Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Hunger Games Movie: Impressions

I’m not making excuses anymore.  Just bear with me until I have less (read: no) homework and more time to read.  I’ll write when I can.

That said, I just now got back from The Hunger Games movie.  In my last few posts, I mentioned it a time or ten.  Obviously, I love the books.  So, what did I think of the movie?  Well, let me say that I don’t plan on giving this the full Theater’s Reader treatment (“Thank goodness,” say the people who told me that my posts are too long.)  I’m going to mention some of the things that I thought worked and what I thought was lacking – sort of a half treatment I guess.

I thought the movie was good.  I liked it.  No, it was not exactly faithful to the book, but it didn’t stray too far, either.  The deviations from the book were forgivable and occasionally necessary, such as Katniss singing to Prim in the beginning when in the book she hadn’t sung for years. The scenes with the game makers were a nifty way to show all the things Katniss internally thought in the book.  I could argue that it was never a sure thing that what Katniss was thinking was actually what was happening, and that showing that it was actually happening removed that reader's discretion.  Truth is, I think Suzanne Collins meant for Katniss' internal monologue to be a vehicle for what was actually happening, so I didn’t mind.

I liked most of the performances, too.  Peeta and Katniss each did a good job in their parts, and had character appropriate chemistry.  I was so hoping, as I usually do with movies based on books, that there were no “names”, no famous actors that audiences will see as Dwayne Johnson and Bruce Willis playing GI Joe; with "unknowns" moviegoers just see GI Joe.  (I saw that trailer, yea.)  And for the most part, I got my wish.  I didn’t recognize anyone but Woody Harrelson as Haymitch, and I think he did a pretty good job.  I was having a tough time figuring out why I recognized President Snow, until IMDb told me he was Keifer Sutherland’s dad (whose movies I’ve never seen, but since his son looks just like him...).  IMDb also let me know that Elizabeth Banks played Effie, who I didn’t recognize her under all the makeup, and whose flaws I attribute to script flaws more than her performance (telling, not showing, her obsession with manners for instance).

The part of the movie that made me the maddest, if you can call it that, was the text opening.  The first minute of the movie is white text on a black background summarizing the Treaty of Treason.  It flashes by too fast so if you are a slow reader you miss some.  That’s not the part that upset me most about it, though.  About five minutes later, that boring text opening is made redundant by the much more exciting propaganda film shown at the Reaping that says the same exact thing.  Same words and everything.  So, if that propo was in there, why the text opening?  It wasn’t necessary and, as I mentioned, a boring way to open what was otherwise a well paced movie.

The biggest flaw I saw in the movie was the void of emotional investment.  Here’s my big to-the-book comparison.  What made the book so good was the fact that in a short space of time, you really grew to love or hate certain characters.  You love Prim and Rue.  You hate Glimmer, Clove, and Cato.  You respect Fox Face.  The movie failed at giving us any reason to care one way or the other about most of these characters.  I didn’t hate movie Cato, and the only reason I disliked movie Clove was because of the gloating she did while threatening Katniss.  There wasn’t even enough there for me to get too much feeling out of Rue’s death, which always makes me cry when I read/listen to the book.  The movie told the story fine, it got all the details it needed to, but didn’t give me anything to feel.

So, that’s my first impressions on the movie itself.  Going to a movie on opening night had some perks that watching a movie at home or even when it’s been in the theater for weeks does not.  I don’t usually do that.  In fact the only time I even went on an opening weekend was for Deathly Hallows.  The audience laughed at odd times, like when Katniss and Peeta are about to eat the berries, for some reason that got laughter.  Applause at Katniss’ fire costume was expected. (Here’s a nitpick: they never explained the coal connection. People that hadn’t read the book didn’t know why Katniss was on fire, apart from it being something to “make her memorable”.)  Awws at Peeta’s confession of “crush” was ok.  And the 20ish girl next to me said “Eww!” when Peeta smeared ointment on Katniss’ bloody forehead.  But laughter during death scenes?  Kind of weirded me out a bit.

Do I recommend?  Yes.  The flaws are outnumbered by what I think the adaptation did right.  The fact that Suzanne Collins was co-writer of the script, and that she is a screenwriter anyway (albeit for children’s TV) certainly helped this book make a good transition to the silver screen.  Worth the $10 movie ticket.  No need for 3-D though.

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