So, I went to see The Hunger Games again, with a friend who has never even heard of them. So, when I wasn’t feeling delighted over our wonderfully quiet audience, I was trying to put myself into the shoes of someone who had never read the books. It’s an interesting point of view, one that could almost bring you to tears, but as I know the whole story, there were no tears from me. That doesn’t mean I wasn’t tempted, a time or two, though.
[SPOILERS AHEAD! If you haven’t seen the film, and don’t want to know anything up front, stop NOW!]
When I first saw the trailers for The Hunger Games, I was a little leery over whether Jennifer Lawrence could really pull off Katniss. But the later ones began to convince, while they suggested that they had picked the perfect Peeta Mellark, in Josh Hutcherson. Gale, however, is another story.
A second viewing of the movie tells me that though Liam Hemsworth will do his best, he doesn’t LOOK like Gale. Not that he even has a huge part in the movie, but the minute he arrives on-screen, he’s not being quiet and he’s joking around with Katniss. He’s too big, with loads of boyish charm in that face. My impression of Gale is that he should be more like Katniss, smaller, quieter, darker, and self-contained. Yes, he only opens up with those that he’s closest to, so he only should’ve opened up his character, a bit at a time.
The movie introduced the friendship between the two, and then only showed Gale again, later, in order to make you feel sorry for him, as Katniss and Peeta become closer. As the Gale and Katniss are still only friends, I think they should have shown Gale, looking after Prim and her mother, rather than just having him look sorry for himself, left out of the romance.
Aside from this one character issue (and I’m sure Gale will grown on me, by the next movie), I think the movie makers did a great job with their story. Primrose was perfectly played, as the little girl who everyone wants to protect, with her sister mothering her, because her mother is too broken and separate from things, to do so herself.
I don’t know if it was the “shaky cam” technique I was seeing in the film, but they seemed to be trying to show things from Katniss’ point of view, so sometimes things were blurry and confused, just like it would be for her, as she tries to take in what she’s done. Her volunteering in her sister’s place was the right thing to do, but she’s still in shock, once she realizes she’s really being torn away from her family as a sacrifice.
Effie Trinket’s performance at the Reaping is quite something, her pink toned outfit showing up garishly against the plain, simple garments of the District 12 residents. She seems oblivious to what the Capitol is really doing to its countrymen, despite the “wonderful film” that they show, with President Snow making the Hunger Games sound like a good thing. The implication is that the sacrifice of the Tributes will contribute to “togetherness”, while it’s really just telling Panem that they can’t rebel, because the Capitol has the power to kill their children.
I don’t think Haymitch Abernathy was quite such a dapper dog, in the books, but I think Woody Harrelson’s interpretation of him is great. He looks like a drunken sot, which to a degree, he is, but there’s more hidden under it. He pulls no punches with the kids, pokes fun at Effie, and keeps a sense of humor about him (I love his reactions to Katniss’ shooting the apple from the pig’s mouth). But you must remember, this man has lived with YEARS of knowing that he was the only survivor from his own Hunger Games. There’s a weight of death and remembrance that has turned him into what he is. He was a victim, just like them, once. And maybe he still is… but now he has a say in what happens to these new tributes.
The Capitol residents are quite shocking, just as they are in the book, with their lives being devoted to haute couture and pleasures of every kind. I liked the one scene which shows Haymitch gazing at the father that gifts his child with a gold plastic sword, so the children run around, making believe that death is a game. And it shows what the Games really are, to the Capitol residents. Just a game, a movie, made for their entertainment, with no thought to the real-life consequences, or that real people are dying in the arena.
I loved Cinna, and at the moment, I think Katniss has more chemistry with him than she has with Peeta. But in way, that’s correct. Because Cinna knows what she’s about to face, and doesn’t hide from the facts, so she can be real with him. Nothing romantic between them, but no need to hide. With Peeta, she hasn’t learned to be real with him, and they haven’t yet become romantically involved. Even at the end of the movie, Katniss is putting on a show, and it hasn’t become real for her… the romance, I mean. Oh, it is for Peeta, but not for her. And like President Snow, who isn’t convinced that their “love” is real, we aren’t either.
But you have to remember, here’s a difference between a movie and a book. If you’ve read the books, you know what’s going on in Katniss’ head, from the very first day. You know when she makes the choice to kiss Peeta, deliberately putting on a show, in order to save Peeta’s life. But in the movie, we can’t get inside her head, so we’re less prepared for the jump to kisses and cuddles. For those who say they don’t have much chemistry yet, I think that’s the way it’s supposed to be. On Katniss’ side, she and Peeta have only known each other personally, for about a month.
On Peeta’s side, of course, he’s been in love with her since he was a little girl. My first obnoxious movie audience laughed at the idea of him watching her walk home from school, every day, as if he were some kind of stalker. No, he was a boy in love, from the age of 10 or 12, onward. He just watched her from a distance, and once, he gave her bread when she was starving. And in Hutcherson’s acting, I saw him accept her attentions, like a man that’s drowning, as his injuries are overcoming him, and he wants to believe that she’s finally beginning to care for him. Because even in this instance, Peeta wants to believe the best in others, while Katniss tends to see the pessimistic or realistic side of things.
