It has been a while since I’ve actually seen a movie on opening day (it’s the huge crowds that usually deter me), but I had to make an exception and see The Hunger Games Friday night.
I was a late-comer to the series, only reading after hearing that they were making the movie for it (general pattern that happens for me, especially seeing how I don’t work at a library anymore). But it didn’t take me long to realize why the books are so popular. Besides the fact that the books are actually very well-written, Suzanne Collins fully develops her characters, especially the series’ heroine Katniss Everdeen. Not to mention it is very much a satirical look at the role of the media in today’s world.
So forward to watching the movie, I have to give a lot of credit to Gary Ross and the movie’s writers for creating such a great adaptation of the novel. By no means was it perfect, but tell me a movie adaptation that perfectly encapsulates its source material and creates an outstanding standalone movie (more on this in a different post). The movie does a very good job at establishing the groundwork for the story, swiftly going through the events leading up to the games itself. It is all done in a way that allows non-readers of the series to understand what was going on, just as any movie should do in setting up the plot.
What should be noted is that even though the film does a good job setting everything up for non-readers, the movie works a lot better for those who have read the book. The book is in the style of a first-person narrative, so we are reading the thoughts and conversations of Katniss. The reader knows the struggles that Katniss goes through when it comes to her feelings about her family, the Games, Gale, Peeta, and so on. The way it plays in the movie is a lot of long looks and glances, which all the actors as their respective characters do quite well, but you can’t fully comprehend the intention behind those looks unless you’ve read the books. Another issue with the movie is that it doesn’t flesh out the character of Rue and the relationship that develops between her and Katniss. Readers of the book know full well of the relationship and Katniss’ intention late in the movie to have a mini-funeral for Rue right in the middle of the Games. Because that relationship wasn’t established fully, non-readers might not have entirely gotten the purpose of the action, and the effect Rue had on Katniss.
Any other issues I had with the movie was really just me being nitpicky. For the fact that Katniss is from the Seam (the poorest part) of District 12, the costume department could’ve given her something a little more realistic to wear while hunting instead of a quite nice-looking leather jacket. She’s supposed to be poor, where did that leather jacket come from? In terms of the music, I appreciated the fact that despite having a soundtrack featuring many music artists, none of those songs were actually used until the credits. Using a score is much more effective in a movie like this. But one scene in particular stood out by the non-use of any music and that’s during the reaping when Prim’s name is called and Katniss instead volunteers herself as Tribute. I really would’ve thought they would use some music to play up the emotions of that scene, but they decided not to use any music which in the end felt a little odd to me. Again, I’m just being nitpicky.
Before I forget, I also must commend the casting. I think the creators did a really good job casting for the movie, no one seemed out of place and even if there were reservations at the beginning, all the actors came into their characters. Jennifer Lawrence does very well as our heroine Katniss, but I think Woody Harrelson and Lenny Kravitz as Haymitch and Cinna, respectively, were perfect in their roles. Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Stanley Tucci, Donald Sutherland, Elizabeth Banks, Wes Bentley, and newcomers Alexander Ludwig, Amandla Stenberg, and Willow Shields all deserve recognition for their roles in the movie as well.
All in all, a very good effort by the cast and crew. It’s truly a movie that can be appreciated by readers and non-readers alike. Also, unlike the Twilight series, this is a series that can reach a far greater demographic. And by the look of things, a lot of people agreed. With a $155 million opening weekend (according to Sunday estimates), The Hunger Games now has the distinction of having the third best opening weekend ever, behind only Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part II and The Dark Knight (and yes, besting all the opening weekends of the Twilight movies). We’ll see if this number holds up through the year as other highly anticipated movies like The Dark Knight Rises and The Hobbit get released, but one thing is for certain The Hunger Games is here to stay.