Yeah, so I am fickle, and after yesterday’s post, I have miraculously found the time to write an in-depth review of The Hunger Games.
This post is really for people who have read the whole series, or who have seen the film and don’t mind some heavy alluding to plotlines in the second two books. Spoiler talk…be warned.
I can’t really explain why I have an interest in young adult fiction, TV, and films. It probably stems from reading too much ONTD. So, obviously, I had to get on in on the whole Hunger Games craze.
I devoured the books in a week. They are a pretty undemanding read, which is great for a sleep deprived parent like myself. The first book had a decent female character, and some interesting themes on the exploitation of people for reality TVs sake. But ultimately, and rather predictably, it was the love triangle that spurred me to read the whole series.
By the third book, I was impressed. With the exploration of the themes, the tone, and the fact that the author didn’t confirm to any demands for a typical closure to a romantic tale. This story is bleak, which appeals to my naturally pessimistic tendencies.
Katniss is self-sufficient, the provider for her family (albeit not through choice), with some bad ass typically male skills – hunting and shooting. She is pretty handy at warfare, too. Refreshingly, she doesn’t need either male ‘love interest’ to validate herself. Neither are her ‘world’, nor do they routinely save her. In Peeta’s case, it is much the other way round (for once!). I suspect this is why he is usually perceived as a bit ‘wet’.
As a fellow reserved and aloof person, detached from the traditional perception of femininity as sweetness and immediate likeability, I felt a kindred spirit in this female protagonist.
So, yesterday when Sam announced that his football match was cancelled due to the weather, and he would be watching football on TV at home instead, I took that as my opportunity to escape to the cinema. (How expensive is the cinema these days?! Blimey.)
I had the pleasure of sitting next to a group of young Croydon boys: Attention Tributes, the previous rule-change has been revoked, and there can only be one victor. “Dat is a piss-take, man!”
The film had a very strong start. I thought the scenes of the reaping invoked a suitably uncomfortable concentration camp vibe, and the tone was spot on. Yes, I am an over-sensitive parent, but I really felt for the children and their families, helpless under this horrific dictatorship that celebrates gratuitous violence amongst children as young as twelve.
I was going to write that little Prim was a bit of a scene-stealer, but in fact, it is the interactions between Prim and Katniss that make the scene. Jennifer Lawrence, the actress who plays Katniss, was really impressive for the first half of the film, totally nailing the emotion and shock in every scene.
She does a good job in the second half too, doing very well to convey her confused emotions with facial expressions. But I couldn’t help but think that her internal conflict over Peeta and Gale would be lost on viewers who hadn’t read the book.
Does it matter that the ‘boy with the bread’ backstory was not properly explained? Did the audience know that she did not become romantically interested in Peeta, even by the end? (Or at least, she thought she wasn’t). Did the audience know that she was even thinking about Gale? Was it obvious that Katniss had realised that Peeta must have been genuine in his affections after his school-days reminiscing in the cave? Does it actually make a difference that the film audience are left to interpret these ambiguities for themselves?
Having read the book first, I can’t answer these questions, but perhaps some narration from Katniss would make for an improvement in any future films in the series.
The well-executed tone during the first half of the film was lost almost as soon as the tributes stepped off their platforms and entered the arena. Aside from Rue, and Cato’s little monologue at the end, the arena scenes turned into an action-film-typical battle between good and evil. A real shame, I feel moe could have been made of these scenes.
Some other thoughts:
I thought Cinna came across as a bit sleazy and as if he had a bit of a thing for Katniss, which is not a reading that I took from the book.
The boy who plays Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) got off to a shaky start. If you can call opening your mouth like a gaumless fish for the duration of the Reaping scenes ‘acting’. He warmed up during the scenes of the Games, but I didn’t really feel that there was much required of him in this film. It will be interesting to see if he finds the acting skills to portray some of the shit that goes down in the third book by the time it comes to making that film.
Can I say something that I still don’t get? The thing with the berries. Did Katniss actually plan to commit suicide with Peeta, or did she think all along that the gamemakers would save them both to avoid having no victor? This is such a big point in the storyline, so much results from it, and yet I’m still unsure of her actual intentions. I don’t feel that it is ever really explained.