Thursday, April 5, 2012

Movies: The Hunger Games

I actually saw this back at the end of March, but am only getting around to writing about it now.

Back when the Harry Potter novels were finishing up, there was much discussion in the press about what contemporary young-adult series could potentially step up and fill that vacuum. That's when I first heard about The Hunger Games.

Later, when plans for a film series based on the book trilogy were announced, I thought I should give the books a try. "Let's see what the kids are reading these days!". I started and finished off The Hunger Games the week before the film opened (I've since finished Catching Fire and have just started Mockingjay).

I like the books so far. I like the film. Solid acting, writing, and direction. It's also got some emotional heft to it, which I'll get into more in Spoiler Territory.

I should mention, however, that I'm not sure if I like the film more because I had read and enjoyed the book beforehand. Others who have seen the film and not read the book have said that they enjoyed it, and that it zipped along, so perhaps having previously read the book is a non-issue.

- Spoiler Territory -

As is usually the case, there are some changes from the book:
  • Here, Katniss gets the mockingjay pin (the one that adorns the film's poster) back from her younger sister Prim (after trading for it in The Hob and giving it to Prim), rather than as a gift from her sort-of-friend Madge, the daughter of the Mayor of District 12. It gives it more dramatic weight, and relieves the film of having to introduce yet another character. The sequel will have to deal with this, however, as certain key plot points take place in the Mayor's house (although Madge, so far in two books, hasn't really been more than a minor mention -- I imagine they'll just introduce the Mayor in the sequel and forego Madge entirely).
  • Rue's death and Katniss' reactions to it are well realized in the film, which also adds scenes showing the ensuing riots that happen in Rue's district as a result, foreshadowing events to come in the sequel, and enhancing the sympathetic impact of the whole sequence.
  • There are no Avoxes (Avoces?) in the film. A lot to explain in a film that's already 2½ hours, so it's understandable that they've been eliminated here. Perhaps they'll be in the sequel.
  • I thought the "booby-trap" sequence was somewhat clumsily executed in the film, compared to the book. Having two characters come on screen and say "there's a booby-trap! will they figure it out?" didn't work for me, at all.
  • The end of the film felt rushed, but I like how the film played out to that point, so I'm not sure what you would cut so that you could expand the ending. So, I can't really fault the film-makers there.

Worth a watch (and also, a read). I think that for the sequel, they'll need to spend a little more cash (and I say that realizing that it's weird to say that a production budget of $70 million USD is considered "low-budget" for an event film like this, but it is).

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