Originally released: 2012
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Stanley Tucci, Donald Sutherland, Woody Harrelson, Lenny Kravitz (all of whom get way more screen time than Liam Hemsworth, so I refuse to mention him)
Directed by: Gary Ross
Based on: the novel of the same name
Yay I finally saw The Hunger Games.
I read the book (review here) around the time of the movie's release, and while I enjoyed it and thought it was very well-written, the only character I liked was Peeta Bread Boy. So cute! And he bakes! (I'm German, so, you know... I'm really into my baked goods.) However, I could see how the book could rock in movie format because of the action and the fact that the Games basically is a TV show, anyway.
Apparently I was mistaken about that.
It looks so real...
My impression in the first few minutes of the film was that they were trying way too hard to make it "artistic," and I think that's the underlying problem of the whole movie. There was a lot of energy put into the stylistic elements, and the story and characters suffered for it. As I mentioned earlier, Peeta was my favorite character in the book, but he literally does NOTHING here. My mom didn't even know what his name was after watching the film! The other major characters seemed really dialed down, too. If any actor can hit Crazy Drunk as a character trope out of the park, it's Woody Harrelson, but Haymitch came across as weirdly bourgeois.
Also, as a reader I always think there are certain scenes that you really want to see on the screen in a book-to-movie adaptation, and as long as the movie nails those scenes, they can fuck the entire rest of the book up and it's still okay. In The Hunger Games, the two scenes I really wanted to see were the entrance into the arena and the interview with Caesar Flickerman. If I was a director, I would have poured every cent of my budget necessary into making the arena entrance eye-seeringly awesome, but instead it looked SO FAKEY and unimpressive. Like really, you had a chance to set someone on fire and race through an arena on a chariot, and THAT'S what you came up with? Katniss and Peeta looked like they were farting into Bunsen burners. And helloooooo green screen.
As for the interview with Flickerman where Peeta Bread Boy professes his secret love for Katniss, I think I wanted to see that scene particularly for two reasons: one, that's when I started to like Peeta; and two, I love how awkward it is for Katniss. It's one of the few times in the book where she shows vulnerability. In the movie, though, because Katniss isn't in front of the whole arena and the cameras like she is in the book, we don't see any of her embarrassment. I wonder if someone who hadn't read the book would even know the point of some of the scenes in the movie, since the emotional impact of them on the characters is never clearly established.
Yes, Donald Sutherland, I will marry you. Wait, what?
The movie isn't horrible--I actually think overall it's okay. The casting is brilliant, especially with Jennifer Lawrence--who does a great job--and Amandla Stenberg, who played Rue. And I love Donald Sutherland as the President, because he's my old man crush. Also, the art direction is great in how it references WWII and the Roman empire in a way that feels original.
There were excellent scenes in The Hunger Games--I cried during the district tribute scene and thought that was very well-done--they just weren't the scenes I was interested in seeing. The film felt kind of mechanical, as if someone had invented an algorithm to figure out what story elements would be popular with teenagers. I think that's because the heart of the story, which is Katniss and Peeta's relationship, was lost to the filmmaker's desire to be all fancy with the camera and show us "advanced technology." Do I really care how the Games are being produced? No, I DO NOT, but thanks for taking us out of the action there.
Still, if that arena scene had been kick-ass I'd be willing forgive a lot in this movie.