Saturday, April 7, 2012

"May The Odds Be Ever in Your Favor"

North America in the future. Post uprising. Famished districts. Two pieces of paper.  Girl on Fire.  24 Tributes. Arena. Savage Killings. Love Blossoming.  Television Broadcast. Mockingjay. Gale. Peeta. Katniss.  This is THE HUNGER GAMES!

The Hunger Games was the #1 film that people were looking forward to in 2012.  The Hunger Games book series are one of the most addicting novels that I have ever read, EVER!!!  I literally could not put the book down, I kept telling myself "okay its midnight, only one more chapter"--5 chapters later I would still be reading.  I read the first two books in three days which is remarkable for me because I'm a really slow reader or I just fall asleep while I read.  But these novels engaged me throughout the whole story and they wanted me to read more and learn more about the characters and the games!

So, as soon as I found out there was going to be a Hunger Games film--I FREAKED OUT--I was like a kid on Christmas.  I went online and researched (yes researched) who was going to the main characters, who was directing, and first of all how long was I going to have to wait to see the film on the big screen.  March 23, 2012 was the date that I had to wait and I was counting down the days till I could see Katniss, the girl on fire, and the other 23 tributes fight to the death in an arena.

The story of the Hunger Games pushes the envelope in story-telling.   Suzanne Collins, the writer of the trilogy, wasn't afraid to create a story revolved around kids killing other kids for a nations entertainment.  But the novels "graphicness" left me wondering how they were going to bring it to the big screen.  Were they going to censor the film due to the studio possibly catering toward a younger demographic?  Or were they going to go over the top and lose a large group of people who do not enjoy overt violence. With the film though, they would have to find a happy medium between not enough violence and overt violence to appease all of the book and film fans.  The director, Gary Ross however found the happy medium between the two too well.  At some points in the film, when there was going to be an overtly violent scene, Ross played around with the camera angles and the speed that they moved the camera at and also the speed the actors moved at so you could not really tell how violent the scene truly was.  The opening area scene by the cornucopia 12 tributes die as the 24 tributes rush toward the cornucopia in order to gain weapons, food, and other survival tools; but you would never really have known that 12 had died until later on when they're deaths were announced.  I don't know if its my sadistic side of myself coming out but I wanted to see the blood shed and the violence that I read and weirdly enjoyed in the book.  This wasn't the only problem I found in the film.  But first I want to clarify something, when I say problem I don't mean it like the film was awful, I mean it as just bothersome.

Most of my other problems I found were in the selection of what details be left in or out of the film.  The director chose to leave out highly important information like the whole back story of Katniss's father, Rue's District sending Katniss bread and many other story lines I thought were important to the story itself.

With Katniss's father's story, it was only briefly mentioned in the film during a dream sequence, but if you had not read the book this scene may have been confusing.  The confusing part is that the director shows a bunch of coal miners heading down into the mines and then an explosion.  In District 12 the profession of the men was coal mining so therefore Katniss's father was a coal miner, but in this scene we are not give any knowledge that one of those men was her father.  It was just a very confusing scene that basically if you blinked you would have missed it because it was very, very quick.

With District 11-Rue's District-in the film are not given any information about the important role they play.  When Rue dies, Katniss takes it very hard because of the relationship they had formed and the comparison the Rue has to Katniss's sister Prim.  At her death instead of just leaving her there Katniss places flowers around her body before the game keepers take her away, giving her a sort of funeral.  Because of the kindness that she showed, when Katniss is starving of hunger, District 11 sends her bread thanking her for her kindness.  During the film, the only admiration that you see District 11 give is they put there three fingers in the air.  When they showed District 11 what I ABSOLUTELY hated was that they put a lower third saying that we are in District 11.  NO! Get that out of there, okay I get it people who haven't read the book won't know that that's District 11 but we do.  Us Hunger Games book fans know that is District 11.  The lower third looked out of place since it was the first one since the beginning of the novel and it was unnecessary.  Ross you have already catered to people by lowering the violence but please stop dumbing it down.  It makes me afraid that they are doing this in this film because the books just get more confusing as you get into the 2nd and 3rd one so if they are dumbing it down for people now, oh vey!

The last thing that really bugged me was the relationship between Katniss and Haymitch.  In the book, Haymitch seems to have no interest in Katniss as one of his tributes.  They have a hate hate relationship that seems to work in the end but brings up lots of arguments and disagreements.  Haymitch holds out on sending things to Katniss in the games to teach her lessons and to think of different things that can keep her alive.  In the film this hate hate relationship is non existent.  Haymitch and Katniss are civil to one another and Katniss is sent things, like medicine and food, in what seems like right away.  We don't hear the inner-monologues that we read in the book of Katniss wondering why she is not being send food and other supplies.  We don't hear the questions like: What is Haymitch doing other there, is he wanting Peeta to win instead of me, and is he trying to kill me here?  The inner monologue was important in understand Katniss and her thought process which we do not get at all in the film.

Even with the storyline flaws, I was still able to enjoy the film.  I thought the actor selection was great.  I was highly surprised by Elizabeth Banks as Effie Trinket and Lenny Kravitz as Cinna.  Elizabeth Banks I'm used to seeing in comedies like Zack and Miri Make a Porno and not in dramatic roles where she could not rely solely on stupid comedy.  Banks, however played the role of Effie Trinket with perfection.  She captured the quirkiness of Effie and the strangeness of her since she is from the Capital and everyone from the Capital is a little off in the minds of everyone else.  I thought her make-up and costumes were amazing because they were over the top but just exactly how I imagined her to look like.  Elizabeth Banks surprised me and I hope she does reprise her role in the next film because I thought she did a great job and defiantly surprised me in how well she did.

