Friday, April 13, 2012
Hungry for the Games
I have to confess to being a bit leery of the movie, after hearing several "meh" reviews of it. I'm quite a fan of the books, and the societal/class commentary contained within them. If, somehow, despite constant media bombardment, you're still unfamiliar with the books, the basis is (and here I click over and steal from Wikipedia):
"The Hunger Games takes place in a nation known as Panem after the destruction of North America by some unknown apocalyptic event. Panem consists of a wealthy Capitol and twelve surrounding, poorer districts under the Capitol's hegemony. District 12, where the book begins, is located in the coal-rich region that was formerly Appalachia.
As punishment for a previous rebellion against the Capitol in which a 13th district was destroyed, one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18 from each district are selected by annual lottery to participate in the Hunger Games, an event in which the participants (or "tributes") must fight in an outdoor arena controlled by the Capitol, until only one remains. The story is narrated by 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen, a girl from District 12 who volunteers for the 74th annual Hunger Games in place of her younger sister, Primrose. Also selected from District 12 is Peeta Mellark, a baker's son whom Katniss knows from school"
I wish I could say I had different review than the "meh" one, sadly. Or not... actually, I liked the movie for the most part, though certain aspects of it left me wanting.
First and foremost, the editing and filming style were annoying. I can forgive the fact that they don't delve too deeply into the story, but the pacing of the movie was just off. It was like the Games on Xanax. You KNOW you're supposed to feel something, but you're not quite getting there.
The camera-work. Well, let me just say that if I had a Time Machine, I'd quite happily go back and remove from the gene pool whomever it was that introduced the "shake the camera around and maybe that'll produce tension" style. Seriously. Like, for real. It frequently makes it to where I literally can't watch a movie, as I'm getting nauseous. And enough with the extreme close-up constantly, as well.
Having earlier said that I can understand not going too deep into the backstory, a critical element of the books is classism, leaving it out of the movie altogether, or only *barely* mentioning it, does the series an extreme disservice, as that's THE ENTIRE THEME OF THE BOOKS. (okay, maybe not the entire theme, but a main one) When you "get" that children are putting their names into the drawing for tributes more than once in order to possibly win food/wealth for their families, it brings that class/poverty/social-strati thing right to the forefront. The kids from well-off families aren't in there but once. Yes, it's mentioned in passing, but it's not explained.
The sanitized violence... that's a big one for me, though, again, I understand why it was done that way for the movie as far as ratings. I don't feel that it needed to be gory, by any means, but cleaning it up again removes the point(s) of the books. It IS horrific, what they're being forced to do. Making it less so, well, makes it less so. The books made me cringe and at times set them aside for a moment, not because they were gross or explicit (they're not) but because you still grasp how tragic/horrifying it is. Only a few scenes in the movie made me realize I had stopped breathing... one of which didn't even involve any fighting. (that one being the final 30 seconds before the Games began)
On the plus side!
Jennifer Lawrence. She nailed it. I'm not sure what it says about her as a person, but she's good at playing the emotionally-detached young woman. (See: her character in Winters Bone, as well as her role as Mystique in X-Men: First Class) She manages an excellent likeable, but somewhat removed, personality. She has a heart, but there are walls around it, and lord help you if you fuck with her.
Effie Trinket. Oh, Effie. I'm not sure why, since I've never had aspirations to live in a bustling metropolis, nor for glamour, exactly the opposite in fact... but she was one of my favorite side characters, both in the books and in the movie.
And visually, she was spot-on... especially at The Reaping, where she somehow combined clueless and menacing, which is perfect for where she's at in the first book.
While my dislikes may seem to outweigh my likes, that really isn't the case. I *did* enjoy it, I just had a few issues with it. Which is entirely to be expected when dealing with excellent source material. It did exceptionally well in the theatres, which means the next ones will be made (yes, there was some doubt)... and they've already started looking for a different director, the short-list for which is quite intriguing, which can (probably) only help them as a franchise. And as they go further into the books, they'll have to start bringing up and dealing with some of the larger themes dealt with in the books.
So, if you haven't seen it, go see it.... but read the books first. Or don't! My friend Jen saw it, not having read the books, and loved it... but once she heard some of the discussions about it, and realized what she was missing, is now going to read the books.
your choice, I suppose!