Keeping score: The Hunger Games movie

Last night we had the opportunity to see a midnight showing of the new film “The Hunger Games” based on the novel of the same name by Suzanne Collins.
The Hunger Games was acceptable, as far as movie adaptations of novels go. It certainly suffered some loss of fidelity during the translation from page to screen but that is what you expect. Worth the price of admision? If you’re a fan of the books it is definitely worth your time to see how someone else imagined the world of Panem and the 12 districts. Other than that, wait for the DVD/Blu-Ray.

Was “Hunger Games” true to the book? Overall yes the film was true to the premise of the book, although there are several instances where things just aren’t aligned correctly. Immediately after the reaping in District 12, members of the crowd raise their hands in a three fingered salute. I assume that the villagers from District 12 are saluting Katniss Everdeen’s bravery for volunteering to taker her sister’s place as a tribute in the games. In the book this particular gesture is a custom from District 11 which becomes important later after the female tribute from district 11 is killed during the games. Townspeople from District 11 honor Katniss with this particular salute as thanks for her kindness to their tribute, Rue. This  small  defiant act of  insubordination is a prelude to the violent uprisings which later take place in the long-suffering districts of Panem.
The love triangle between Peeta, Katniss and Gale isn’t explained at all. The audience isn’t really told that Katniss’ affection for Peeta during the games is little more than theater. Readers know the details of this deception but those new to “The Games” probably won’t suspect the truth of their romance. Gale’s response to the nationally televised relationship is too subtle for audiences to understand without the subtext from the book.

Some have criticized the cinematography. I think the camera work was actually quite interesting. Changes in cinematic style are used to visually convey feelings which would have been very difficult to describe verbally. Early on, during the Reaping ceremony in District 12, the camera work is very loose. Scenes are shaky, over exposed, and cut from one camera to another quite unexpectedly. I found this visual language effective in creating a sense of confusion and lack of control. This scene reminds quite a lot of the home movies taken during the Kennedy assassination; very Zapruder-eque.

Similarly when Katniss is hallucinating after being stung by a venomous tracker-jacker (a genetically modified, weaponized wasp) the camera work changes again to reflect her state of altered perception. This time with nauseating shifts of focus and depth of field. Perhaps this kind of cinematography was too ambitious for a film aimed at teens. Maybe it was just used too inconsistently and too obviously BECAUSE it was aimed at teen; a demographic not exactly renown  for their attention to detail or powers of observation.

What about the casting; did the actors fit your perception of the characters? The casting was good with two profound exceptions:

Jennifer Lawrence was a poor choice for the role of Katniss Everdeen. I would have preferred a new talent who more fit the physical description of the character. Although she is convincing early on when the younger Everdeen sister is selected for the games, Lawrence delivers a stiff and largely unemotional performance.

Leny Kravitz was HORRIBLE as Cinna. His entire performance was nothing more than the kind of effeminate lisp often used mockingly by homophobes. I’m not kidding there’s really no more depth to his character. No notice is given to his choice of subdued wardrobe even while surrounded by the outlandish  costumes and cosmetics which are the prevailing trends in the capitol.

Donald Sutherland was a better choice for president Snow than anything I imagined while reading the book. Elizabeth Banks, Stanley Tucci, Wes Bentley, Liam Hemsworth, and Willow Shields also delivered excellent performances. The supporting cast actually makes up for the shortcomings of Lawrence and kravitz.

2 thoughts on “Keeping score: The Hunger Games movie”

  1. I think that Donald Sutherland was a poor choice for Snow, the better choice would have been Ralph Fiennes, clearly more snake-like than Sutherland. Come on, Voldemort as President Snow would have been pretty amazing!

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