Lenny Kravitz was another real surprise for me since I did not see that choice in actor coming at all.  When I think of Lenny Kravitz I think of him singing and playing the guitar, but in the film he played the stylist for Katniss and Peeta.  And once again I thought this ended up being a great choice and role placement because Lenny Kravitz was able to bring the coolness that he has from being a musician and brought it to the role of Cinna.  He played a passionate friend to Katniss and Peeta that was there to help them out.  When imagining the person of Cinna from what I read in the book I didn't know what to really think of but now looking back at Kravitz that's exactly what I can think of of Cinna looking like.

I didn't want to spend that much time on the main characters like Katniss, Peeta, and Gale because honestly its the same as any other critique of the film: Jennifer Lawrence brought beauty to her amazing performance as Katniss, Josh Hutcherson even though younger than what people expected for the role did a good job, and Liam Hemsworth personifies Gales masculinity to a T.

When I saw the film in theaters at the midnight showing of the film I saw it at our theaters IMAX screen and it was worth every penny.  The movie has amazing panning shots of nature and the other surroundings that the story takes place in and with the IMAX high definition screen it made it look even more spectacular.  The establishing shots were great because you were able to see what the Panem (what the country is called now) really looks like.  But any who seeing the movie in IMAX is recommended, even though you will be out $15 dollars!

So go see The Hunger Games because it was great movie but I defiantly recommend reading the books first because you will truly understand and appreciate the movie a lot more if you do so.  And hopefully you as much as I am will be looking forward to the 75th Hunger Games and remember, "May the Odds Be Ever in Your Favor".


  1. Hey Luce,
    I really enjoyed this review of "Hunger Games!" I think you are spot on with your description of the superb acting displayed in this film—Lenny Kravitz completely blew me away as Cinna, which I really was NOT expecting, and Jennifer Lawrence was, of course, incredible. I like how you said she brought “beauty” to the role, because it’s very true. Lawrence had a way of showing not only Katniss’s physical beauty but also her inner beauty and intelligence, which is not an easy feat when the inner-monologue aspect of Katniss’s character was taken out of the equation.
    What I really liked, though, was how you pointed out the film techniques Gary Ross used to detract from the violence described in the novel. I disagree, however, that Ross did this to “cater” to anyone. I think this was a wise move on Ross’s part for one main reason: It enabled this film to reach its intended target-audience.
    When thirteen-year-olds read the “Hunger Games” novel, the only way they can “see” the violence described in the books is by assembling the words on the page to form images in their heads. This is a starkly different way of encountering a scene of mass murder than actually seeing the violence occur on the big screen. In a way, thirteen-year-old kids may unknowingly censoring the images the words conjure in their heads because they possibly have never witnessed such violence before—and considering the extent of the violence in the books, I’d hope they have not—but viewing these same images on a screen takes away whatever self-censorship may be involved with this process. There is no need for imagination in this case because the actions are already being displayed.
    By incorporating the shaky-camera movements and sped-up footage, I wouldn’t say that Ross is detracting the violence from the story or even dumbing it down for people who have not read the books—he’s making the film more accessible to the target audience of the “Hunger Games” novels, which falls in the young adult genre (typically 13—17 year olds). Since there is such a different experience involved with reading violence and actually seeing it, this move of toning down the violence on the screen was necessary in order to reach the large fan demographic loyal to the books who reside in the 13 to 17 year range.
    While it may feel like the director was glazing it over, it is actually a wise move on his part; how drastically different would the story have been if ALL of the elements he left out of the novel were incorporated into the film? While I personally am a huge fan of faithful interpretations of books in films, I don’t think I would have enjoyed this film as much if it was three-and-a-half hours long. Further, if “Hunger Games” had not gotten a PG-13 rating, would the ticket sales of this third-weekend-in a row blockbuster be as astounding, missing that large chunk of the fan base was not permitted to see the movie by themselves? Most certainly not. Finally, how bad would the outcry from this demographic of teenagers have been if the film was rated R? Answer: Really freaking bad. Riot worthy, most likely.
    So, yes, it’s tempting to be disappointed by the diminished depth of the violence that is essential to the drama of the novel, but I found, like you did, that this was only a minor problem with the film, and one that I was able to look past once I thought about the reasons behind the move.
    In conclusion, thanks for the great review!

  2. Lucy, I really enjoyed reading your blog about The Hunger Games. I can definitely relate to the addictive nature of the books. I remember beginning to read them towards the end of my Summer vacation before sophomore year, and I couldn’t put them down. I read The Hunger Games and Catching Fire in a week. But it took me a little longer to read Mockingjay because it was around the time that the Fall semester began and schoolwork got in the way. The first book was my favorite, but I loved all of them.
    I haven’t had the chance to see the movie yet, but I definitely plan to see it within the next week or two. I liked how you didn’t give too much away in your review, and was very descriptive with what your expectations were and the overall story of The Hunger Games.

    I enjoyed you talking about some of the supporting characters, and not just the leads. However, one thing that would make your great review even stronger is if you talked more about Jennifer Lawrence and her role as Katniss. Lawrence was in an indie film in 2010 called Winter’s Bone, where she played a girl who grew up in a poverty-stricken family in the Ozarks. Although I haven’t seen The Hunger Games just yet, I could tell by the trailers that there can be some comparisons drawn between Jennifer Lawrence’s role in Winter’s Bone and her role in The Hunger Games, since Katniss grows up in the poorest of Panem’s 12 districts.

    Your review has made me want to see the movie even more because of all the information you provided. I understand that it won’t be exactly like the book, but with the atmosphere that the movie seems to provide and the wonderful casting choices, I’m very much looking forward to seeing this movie as soon as I can.