Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Hunger Games (film review)

** This review contains spoilers for the book and the movie. **

Katniss Everdeen lives in poverty stricken District 12 with her sister Primrose and her mother. The Reaping is approaching fast and Primrose is frightened she will be chosen even though it will be the first time her name is in the drawing. When Prim's name is called, Katniss volunteers as tribute to take part in the Hunger Games, where 2 young people (boy and girl, aged 12 to 18) from each of the 12 districts fight to the death for prestige and goods for their district. Only one victor survives. Katniss is plunged into a completely different world where being memorable and likeable will mean her survival. She will do what it takes to survive, but will it be enough?

I read The Hunger Games a couple of years ago and it was never my favorite in the series. I felt it was a Battle Royale ripoff and the later books explored the dystopic world better and went beyond the obvious comparisons between the two works. This film made me forget all that. I was completely blown away and I really want to watch it about 20 more times. I haven't felt like this about a movie in a really long time. The ensemble cast was amazing, giving believable portrayal of characters I feel I know very well after reading 3 books about them. Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen acted wonderfully. She always had an air of sadness yet responsibility. She made the tough heroine believable and relatable because her emotions were close beneath the surface despite her hard exterior. Elizabeth Banks as Effie Trinket provided much needed humor that alleviated the emotion and drama of the story. The other most notable actors were Woody Harrelson as Haymitch (more comic relief and makes Katniss realize the gravity of the reality TV aspect) and Isabel Fuhrman as Clove (sociopath and career tribute that left me with a chill every time she was onscreen).

This film did 3 things extremely well that made it one of the best book to film transitions I've ever seen: capturing the emotions, humanizing the otherwise unlikeable characters, and working out timing. Two scenes in particular were very emotional for me.  The scene where Katniss volunteers as tribute for her sister was absolutely heartwrenching even though I had seen at least some of the scene hundreds of times in the past month from the commercials. The other scene that made me bawl like a baby was when Rue died. It was so sudden it took me a few moments for her death to process. I had cried at the scene in the book, but it's different seeing it on the screen. It was captured perfectly and there wasn't a dry eye in my theater. The other tributes were well humanized despite being portrayed as villains, especially the career tributes. Marvel at the end made a speech about how even he won he would be doomed because the Games are all he was good for. It showed that the other tributes aren't the real villains; President Snow and all those that perpetuate these sadistic Games are. I was surprised at how well the film flowed from scene to scene. About half of the film was dedicated to portraying the world, the assessing of the tributes, and the reality television aspect of the Games. The Games took up the latter half. I was never bored and I never thought any of the scenes ran too long. Although every single scene of the book wasn't included in the film, the essential scenes were preserved and given a satisfying amount of time.

The most important triumph of this film was that I was never distracted by analyzing each and every difference from the novel. I was completely immersed in the cruel and depressing world of The Hunger Games and wondered at the characters' capacity for hope in the face of a bleak totalitarian regime. The only drawback at all was the shaky cam got a little extreme at points. Usually I'm against it on principle, but it let the film keep a gritty edge without pushing the boundaries into rated R territory by showing graphic scenes of children killing each other. I did not consider this book the best in the series and this movie was simply amazing. I can't wait to see what great films will be made of Catching Fire and Mockingjay.

My rating: 10/10 fishmuffins

** side note**

I usually don't enjoy Taylor Swift's music as a whole, but Safe and Sound from the Hunger Games soundtrack is a beautiful and heartbreaking song.

No comments: