I remember why I prefer to travel 40 minutes to a Cineworld cinema than regularly go to my local Bridlington town cinema. It is full of little kids aged 12-14 allowed out to the cinemas for the night in a big gaggle of annoyance.
I like my cinema experience to be quiet with the odd gasp, whisper or laugh not unnecessary chattering for large portions of the movie. It frustrates me so much and more often than not end up having a moan but they always ignore and carry on the little buggers.
I went to see the newest addition to the book-to-movie franchise The Hunger Games, and was squealing in anticipation as I took my seat and waited those painful minutes until the movie began.
For those unfamiliar with the young adult trilogy, The Hunger Games is the first book in the trilogy, set in a dystopian future it sees Katniss Everdeen a 16-year old girl volunteer to take her young sister’s place as tribute in the Capitol’s Hunger Games. An annual event that requires a boy and girl tribute aged 12-18 to be selected from each of the 12 Districts that surround the Capitol, and to take part in a fight to their deaths until one sole victor emerges. The Hunger Games are a reminder to each district that the Capitol can take their children and kill them in response to the uprisings that resulted in the loss of the thirteenth district.
The opening scenes were very different to the book, but worked from an audience point of view as it wove in the Capitol’s Head Gamemaker Seneca Crane who we don’t experience in the book as it is told from Katniss’ point of view. Seneca Crane, played by the brilliant Wes Bentley, is shown in extra scenes with President Snow, played by Donald Sutherland, and in the Games control room which again we don’t know about from the book, a really great addition to the story overall especially when you want to know how the arena is created and controlled.
I think Elizabeth Banks as guardian to the District 12 tributes Effie Trinket was near perfect, in fact she didn’t get nearly enough screen time but with so much story to get through I can see why this happened. Certain scenes were shortened purely to get the timeline moving, but part of the allure of the book are the descriptions of the food on the train that Katniss and her fellow tribute Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) encounter for the first time and how they react to it, it wasn’t really that clear.
Woody Harrelson as Haymitch Abernathy was great casting, and I was excited to see how he would play the alcoholic mentor to the tributes. I was disappointed with how much he changed Haymitch’s attitude towards Katniss and Peeta, and I think because so much was cut out in terms of scenes they share together in the first book you don’t see how he gradually warms to them rather than all of sudden changing his personality. (Don’t even get me started on the scene where he supposedly suggests the idea to Seneca Crane for two tributes to win because the audience wants a love story – this does not happen in the book. I’ll get over it)
There are plenty of people that are to credit for the fantastic look of the movie, the choices made how to portray the Capitol, the super fast train on the way there and of course the set of District 12, there is only so much you can imagine in your head and it was great for it to see it come alive. The people of the Capitol were absolutely spot on, exactly the way that Suzanne Collins described them in the book, bright, colourful, oddly weird, strange and a bit loopy. The way they see the Games as pure entertainment and barely consider the 24 children going to their deaths.
As we move through the training of Katniss and Peeta, we see more of the other tributes which I never really paid attention to in the books because I knew in the end they would have to die. But it was interesting to see them and how they played their characters, most notably Alexander Ludwig as the ‘career’ tribute Cato and the tiny delicate and adorable Rue played by Amandla Stenberg. Rue is a turning point in the Games for Katniss but once again it was edited down, this in particular annoyed me because her relationship with Rue and how it ends makes Katniss the Mockingjay (something that will be clear in the next movies) and part of why she hates the Capitol and President Snow so much.
I’m just going to be ridiculously picky here, but did anyone else notice Rue say, after she was shot with a spear and lay dying, “Did you blow up their food?”, how could she possibly know that the food could/would be blown up when Katniss herself didn’t even know until the last minute that the pile of food and supplies protected by the careers was rigged with mines? Error.
I’ll move along… A book will never be portrayed exactly how you want it on screen especially when the narration is in first person, ie. Katniss point of view and no one else’s. In certain places the movie benefits from it being a different point of view as we gain extra information, eg Seneca Crane and the control room. But what I miss from Katniss’ narration is her feelings, her personality, her conflict, and her responses, because they are not there nearly enough. Yes Jennifer Lawrence is an Oscar-nominated actress, but there is so much to Katniss I wonder why she skimped on her inner turmoil in regards to Peeta and Gale (Liam Hemsworth). Especially considering how the story and she progresses.
I think in some ways the film relied to heavily on people having read the books and knowing the background of the story, for example the state of District 12 the details of the uprisings only briefly shown in the propaganda at the beginning, how Peeta was always protecting Katniss when he was with the tributes, the unexplained ‘muttations’ they just looked like wolf/rabid dogs, rather than the creations of the Capitol.
(One more point the Mockingjay pin is one of the most important aspects of the books and you aren’t even told what they are or where they came from – a Mockingjay is the offspring of a Mockingbird and a Capitol muttation Jabberjay bird, the Jabberjay’s were a Capitol weapon that recorded conversations of the people within the Districts to seek out traitor’s etc but the people realised what they did and turned them against the Capitol and they were then released into the wild and mated with Mockingbird’s thus creating Mockingjay’s which couldn’t speak but could record note perfect songs if you sing to them.)
I’m going to be really excited to see how Catching Fire works as a movie, there is a lot more to the story and I think we only really touched up on it in The Hunger Games. So I implore those of you who have not read the books to do so, because you will gain a lot more detail and background information that you wouldn’t know about from the film.
I want to see the movie again, to watch it without judging it because I just can’t help it! Overall the movie is a thumbs up from me, and the £152 million it made in its opening weekend from domestic gross goes to prove that it was a thumbs up from everyone else.