Before I forget, Stanley Tucci’s Caesar Flickerman is just awesome. Flickerman is supposed to be a bit cheesy, immensely likeable, seemingly oblivious to the harsher elements of the games, and yet the tributes can still get along with him. He’s someone they’ve been seeing on television, since they were children, even more so than Effie Trinket, in District Twelve. They are blinded to the realities of life, but in a way, the residents of Panem still have a sort-of affection for them.
I don’t remember much about Seneca Crane, from the book, but I found myself liking his character, as he oversees things as Games Coordinator. He’s a fascinating mixture of someone who forgets that death is real and terrible, and yet, when he changes the rules for the “star-crossed lovers”, he’s looking to human nature, and how they cheer for the underdogs. And he even admits to liking an underdog, which makes Sutherland’s President Snow all the more terrifying.
Compared to having a liking for the dapper Crane, with his strange and wonderful beard, President Snow looks like a white-haired patriarch, who cares only for his roses. But underneath his Santa Claus exterior, he’s like a venomous snake, waiting to bite. Crane still has some humanity in him, which is why I liked him, but you cringe and feel sorry for him, realizing he’s been put in a ring with the viper that is Snow. And in the end, though Crane doesn’t know it yet, the viper will take him down… perhaps because of that last piece of humanity that Crane possessed.
As the Games begin, though we’ve had a glimpse of the cruelty of the Career Tributes, you don’t really get the full idea, until the blood bath at the Cornucopia. The director makes it seems like we’re viewing it from Katniss’ viewpoint, with things being blurry, fast, and confusing. You see sprays of blood, but you don’t see the teens actually being killed. But you know they’re dead.
And from Katniss’ position, up a tree, you really see that the Career Tributes only see death as another game. It was reminiscent of The Lord of the Flies, where the boys went feral, after being on the island for some time. These kids, both boys and girls, have been raised to kill, find torture and slaughter to be humorous, and have no remorse, unless faced with their own deaths. Listening to Clove jokingly mimic the tribute they have just killed… it’s horrifying. A culture of death, immortalized for their world to watch, on television.
Rue is adorable and smart, so from the first time you see her, you want her to make it, somehow. And you get a little glimpse of Thresh’s smile, when they’re in the training room, and Rue has stolen Cato’s knife. You remember that Thresh once knew how to laugh and smile, even when he’s rescuing Katniss from Clove, and kills her with his bare hands. But Rue, like Prim, is another little girl that Katniss is doing her best to protect. When Marvel kills Rue, it’s like having Prim taken from her, except this time, Katniss is unable to sacrifice herself to save her. So, the best she can do is sing her to sleep, and show her the respect that the Capitol has never given her.
When Katniss picks a bouquet of Queen Anne’s Lace to leave with Rue, I was reminded that this story is supposed to be set in my country, in a future time. Those flower are wildflowers that you can find all over the East Coast of America, and my own aunt used them in her wedding bouquet. Seeing the flowers, a piece of home, made Katniss’ loss seem even more real.
I think I’ve already covered enough of Katniss and Peeta’s relationship, so I won’t go over it again. At the end, I knew the monsters were coming, but I was debating whether they would really incorporate the faces of the dead tributes into them. Thankfully, they didn’t. Or if they did, it was too fast-moving for me to catch. But this section kept going back and forth between the game coordinators, as they prepared to put the beasts into the arena. Just like the forest fire that almost killed Katniss, earlier, it showed me again how they only see this as a game. Crane may be likeable, but he’s still fascinated with the look of the beasts that are engineered to be instruments of a painful, drawn-out death. Likeability only goes so far.
And at the end, I’m not sure I heard right, but I think Cato seems to finally realize that this game of death really isn’t a GAME, because he knows that death is waiting for him. Even with a final showdown with his competition, amidst his bloody injuries, he sees destruction staring him in the face, finally. But he still takes a swing at defeating it. At the last, you almost feel sorry for him, as he comes to this realization, and then Katniss gives him mercy, when the monsters won’t. And by monsters, I meant the dog-beasts (I’ve forgotten their names from the books), but the title “monster” could just as easily apply to the people in the Capitol, who show no mercy to these teenagers.
So, thinking about that, I’m curious to see how they’ll portray the next Game Coordinator, Plutarch Heavensbee, as he’s the one preparing to help the Districts rebel against the Capitol. I’m guessing he’ll have some more humanity than Crane, but he still has to disguise it from President Snow and his cronies.
I look forward to what they’ll do with the next film. The characters were all well-acted, and there’s room for growth in all of them. I want to see the “romance” between Peeta and Katniss develop, as we know that it begins as an act, and somewhere along the way, Katniss no longer knows whether it’s real or not. Even having read the book, I can see any number of ways they could portray this on film, and I’m ready to see how they do it. How about you?
Meanwhile, if you haven’t read the books before seeing the first movie, then get to it, before the next one comes out!