Friday, March 23, 2012

Hunger Games Review

I and all the teens, plus their parents (thanks for the ride, mom and dad!) saw Hunger Games tonight. Verdict: Excellent, fantastic, phenomenal adaptation.

Bullet-point list of my favorite parts --


  • Lenny Kravitz as Cinna. I loved him so much. He was perfectly cast, and he is going to break my heart in the next movie.
  • Woody Harrelson as Hamitch. Marry me. Well, stop drinking first, then marry me.
  • Elizabeth Banks as Effie Trinket. Um, that's Jack Donaghy's wife! She was particularly excellent in the Reaping scene. So enthusiastic, so clueless.
  • Stanley Tucci was made for Caesar Flickerman.
  • Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson. Spot on.  Katniss and Peeta look exactly, exactly as I imagined them. And she is gorgeous, my goodness.
  • Donald Sutherland -- You, sir, scare me no matter what role you play. If I saw you walking down the street I would assume I was about to meet some type of twisted, cruel fate.
  • The most visually stunning parts of the movie were the beginning scenes in District 12. I think the film makers did an excellent job juxtaposing the poverty of the area with the pomp and richness of the visiting Capitol guests without over doing anything. 
  • There were parts of the arena that looked exactly, exactly as I imagined them. I love it when a book is translated the way you imagined. That doesn't happen often.
  • The nightly recaps inside the arena that were broadcast in the sky were very well done. I wasn't sure how that would work on film, or if the announcements would sound cheesy, but they pulled it off. 
  • In general, the directors were just very smart about the visual story telling.  I think when people adapt works of fantastical fiction what they often forget is that we are supposed to believe that the story is real. In their effort to portray the magic on screen they often lose the realness that authors try so hard to hook you into. Not so with this movie. I never felt like they were trying to make me believe that OMGOODNESS IT'S HUNGER GAMES!!!  It was what it was. In the book it says there was a cornucopia in the middle of a field, so there you go, there it is. The filming was clear and bright, no tricky lens work, no gauzy overlays -- it was what it was. You see everything the way you would see it if it was happening in real life. I appreciate the filmmakers giving the viewers that opportunity.
  • As I said, the visuals in District 12 are stunning. The tone for the film is set right off the bat. Love, loved the cinematography.
  • And here is my favorite part of the movie - There is little to no scoring for most of the film. I loved that. I think it really dropped you into the action because you experience everything the way the characters would. No playing on your emotions with sad, heart wrenching music (cough, Lost, cough), or big heroic sweeps, just silence. I also think this was a smart idea because it allowed a stronger focus to be placed on the songs of the Mockingjays, which is maybe not a crucial part of the three books, but it is a connecting factor, a common thread throughout.
  • The relationship between Katniss and Prim felt so real, as did the relationship between Katniss and her mother. There was always a part of Katniss that I felt I never got while I was reading the books, but something clicked as she was saying goodbye to her family, especially during her parting words with her mother. It just worked. 
  • Knowing now what I know about the Gale and Katniss, I think they did a good job of laying that foundation. PS -- I thought Collins handled their relationship so well in Mockingjay. That moment in the book when they come to grips with the parachute thing, what Gale realizes at that point about their relationship, wow. So sad, but I felt it was what would have happened, and what was there all along if you were looking for it.
  • The Capitol idiots. Only in the background, but completely believable. I could see our world being that world. We've done similar things before, right?  Panem et circenses, indeed. 

The funny thing is that I didn't read Mockingjay until this week even though I bought the book the day it was released. I just didn't want the story to end, and I didn't want to deal with more sadness. As I was watching the movie I remembered how incredibly sad this story is. Real people really die. Children murder children, teens murder teens. Panem is a horrible place. The people in the Capitol are vapid idiots who cheer on a yearly blood bath. President Snow is completely evil. Seeing the Hunger Games movie makes this very real. I wouldn't take anyone under the age of 12 to see this one. A tribute death shocks every time. The killing doesn't stop, but at the same time, it's never gruesome or over the top. I don't know how they struck that balance, but while I felt unsettled I never felt grossed out.

All in all, I totally loved it even though my heart is broken. The Rue thing will d.e.s.t.r.o.y. you. Katniss saying goodbye to Cinna before she rises up into the arena will crush your soul. You will be filled with hot, mad rage as you watch the kids prepare for the games and realize that it isn't a joke, they actually do this. But, somehow, I loved the experience. Well done, Hunger Games, well done.

And now I'll end on maybe a weird segue, but it's wrapped up in my Hunger Games experience, so here you go. 

Undoubtedly, as you read the books or watched the movies you said to yourself, 'I'm so glad this isn't real!' Well, as I was reading Mockingjay this week, and again while I was sitting in the theater tonight, another story kept coming to the forefront of my mind. A story about young, poor children separated from their families, dragged into mortal combat by the evil machinations of those in power, and forced to live lives that we could not possibly imagine were real. This story, like many others, is completely true. I found it in a book that I read in DC called A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah. 

Please find it at your library, or buy it online or from a bookstore. Beah is an excellent writer. This book rocked me to my core, and I don't say that lightly. There are children right now in this world living through unimaginable trials. Horror is a part of every day life for too many. We need to be aware of these stories, and find ways to help.