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If you plan on seeing The Hunger Games and haven't, or want to read the books and haven't... I wouldn't recommend reading any further. Fair warning. There will be spoilers. So don't start yapping when I divulge crucial parts of the book and movie, folks!
Seriously, I'm warning you...
Alright so here it goes. I saw The Hunger Games on Thursday evening/Friday morning at 12:02 AM. I'm getting too old for this crap. I don't know why I subject myself to these things still -- I'm usually in bed by 10:30 and to be honest, the next day at work, I felt like I had a hangover without consuming any alcohol at all. As my coworker put it, we had a "Hunger Games hangover."
What did you think? Not that I'm the end-all of movie reviews, but I give it a Solid A. Why you ask?
As far as cinema goes, it had everything: action, a bit of romance, and a heroine you grow to love and admire. The production value exceeds anything Twilight could ever think of doing -- even though I hate the comparisons, which I'll get to in a second. The acting was spectacular, but what else could you expect from Jennifer Lawrence? She's more than deserving of the fame and recognition she's getting, and it's a bit humbling when you realize this chick is only 21 years old.
I think I would have given it an A+ if I didn't read the books, because I'd have had nothing to compare it to. As per usual, books always trump the movies, because (I'm quoting myself like a d-bag) "Imagination always trumps movie magic." And it's true. We simply can't do things in real life that our imagination can conjure up. I went with two girls who didn't read the books and thought the movie was phenomenal -- one of the best they've seen. And I agree. It's hard to take a beloved book and make it that good. But as a die-hard reader and fan, it's near impossible not to be critical of the movie and wonder why things were not included and why others were.
High points of the movie:
- Lenny Kravitz was perfectly cast as Cinna. I saw an interview where he said he thought, in the books, Cinna was more flamboyant and they decided to play him more like a Yves Saint Laurent. Did any of you think that? I never thought Cinna was flamboyant. In fact, my mind envisioned Cinna as a fashion-forward, silent-type stylist that was more 'metrosexual' than anything. I don't know if I saw him as gay, or if that's what they were trying to portray in the movie, either. He reminded me of my gay friend Rocky. Rocky might fancy men and work at a salon, but he's not a diva and I'm pretty sure if we wasn't gay that we'd be married. Just a really chill dude who has a passion for style and beauty. That's how I saw Cinna and Lenny Kravitz was perfect casting.
- Woody Harrelson as Haymitch? Spot on. I will always love Woody (Kingpin, anyone?) but he emulated Haymitch perfectly. I mean, granted, I read these books in a frenzy the past few weeks for work, so I knew who was cast as who, but while I might have envisioned some characters a little differently, I think Woody is essentially Haymitch, just (hopefully) without a drinking problem.
- Rue. Ugh. The whole scene with the flowers and everything... if you're a big sister or a mom, that motherly instinct makes it impossible not to tear up!
- Elizabeth Banks blew my mind when I first saw her a few months ago -- she's unrecognizable -- but she brought Effie to life perfectly. Equally funny and somewhat annoying, she gave Effie the heart she needed.
The movie stayed true to the first book -- for the most part. Now, I know when you make a movie based off a book that's first person, things have to change, and you get cinematic freedom to adapt it for the big screen. I liked that they showed us what was going on behind the scenes, with the Gamemakers, and what people back in District 12 (Gale) and 11 were up to while the games were going on. But there were some parts of the movie that felt rushed. For instance, in the book, the train ride to the Capitol seemed like such a huge ordeal, and it seemed to go by in a flash in the movie. I wish they would have developed that a bit more, to set the tone for Peeta and Katniss' relationship a bit more.
On that note, the train is where Katniss gains all her weight for the games. She was practically starved in 12 and on the train she's gobbling down delicacy after delicacy. Which brings me to my next point: her body (Jennifer's) in this movie was nothing short of AMAZING. She looked super thin, but had beautiful curves too. It was insane. I looked at her and wondered, "I wonder how much she's not eating for this scene." But then there's always the critics, and more than a handful have pronounced her as "big boned," "large" and "too big for Peeta," especially for someone who's supposed to be acting like they've been starving in 12. Maybe if they had focused more on the train, the people would understand why she looked a bit "healthier" for the actual games. But still, it's infuriating that people are saying this about her. She's 5'7'' (from my understanding) and something like 120 pounds. I'm 120 pounds and I'm 5'5, which is about average. SHE'S A REALLY THIN GIRL. And frankly, she has a beautiful, curvy body that's being put to shame by critics who "don't believe" she was actually starving in District 12... Newsflash: if you're a curvy girl like myself, you know that when you lose weight, the places you have the curves and usually the last places to lose the weight. I could have a 20-inch waist and my hips would drop to maybe a 33 or 34. You still maintain the shape of your body even if you don't have the weight there.
Now that I've let that rant out... some other things:
The Hunger Games is not Twilight. It's actually well-written and it's not fantastical. Everything about these books could be true, and they do a great job of incorporating the third-world country aspect to modern-day living, taking the past, the present and the future and bottling them all up into one, fluid story. The messages are powerful: our obsession with other people's pain (and fame), with looks; the things the government probably does behind closed doors.
