I had the chance to see the The Hunger Games last night. (Which, by the way, is the right way to do it. Instead of the crazy crowds I imagine were at the theatres this past weekend, there were maybe 20-25 people in the huge theatre I saw it in. On a Tuesday night. Just two days after the hordes. So much better than crowd fighting and line waiting.) I have to say, I really liked it. I had some trepidation about seeing it since I enjoyed reading the books so much, and I’m always reluctant to see something that has the potential to supersede the images I created while reading – after all, I like my ideas better – but that turned out not to be a problem. Overall, I thought it was a very good movie and a very good book adaptation. Story was clear, easily understood, and the dialogue, for the most part, was crisp and authentic, although, I attribute a lot of that to Suzanne Collins being a screenwriter by trade and participating in the adaptation. That always helps the cause.
But I really liked the edgy feel and appearance to it, particularly the close-ups and the use of the handheld camera. I thought it fit well with the tone of the story. I thought Jennifer Lawrence did a really good job, too. And I liked Josh Hutcherson as Peeta. And to their credit, somewhat ironically, I liked that I didn’t feel much chemistry between them, except at the rare, intended moments. My sister, who hasn’t read the books, went with me and also noted that she did feel much chemistry between them but still wanted them to end up together, and I thought to myself, ‘They nailed it!’
There were a couple things I didn’t think they nailed, just to throw in my hat amongst all the critics. I’ll try to stick to the film aspect because I know I could easily comment about the things that were changed or added to the movie, but those are common in book adaptations. Things change. It’s just part of the game. I will say, briefly that I do wish the movie didn’t glaze over a few key moments: Rue’ relationship with Katniss (it made her death less impactful for me), Katniss and Peeta’s time in the cave, and their decision to eat the nightlock. I wish they had spent more time on those, but, hey the movie was already 2.5 hours long. They couldn’t add too much more. And as far as additions, which probably took away from the above moments, I didn’t mind the inclusion of the riot scene and the expanded version of Seneca. Including the riot speaks to the progression of the story and creates an interest in seeing the next film, and the use of Seneca as a conduit for backstory and exposition was effective, I thought. He was able to convey necessary information nicely woven into the story in an interesting way.
As for the film, I think, naturally, a lot of people will compare it to Harry Potter. If I do that, then, for me, it lacked what I can only describe as a shot-in-the-woods/reeds-specialness-quality. (And I think that’s an official term.) My favorite scene in all the Harry Potter films, from a purely artistic stand point, is the scene in HP 5 when they’re running through the weeds outside the Burrow fighting the Death Eaters. The editing is exceptional, in my humble opinion, as is the editing throughout most of that movie. It brings such a sharp urgency to the scene, and I felt the look of The Hunger Games overall lacked that polished, yet frenzied fine-tuned quality, if that makes sense.
The only other thing that didn’t work for me in the movie was the love triangle. That probably has something to do with the fact that it isn’t my favorite part of the books. But, watching the movie, I was reminded how hard love can be to recreate in art. It’s such an intimate, unique experience for people that I think it’s hard to represent in a way that speaks to a broad audience without coming off as corny or cheesy, which the “love” scenes in this movie did to me. And to bring up HP again, it reminded me how I always appreciated that J.K left the love story to the subplot. I realize I’m probably alone in this, as the love story seems to draw in many, many readers, but, for me, the movie was more effective when it was dealing with other emotions, such as the concept of hope vs. fear.
So, to sum up – it’s really good movie in my opinion, and an even better book-to-movie adaptation. I highly recommend.