If you have not seen or read “The Hunger Games” and wish to remain spoiler-free, please skip this post.
“The book is always better than the movie” is a bit of conventional wisdom that I find to be true almost without exception,* and such is the case with “The Hunger Games,” which I saw tonight with my friends Julia and Priya. This is not to suggest it is a bad movie – it is, in fact, really enjoyable as both a book adaptation and an adventure movie… but there were also things that were definitely better in my head than onscreen. It’s too late at night to write a real review, and I’m not much of a film critic anyway, so instead, I offer a random list of impressions:
- I thought the casting was, overall, really great, especially Stanley Tucci as Caesar Flickerman (hilarious), Donald Sutherland as President Snow (creeeeepy), and – much to my surprise – Lenny Kravitz as Cinna (gentle and empathetic). I also really liked Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss, and can’t for the life of me figure out why she was a controversial choice.
- The overall landscape – both in District 12 and in the Hunger Games arena – was much more lush than I anticipated. I was thinking things would look a bit more spare only 74 years after the massive war that led to the creation of the games.
- I was really curious as to how they would dramatize the long stretches during the games when Katniss is alone in the arena, with no one to talk to. The book, of course, fills this with her thoughts, but it’s not like rambling monologues would work on film. Cutting in scenes of the gamemakers at work, Flickerman’s hosting of the games on television, and scenes with President Snow worked perfectly.
- The grand procession before the games was, in my opinion, a bit of a disappointment. It held a little more closely to a classical gladiators-enter-the-coliseum aesthetic than I imagined. Based on the out-of-this-world descriptions of the capital, I had envisioned an open-air arena with a circular, elevated track, and really fast chariots. Katniss and Peeta’s fire costumes did look terrific, though.
- Though I know why it had to be left out (didn’t really move the plot), it was unfortunate to lose all the details about the districts and what each specializes in.
- I thought the film was very unclear as to Katniss’ motivations in regards to Peeta. In the book, it was pretty clear that, while she genuinely grew fond of him, most of their “relationship” was a contrivance on her part to survive the games. Julia, Priya, and I chatted about this a little on the way to the train, and I think we agreed this was in order to help set up the second movie.
- The muttations at the end of the games were so much less scary than in my head, where I had pictured them as some sort of upright, razor-clawed gazelle-like things.
Anyone else who’s seen it, feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.
* The exception, for me, being the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy. I found the books excruciating to read, but thought the movies were wonderful. Peter Jackson managed to cut out all the boring stuff, beef up some other parts, and shoot a stunningly gorgeous film, all at the same time. Good work!