Warning, spoilers ahead . . .
If you've been reading the blog for a while, you might remember me writing about the trilogy the Hunger Games, Catching Fire and Mockingjay. I really loved these books, the writing, the characterization, the way they commented on modern society without pandering.
A great read and one I can again recommend to everyone.
So of course I was really excited to see the film.
We waited till an 11am showing on a Wednesday morning, figuring it would be a good time to miss all the gazillions of teenage kids who couldn't wait for the film. And it was a perfect time, the theater was less than one third full, great for us.
I loved the opening look of the film, the desolation of District 12 was dismal, as it should be. That said, the film makers chose that annoying shaky hand held camera work. Nothing really shows up clearly, and this technique just distracts rather than emphasizing the faces and plight of the inhabitants.
But that passes pretty quickly, and we are introduced to Katniss. Jennifer Lawrence is dead-on, her look is perfect and she brings the intensity and gravitas that is necessary to portray a young woman in dire circumstances.
They move pretty quickly to the Reaping, where the Tributes for the annual Hunger Games are chosen. Rather than detailing the entire story, I'll just jump to my conclusions.
One of the things that made the books so captivating was that you were inside the head of Katniss. She's a young woman who has grown up poor, under an oppressive government, literally fighting for every scrap so she and her widowed Mother and sister can eat. The Games are a constant possibility for every child between the ages of 12 and 18, overshadowing every day of their lives.
When she volunteers as tribute (to spare her 12 year old sister) it's done out of love and desperation. After volunteering, she sees that life is not the same for everyone as it is in District 12. As a Tribute, she is shown life on the other side of the world and that will cloud the rest of her experiences.
The film does a good job of showing her preparation for the Game, and up to this point, I felt engaged in the film.
My problem came with the Game itself. For starters, they spent very little time with the other Tributes, meaning that you had zero emotional investment in if or when they die. And while the scenery is quite lovely, both Terry and I felt they failed to engage us with the paranoia of being in a situation where at any time, someone is ready to take you life. The action comes in spurts with long scenes of Katniss lurking in the beautiful forests (shot in North Carolina).
In the book, knowing what is happening in Katniss' head keeps you engaged. While I'm not sure how you would convey this via film, for me, it was the fatal weakness of the film. I just didn't feel it like I did in the books.
All of this is not to say I didn't enjoy the film, I was just disappointed. Perhaps my expectations were too high?
I'm beginning to think that perhaps the film genre is no longer the correct format for such stories. Game of Thrones comes to mind. A sprawling saga stretching across generations (and many books), it has been the beautifully brought to life with just the first book being represented by a full ten episodes. They are beautifully done, and after the first episodes, everyone is hungry for more.
I just wish they would have given the Hunger Games the same treatment. I think it deserved it.
That said, when Catching Fire comes out, we'll probably see it, hoping for a better representation of a story I really enjoyed.