I get stuck in these loops where I read the Harry Potter series over and over again, and it takes a friend whacking me directly in the face with a good new book/series in order to knock me from orbit. This happened most recently with The Hunger Games, and you can see my review of the books here. What you're in for now is my review of the film, which I have been highly anticipating for, well, not long compared to tons of other fans. Either way, the day finally came!
Warning to you all: this contains spoilers of the movie and book variety. So, proceed at your own risk.
Getting the obvious out of the way: it was incredibly well done. Bravo to every single person that had a hand in making it. The film was extremely accurate to the book, except where sacrifices for time or translation were necessary. The largest example comes in the form of Katniss's acquisition of the Mockingjay pin; in the book it's given to her by the mayor's daughter, and in the film she buys it at the Hob. Supplemental story information, such as her history with Peeta and the burnt bread, are told via flashbacks; information about the Hunger Games are explained in way of cut-aways to Caesar as though the theatre audience are watching the Games at home on their own TVs.
The casting here was absolutely superb. Not a single person felt out of place. Resemblances to Suzanne Collins' written word were so carefully picked out. Especially for the role of Katniss. The world has been singing her praises ever since she was cast, and I can only agree. Man, Jennifer Lawrence is fantastic. The actor portraying Peeta took a while to grow on me though.
At two hours and twenty-two minutes, this film is kind of a beast; it doesn't feel stretched though. There's a slow build up to the start of the Games, lending plenty of time for character building and a true sense of the nation of Panem. Speaking of which, the costumes for the Capital were just... incredible. I had seen promotional shots of Effie Trinket in all of her wild, pink glory, but that was nothing compared to the masses of individuals in crazy wigs, colored faces and truly outlandish outfits. Nothing was spared in the process of turning The Hunger Games from print to the silver screen.
There were some interesting framing and filming choices for the film; frequent close ups and 'handy cam' feels were constant through the whole thing. On a personal level I don't care for either of those techniques, but for The Hunger Games it was the right choice. The opening of the film was very shaky, giving an almost first person perspective; it was as though the audience were seeing things from Katniss's point of view, or simply as a way of demonstrating how terrified and shaky she was feeling. This sensation carried over big time to the opening scene of the Games; Haymitch warned that the cornucopia would be a massacre, and the film demonstrated that perfectly.
The close up shaky cam was in full force as tribute after tribute was violently slaughtered. The choice of direction here was deliberate to show the horrors of the Games, and also to demonstrate the point of view of Katniss. It's easy to feel as though the audience is there with her, and it is awful. A lot of the shots are extremely close, kind of dark, and move very quickly. I'm guessing that this was in order to maintain the PG-13 rating. Collins wrote a lot of graphic deaths into her series, and they wouldn't be well suited to a PG-13 film.
Emotional moments from the book were brought to new, even more upsetting life in the movie. Rue's death moved me to tears, and I really believe it was because of Lawrence's performance. The scene in the book made me sad, but it wasn't the same as what I felt in the theatre. The scene with the Tracker Jackers was too visceral for my taste, and Cato's scene with the Muttations was almost too horrible to watch. I was relieved that the scene in the movie was shorter than in the book.
I also have to comment on how brilliantly the build up was handled when it came to Katniss entering the arena. I couldn't tell you how hard my heart was beating, but it was hard. The mood, the cuts, the music, the embrace with Cinna: it was all so intense. Whoever handled the editing for the countdown deserves a damn medal; all of those kids waiting to run and murder? It was handled so well. Truly it was nearly too realistic for me, much more realistic than the book felt.
So again: freaking bravo to everyone involved. I can't think of any disappointments at this time, and I am joining the masses in being anxious for the next two films.
In dedication to my affection for the series, as well as to practice making marvelous paper sculpts, I fashioned this little piece: