Hark! How goes the Hunger Games?
It was good. Not eye-incineratingly awful, not the best thing since Inception. Not so bad it was laughable (like Twilight), not a movie for me to rave over. It was good enough for me to skip the sock-lint tenting and cancel my plane tickets to Mongolia though, so that’s a relief.
A few things kept it from living up to all the hype:
1) The set up– The main burden of this movie was the same I see in every first installment of a superhero movie series: the need to set up an origin story. The scene had to be set for the rest of the blockbuster franchise to come. Background and exposition slow down the beginning of the movie considerably and even when the pace picks up as they get to the Capitol, the amount of details necessary to build the world–details that could be intermixed among action and dialogue in the book–keep the movie from remaining tight and focused.
2) Shaky cam– I do understand the choice to use it during the initial fight at the very start of the games. The blurred action and quick cuts are definitely what kept the movie under the R rating at PG-13, which was needed to keep it within the fanbase’s viewing range. But at the very beginning of the movie when the storyline was slow and the action minimal, it made the beginning montage disorienting for no apparent reason.
3) The CGI– I know I’m going to get complaints about this, but honestly, to me it looked, well… cheap. The mutts and killer hornets were fine, but the fire wasn’t done very well. I know that realistic animation, (especially for fire or water) is both hard to do and expensive, but for a predicted opening weekend of over 100 mil, I think they could have put a little more into it. For me it was lame enough to squash what should have been not one, but two crowning moments of awesome.
4) Peeta– Or more precisely, Josh Hutcherson. He was a little, dare I say… flat.
He did pull off the interview with Caesar quite nicely, but his romantic scenes were a bit cheesy at best and very methodical. He was also quite a bit shorter than Jennifer Lawrence (Katniss), so my willing suspension of disbelief about him being a strong guy supposedly able to heft 100 lbs bags of flour was a bit less suspended than it should have been.
That’s not to say that the above points combine to equate a crappy movie. Au contraire! They are certainly weak chinks that need to be sown up or worked around in the next installment, but a good movie can survive, nay, thrive around missteps. (A great movie twists things around so that even the weak parts point back to the brilliance of it, but that’s another story). Now, what I did like:
1) The minor characters– Everyone from Effie to Cato filled in the lesser roles with gusto, and several–particularly Cinna and Caesar–were, I dare say, near-perfect in their portrayals.
2) Behind the scenes shots– Giving the audience a look outside the arena was a great way to expand on the story, and an option that simply wasn’t available in the 1st-person narrative of the book. The extra glimpses of President Snow, the gamemaker’s control room and even district 11 were a nice touch.
3) Two particular scenes: Rue’s and the Tracker-jackers’– Both stood out because of their intensity and cinematography. Kudos to Monsieur Ross who nailed both of these head on.
4) Jennifer Lawrence’s Katniss– Excellent, excellent casting choice. This was the one thing that held the movie together for me. Regardless of lame CGI or lackluster lines from her bread-baking counterpart, she was utterly believable as our tough heroine struggling to hold on to her humanity in the face of such cultured barbarism. Fears of blank-faced mouth-gaping and lip-twitching acting *ahem* went out the window a mere five minutes into the viewing and I cannot express how refreshing it is to see a competent female protagonist on the big screen.
5) Seneca Crane’s beard– Yes, I threw in an extra point. And is it worth it.
Photo from here.
The bottom line? A solid start to the series’ cinematic portrayal. In my opinion, the first book in the series is the best of the three book-wise, so this movie had a lot to live up to and was weighed down as such. I expect the next three movies (the last book is being split into two) to only go upwards in quality and will be seeing them when they arrive, as well as purchasing the Hunger Games when it comes out on DVD. If you haven’t seen it yet, I encourage you to go do so, even if you haven’t read the books.
Thanks for indulging me in my weeks of squee, we shall now return to our regularly scheduled programming.