Monday, March 26, 2012

The Hunger Games, a (sort-of) (film) Review

In 1998, the bombing of the World Embassy in West-Northwest Centersville, East Serbia, shook the world to its core.  In retaliation, the Serbian government conscripted all males under the age of 64 into their armed forces and established a quarantine around the entire country, with men at arms standing shoulder-to-shoulder along the perimeter.  After a fortnight of fortnights had passed and no one really noticed, the people of WNWCEB decided to stage a coup d'état and soon all the beatniks and yuppies were crowding the streets.  People complained, loudly, and the world continued to ignore them.

Far away, in the country of Panem, the President decided to start a new kind of Olympics.  Every year he would call up two children from each of the Twelve Districts and invite them to the Capitol to represent their communities.  If they won, they got prizes, usually in the form of a new Game Boy Advance game and sometimes a batch of homemade cookies, baked by the President himself.  If they didn't win, then they died.  It was a brutal sort of Olympics the President thought of.  You see, these Olympics, which he dubbed the Hunger Games, weren't really anything like the classical Olympics of old, but were instead a twisted game he devised to keep the people of Panem held under his oppressive thumb.  He figured correctly that pitting children against other children in a battle to the death would create a country of unrest.  Because of the President's totalitarian rule, people's magazines stopped arriving on time (and soon at all), and if they couldn't get their magazines and newspapers then their understanding of the world around them dwindled.  (This was pre-y2k, so the Internet hadn't yet came into fruition.)  As their freedoms compressed, their fear of the Hunger Games increased, and every year when the President made his phone calls, great tragedy would drop on to each of the Districts.

Or something like that.

I first read The Hunger Games in May 2010 (my review).  I enjoyed it quite a bit, actually, as much as one can enjoy this sort of senselessness.  Not entirely an original idea, but Suzanne Collins made a book with characters I cared about.  Katniss Everdeen was a fascinating heroine, but she was stubborn and a teenager, too.  While I can only guess at the thought processes of a teenage girl, I felt that Collins conveyed the mindset very well.

Keisha & I went and watched the movie rendition of The Hunger Games last Friday night.  The cinema was packed, of course, but everyone quieted down as the movie started.  I had some reservations about the casting of the characters, but shortly after the start I was fine with most.  The exceptions were Gale and President Snow, who I felt was too handsomely cast and too slovenly cast, respectively, if that makes sense.  (It doesn't, as I tried to explain this to Keisha and wound up making a fool of myself.)

Additionally, I, like many others, had issues with the camera work in the film.  I told Keisha during the thing that I felt like I was getting sick.  It reminded me of those roller coaster ride things with screens.  The kind that the People of Serbia no longer get to enjoy because of the problems going on over there, what with the border being closed and the ruffians crowding up the place.

Keisha's main problem was all the time spent outside of the Arena, focused mostly on Seneca and the Game Room.  She thought this pulled away too much, and I agreed.  Maybe those scenes were added to break some of the tension up?  Maybe the director wanted to show off some special effects?  Whatever the case, the wife and I didn't much care for all the Game Room time.  (Honestly, pacing leading up to the Games was a bit off, too.)

The film was tough to watch, especially when the Games began.  I knew what kind of bloodbath was coming, but still yet, wow.  And the tracker jacker scene!  Oh my.  Let's not forget the muttations, either, and how horrible that had to have been.

As I've already said, I enjoyed the movie.  It's been a few years since I read the books, so I had forgotten some of the fine details.  From my recollection, the film was a worthy adaptation of the book, though it could have done better at building up the characters.  No doubt there will be the sequels made, and no doubt they will rake in the money.  I am most interested to see how Mockingjay comes along, considering the way we Americans tend to like our movies.

I am reasonably sure that I've lost my mind somewhere along the way.  The truth is out there, and so is the fiction.  I'm not sure what just happened...


Bill said...

I tried to get people together to go see the film and the only person interested said he needed a week so he could finish "reading" the audiobook.

Silly people!

leslie said...

I understand what you mean about Gale, and perhaps Snow who does look shabby next to Crane, especially. Gale among others looked too kempt and fed; anyway, he looked to sweet to be moody; I'm just glad they got Peeta right since he had to do more of the heavy emoting.

