannot really hear out of it. Her ear gets fixed after the games are over and has a minor plot point in 'Catching Fire'. I wonder if this is going to have a ripple effect on the next movie.
Peeta's Leg Injury
This was another part of the book that was "sort of" in the movie. Yes, Peeta got his leg injured, but it healed completely once the cream was applied to the injury. (The movie changed the injection to cream.) Fixing Peeta's leg completely made the finishing scene of the arena feel less tense. I couldn't read the book fast enough, when he ripped the tunicate off and stated he was going to bleed to death so Katniss could win.
The Mutated Mutts
These were in the movie, but not even close to the mental image I had in my head. Maybe the CGI department couldn't get the book version to look right on the big screen, or they simply were not in the budget for the movie. Whatever the case may be, the twistedness of the Capitol came through the pages when Katniss realized the Mutts contained the eyes of the fallen tributes. The Mutts in the movie literally looked like Mutts(dogs) but much bigger. With that logic, I could call my dog, Matilda, a Mutt because she is small. (I call her that anyways when she does something bad!) I really wanted to feel how sick the Capitol really is with their mutation of the fallen tributes.
Katniss' Freak Out in the Hovercraft after Winning the Games
A very emotional scene on paper, that didn't end up in the movie. After being picked up from the arena in the hovercraft, Peeta is whisked away to another room for emergency medical treatment. Katniss is cut off from Peeta and in a glass holding cell. While watching Peeta get medical attention, Katniss is yelling for Peeta, throwing her whole body against the glass to try and get to Peeta, someone she deeply cares for. The reader felt the growing bound between Katniss and Peeta reading those words, but it was left out of the movie. This scene is directly related to Peeta's injury that was changed from the book version.
In conclusion, there were a number of scenes that I wanted to see that were removed from the movie for one reason or another. However, when translating a book to the big screen, cuts have to be made. The sad part is that sometimes they have to be deep cuts. How long would the movie of been without these cuts? 3 Hours? I know Gary Ross said they stayed true to the source material, and when looking at the movie as a whole, they did. They really nailed the negative/inhumane nature of the Hunger Games and the desperate state of the District citizens of Panem. I just wanted some "more" icing on the cake or maybe that cherry that goes on top. The relationship between Katniss and Peeta was very important to me while reading the book, and I just didn't get that same feeling while watching the movie.
All in all, as far as book translations go, I feel the movie was successful. They took one of my favorite books and made a good movie that moved very fast and never felt boring. I will be watching this in the theater again before I get the movie on Blu-ray. Then, it is time to play the waiting game for 500+ days for Catching Fire! Who's with me????
PS - Sorry if something is spell wrong or my grammar is off! I am running on 3 hours of sleep, 4 cups of coffee and trying to do some work!