The Reaping kind of tore me up a bit -- especially when Gale picks up Prim and takes her to her mother while she's screaming; and when Peeta gets picked. The tears in his eyes. For a second I was like, "Why isn't anyone hugging or consoling him?" But then I thought back to the books, where the parents had to stand around as bystanders and watch as their child took the stage, after they'd been reaped. And then when he's crying on the way to the train with Katniss and Effie... you think he's crying because he's upset about being picked, for leaving his family, that he might die -- and then remember he's torn up because he's going to have to fight against Katniss.
I know a lot of people left the theater and were like "OMG IT WAS SO SO AMAZE OMG!" But I didn't leave the theater giddy. In fact, I felt anxious. My stomach was turning a bit. I mean, come on: the trilogy is morbid. A 16-year-old girl has to fight to stay alive among other 12 to 18-year-old children? She has to hunt for her family to provide food for the table? That's traumatizing, in my opinion. I know it's a book, but I also know that this isn't far from the truth for some people. It actually disturbed me. Many critics complained that not enough people felt this way, and that the movie didn't do its job. I think it did. The teeny-bopper fans will obviously obsess over Peeta and Gale, and aspire to be like Katniss, but this more mature audiences probably left with a sense of hollowness or even guilt for having witnessed it all.
Peeta seems to be a topic of conversation... how did you envision him? I never once saw him as a strapping young boy. In fact, I saw him just as he was on screen, with a bit more of a surfer boy vibe -- longer, bleached-blond hair. I think Josh Hutcherson did a great job though. Peeta is a emotional being. He's basically the "Come to Jesus" moment that everyone needs. He's not supposed to be a buff or as tall as Gale. And I think it was a good move to make Katniss a bit taller than him.
The cornucopia, the arena and all of that -- exactly as I pictured it. The tracker jacker scene, the fire, the medicine she puts on her burn. All of those things were spot-on, in my opinion. They really brought it all to life. And they did the same with the Capitol and its citizens.
And Stanley Tucci was a great Caesar Flickermann. Basically Ryan Seacrest on steroids.
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And now, the parts I was a bit disappointed with:
The cave scene. In the book, they were in there FOREVER! And there was so much more romance in the book -- the warming of the bodies in the sleeping bag, the endless kisses, Katniss poisoning him to head to the "feast." I was disappointed that all we got was one kiss, and that they left out the part where Peeta talks to Katniss about her father, and his dad having a crush on her mother. I think those were all crucial to how their relationship develops. In the book, I thought that Katniss may love him, even if she was playing parts up for the cameras; in the movie, I didn't think for a second that she had romantic feelings for him at all, except maybe when she hears the cannon and thinks Peeta has been killed. It'll be interesting to see how they play out their romance in the next movie. I think they might do some flashbacks to the first movie to play up the Peeta-Katniss love story. OR SOMETHING. Because I'm going to need this love story to do some justice to excuse the end of the series (which left a bad taste in my mouth). In fact, I had a REAL hard time enjoying Mockingjay. While I could barely put the first two books down, the only thing keeping me engaged in Mockingjay was that I had to know how it all ended. I feel like Suzanne Collins just wanted to finish the book and be done with it. So many parts were drawn out that didn't need to be, so by the end of the book, the parts that needed to be explained more, weren't. Ugh. So frustrating! I have like 6,000 questions that will never be answered. I will say, however, I do like the outcome of the trilogy, and she ended it the best way possible. I just needed her to be more thorough with other parts, more so than others.
Did anyone else laugh during the Girl on Fire scene? Not how I envisioned those costumes looking at all. In fact, it wasn't even close. I never thought they were flaming; it was more like they were engulfed in blue flames, creating an aura around them. While on the chariot, they looked like they were burning and trying to get away from the flames. It wasn't as powerful for me.
I brought this up to many people and they forgot it even happened, but I was waiting for Peeta's leg to get ripped to shreds. One of the most climatic moments in the book (for me) was when they're fighting Cato on the cornucopia and Peeta's leg is nearly mauled to death (except I think he can still stand on it or something bizarre), and then (after waiting a few hours) they put Cato out of his misery with the mutts and are about to take the berries together (which, on another note, I saw happening at the break of dawn, not during daylight). Instead, they get beamed up and they separate Katniss from Peeta. He's unconscious in the operating room and Katniss is screaming and banging on the glass and crying for him. I was waiting in anticipation for all that, and instead they both basically walk away from the arena unscathed, which seems nearly impossible. In the book, his leg has to be amputated! Plus, that part helps play up Katniss' "star-crossed lovers" act, and sets the tone for their interview with Caesar, when she's dressed as a child and sitting in Peeta's lap and all that. I guess it was too graphic for a PG-13 movie? Who knows where they'll take this, but Peeta's bum leg affects him in the next book so it'll be interesting to see how they play it all out.
Basically, I wanted more romance. Yeah yeah, I'm such a woman. Sue me. But when reading the first and second book, I couldn't put them down. I would lose sleep to read them. To see what would happen next. To see what absolutely wonderful thing Peeta would say to Katniss. How she would deal with Gale when she got home. There was little of that in the movie, so I hope for Catching Fire they pull out all the stops for the love triangle that's about to ensue.
All in all, however, it was a great movie! But while I'm a huge proponent of the magic a film can make you feel, it doesn't come close to the emotions books can stir up.