It did seem like the film was indecisive as to where to spend its time. I think the game room was to remind us who held the strings, and to witness their cold yet somewhat malicious glee. a juxtaposition to those suffering--I think that was the intention anyway. still, if they could have cut that for more time elsewhere?-I could get behind that. i mean, they already had cuts to Haymitch on the outside, And Crane w/ Snow.

glad it was enjoyable, and that you didn't get sick. I don't know about you, but I was stuck in the middle of the row.

like your lead-in, btw.

~L (omphaloskepsis)

ibeeeg said...

I had no issues with Gale. He was very much how I pictured him to be while reading. Not unkept enough? Maybe, but then neither was Katniss. The shaky camera did not bother me much, and I thought it added to the movie, but seems I am in the minority.. I also seem to be in the minority when it comes to the film being tough to watch. It was not difficult for me at all. Yes, I did not view fully during the opening arena scene, but it did not effect me too terrible. Wondering if this says something about me, but really, I do find it interesting because I am a very squeamish movie goer. I cannot handle violence what so ever in movies, nor fearful moments - I can read them but not view. The Hunger Games did not effect me that way. Maybe it is because I have visions of Battle Royale in my mind which is a heavy hitter compared to Hunger Games. Maybe too because I have an overall blah feeling to the series. I do not know. Also, I did not take issue with any of the pacing. I rather liked the time spent before the arena. For me, it all worked very well to my utter surprise. Then again, I am not much of an analyzer for books or movies.

Loved your opening. A great way to sum up what this story is about.

David Wagner said...

Fun, quirky review.

I read The Hunger Games some time last year or two, I don't quite recall... anyway, my Middle Daughter gobbled up the series, and counted down the minutes to the release of the movie - since they first announced the movie, way into last year. I mean, at any given time, she could tell you exactly how long until the movie was to release - plus a metric ton of details about the cast and any scrap of movie-related news that was released.

But the release came and went, and the next day, and the next, and she still hadn't seen it. My brother (her uncle John) told me he'd take her to see it today... I came home, and over dinner, remembered... "Hey, sweetie, I thought you were going to see the big movie today?" "Oh, yeah, we did."

Hmm... she hadn't mentioned it, and likely wouldn't have, if I hadn't brought it up. Odd, I thought, especially from her. Turns out they made too many changes to the story for her liking, so she left with a sort of "meh" attitude about it. She ended up telling me more about the movie previews she saw than the movie itself.

All that to say, once the hype wears off, I wonder if the consensus will fall somewhere within the walls of your review here. Maybe Middle Daughter burned herself out trying to keep the anticipation aflame for so long.

Anyway, sorry for the ramble, I'm in a mood. Thanks for the review. 'Twas a fun read.

Kristopher A. Denby said...

I'm working on a review of this also. And having a bit of trouble with it. I didn't read the novels, much to my wife's chagrin. But I found the movie startling, especially considering some of the legislation that has been passed in the last couple of months.

The Sound and Fury of Kristopher Denby

logankstewart said...

@Kris: Interesting. I'm curious to read your review now, considering you've not read the book and the legislation you speak of. I'll keep my eyes open.

Dustin Winslow said...

I found that the biggest strength of the novel was actually the biggest flaw of the film...character development! Collins does such a beautiful job of giving us a chance to learn about and get to know and care about these characters. You genuinely care about whether or not characters like Katniss, Peeta, and even little Rue live or die. Due to what felt like an overly rushed pace the film's screen-writers were not as successful developing that understanding or care for these characters. We hardly learn anything about Rue and barely scratch the surface of the very complicated romance between Peeta and Katniss. I suppose in the screenwriters' defense it does seem tough to take a novel entirely in first person POV and create and film in the Omniscient POV. I keep trying to think of how I would have done it more from Katniss' perspective much like the book but I simply cannot think of how it could have been done without poor use of narration by Katniss herself, which would have been a worse format for a film. I don't know just thought I would muse a bit about my thoughts of both film and novel which I just finished both today. I would give the novel a 9/10 and the film a 6/10.