I have been a little, OK a lot obsessed with The Hunger Games trilogy, well last week the first of the series hit the big screen and I wasn’t disappointed. There is a lot of pressure on the movie, not only from Hollywood executives wanting another teen-adult hit on their hands to follow in the footsteps of Harry Potter and Twilight, but mainly from the fans of the book hoping that the film will stay true to the best-seller.
If you are new to the world of The Hunger Games let me give you a quick re-cap without giving too much away. The trilogy written by Suzanne Collins, is set in a dystopian future in a nation known as Panem, which is divided into 12 districts, that each year has to send one boy and one girl chosen by a lottery to compete in a lethal televised contest to the death, with only one victor. The idea of the big brother inspired games was created as a punishment to the districts for a rebellious uprising, and more than that as entertainment for the Capital’s eccentric residents.
Directed by Gary Ross, the film keeps very true to the book, centring around Katniss Everdeen, a survivor from the poverty-stricken coal mining District 12, after she volunteers for her little sister Prim at the reaping. It is the movie’s scary realism, which is emphasis in the use of a lot of handheld camera work, that completely draws you in from the first act, however, the building of tension with the use of quick disorienting cuts, that are sometimes blurry can be a little distracting.
As well as keeping to the tone of the books, what made this movie shine for me had to be the casting, Jennifer Lawrence was amazing as the strong female heroine, she portrayed Katniss really well showing just the right mix of vulnerability and ruthlessness. Another standout performance came from the under-used Woody Harrelson, who plays Haymitch, a previous Hunger Games champion and mentor to Katniss and Peeta. I loved his interpretation of the character, which was kind of like a washed-up alcoholic boy band member, with his long hair, I just wish we had seen more of the rapport between Haymitch and Katniss.
Two other surprising roles in the film are Stanley Tucci’s portrayal of chat show host Caesar, who really does add some light-hearted moments, as well as a narrative not included in the book of the behind-the-scenes action in the Capital, which is further helped by games master Seneca, played by Wes Bentley who really impressed me. I really did enjoy the addition of the studio, Caesar’s commentary, and the scenes between President Snow, played by Donald Sutherland and Seneca did pull the back-story of Panem through nicely.
Unlike the book where the expansive characters flowed nicely, they all seemed a little crammed into the film. This led to not much of Gale and Katniss, or the romance/friendship between Peeta and Katniss, or even between her and Cinna, which was one of the relationships I was looking forward to seeing in the film. Lenny Kravitz generally plays himself, well with a bit of gold eyeliner, but I generally left wanting more of him from every scene he was in.
Overall the film is enjoyable, I didn’t leave feeling like they’d destroyed the tone of the books, just that I wanted more. As I had read the book I found that the two and a half hours flew by, however I went with my boyfriend who hadn’t read them and he was bored, he said too much pre-games and not enough action, whereas I wanted more before.
One thing that did translate well, except maybe for Katniss’ fire dress on the chariot, which used CGI, was the fashions of the book. I loved everything about Effie Trinket’s crazy haute couture wardrobe that was completely over the top, and it is amazing how unrecognisable Elizabeth Banks is in the role.
The first things I thought after I came out of the film was that I enjoyed it, that I was sad Madge didn’t make it into the final cut seriously Greasy Sae giving Katniss the Mockingjay Pin wasn’t quite the same, but most of all I left looking forward to The Hunger Games – Catching Fire. Granted it hasn’t been confirmed they are making a second film but after raking in more than $155 at the US box office in its opening weekend I am sure an announcement is coming soon!!!
The Hunger Games, 12A is out now on general release.