Yes, I am one of those who braved the crowds of fanatic teenagers at a midnight showing of The Hunger Games last night. Are you kidding me? I may not be a girl in my teens anymore but I live for experiencing films in the mist of those who love them most - the dedicated fanboys (and girls) of comic books-turned-summer blockbusters like The Dark Knight, the gushy tween romantics pining for the next movie in the Twilight Saga (I’m on Team Edward, duh), the coalition of frat boys excited about their own possibilities of living out The Hangover. You can’t help but get an exhaustive amount of fandom at the first midnight show of a movie’s opening as this is where true fans congregate… and I have to admit that I am a fan of the concept of The Hunger Games, a book series that I have often referred to as a less sophisticated, young adult 1984 (consequently, this was the book I read right before The Hunger Games trilogy). I’ll also put it out there that I’m oddly proud of living in Atlanta which, based on which fan map you refer to, lies around the District 11/12 border. So, I went into the movie as someone who had read the books and was really intent on dissecting whether the screen version would capture the whole essence of my reading experience. All in all, I thought it had its faults, but what we are given is a solidly good, young adult, B-action movie experience with some heart. My Grade: B
SPOILERS. I have to say that I really loved the actually action in the arena from start to finish. I attribute this to the great casting choices for the young tributes who really shine in this film (my favorites being Rue who brought the sweet little Prim-substitute quality that was described in the book and Cato who with all his ruthlessness and bravado was the quintessential villian), the Katiness (Jennifer Lawrence)-Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) relationship (very sweet yet let’s hope a touch less creepy on Peeta’s part in the next one) as well as some thoughtful and down right cool special effects surrounding the gamemaker’s control of the games. What was lacking for me, however, was the development of the story that flanked the actually battle in the arena. I was most looking forward to the antics of Haymitch (Woody Harrelson in what I thought pre-movie as the perfect casting choice) but he wasn’t quite as boozy and incompetent as he should have been. It is her distrust of his ability to mentor and his motives that drives alot of the tension in the book. Sadly, the movie glosses over this and under-utilizes Harrelson. I also wanted to enjoy the closeness between Cinna (Lenny Kravitz) and Katniss, but in my opinion, the evolution of this relationship wasn’t there. Gale (Liam Hemsworth) was a non-issue in this one which was expected but surprisingly even less so that in the book; I’m sure, however, that we will revisit much of his character for the next one, Catching Fire. All in all though, I give the movie credit for inserting enough playful banter between the characters to humanize them - Elizabeth Banks (Effie) nailed all the great aspects of her naive, delusional character, Stanley Tucci (Ceasar) was melodramic without being over the top, and there were glimpses of Haymitch’s tongue-in-cheek jabs throughout the movie - as well as beginning to create a solid portrait of one of the best teenage action-movie heroines. As a fan of this tale of the dystrophic Panem, the movie wasn’t quite there for me as a strong representation of the tensions and characterizations of the source material. I don’t think that a person that never read the book would come to understand Katniss’ conflict between staying alive, pleasing the Hunger Game audience, and her growing feelings for both Gale and Peeta. However, the movie does offer many compelling moments that make watching it enjoyable.