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Friday, March 23, 2012

Why The Hunger Games Was Like Reading the Book All Over Again.

After arriving home at 330am this morning I couldn’t sleep because I was thinking about how good The Hunger Games was. The Suzanne Collins adaptation is just that, an awesomely accurate and entertaining adaptation of the world-wide best seller.  I am not a big reader but fell in love with the famous trilogy about teenage kids forced to battle to the death in a live televised event. When novels are adapted to the big screen there are often complaints that material is left out and the novel doesn’t translate very well. I can honestly say that for the first time in my experience, a novel has been completely translated to film. The film was excellently casted and captured the true essence of the novel. The film for those of you who don’t know revolves around Katniss Everdeen, a strong independent young girl from District 12 who must face 23 other teens in a battle to the death called the Hunger Games. Included in the 23 competitors is her fellow District 12 citizen Peeta Mellark, the son of the baker who’s feelings for Katniss go much deeper than she expects. The novels and the film maintain a futuristic yet very brutal and gritty feel to them. There are times when the world Collins has created is whimsical and amusing and others when it is quite gruesome and heart-breaking. The film does an excellent job at balancing both. The Capital the filmmakers created brings out this whimsical and fun quality while the Games and views of the other Districts brings the brutality to life. Some may complain that the Capital is slightly over the top but that is what it is supposed to be.  The Capital is supposed to be a narcissistic society that is apathetic, indifferent and ignorantly unaware of the horrific lives in the 12 Districts. While the citizens of the Districts live dreary and hopeless lives, the people in the Capital satisfy themselves with any impulse they can imagine. So in my eyes, the over-the-top colors, costumes, and life styles portrayed in the film are quite accurate and portray Collins’ view of the Capital. In strong contrast, we have the dreadful Districts who’s existence is quite similar to that of slaves. They live as “free” people to work and survive on their own while giving in to every wish of the Capital. These citizens may live free but they live free and in fear of the Capital. This is the society that both the book and the novel present and the duality of these worlds existing at the same time is exactly why I loved the film. The scenes in the Capital  are both good fillers and provide some of the films humorous moments. Every film adaptation of a novel has those moments where things in the novel come to life and the audience is amazing and thrilled to see them;  the scenes in the Capital accomplish just that. Some of these moments included the interviews with Caesar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci), the awkward and funny interactions with Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks) and the training sessions with Seneca Crane (Wes Bentley) and Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson). But one scene in particular stole the show. The fan favorite scene of the “Girl on Fire” dress at the Tribute Parade was perfect in both its execution and impact.

What I truly loved most about the film was how it perfectly executed the Hunger Games. In my mind, the Games is a gritty and cruel event. The Games creates an environment in which there is no room for compassion; which makes Ms. Everdeen’s compassion all the more entertaining. We see her struggle with compassion for some of her fellow tributes including Peeta and Rue and hatred for the Career tributes (those who trained their entire lives to win the Games) like Cato (Alexander Ludwig) and Clove (Isabelle Fuhrman). What was most impressive of the films portrayal of the Games was that it really was vicious, gruesome and brutal when it needed to be. The film makers didn’t shy away from the gore, didn’t shy away from the scary reality of kids killing kids. I felt completely engrossed in the arena; I was there with Katniss as she struggles to survive. For these reasons I applaud the directors and producers, Bravo!

For those of you who have not read the books I don’t want to ruin anything for you but I highly recommend the books and the film. When reading, try to picture the characters and then check out the casting in the film because I thought it was quite excellent. The supporting roles held by Tucci, Banks and Harrelson were perfect. Both Haymich and Tucci really steal the show and bring the characters to life. The casting of the tributes is as accurate as I could have imagined; the Careers were large and in charge, with a vicious and arrogance about them and the remaining tributes were afraid yet ready to do what they needed to survive. 

But the real impressive accomplishment was the casting the films main stars; Peeta, Gale and Katniss. Gale who doesn’t play a large role in the first film is played by the strapping, strong but silent Liam Hemsworth. He doesn’t have enough face time to develop the character in this film but I can see the hatred and stubbornness in his face that Gale is well known for. Peeta is played by the understated Josh Hutcherson. Hutcherson plays the tribute with awkwardness, quietness, and strange confidence that I think Peeta exudes in the novels. In my eyes, Peeta comes off as extremely weak at times yet very confident at others. His strengths are understated and that is perhaps is greatest quality. Hutcherson accomplishes this to a tee.  I apologize if I am not describing my feelings well but I think that like the duality of the world Collins created, Peeta radiates the same duality. He seems strangely confident and at home in the Capital for the cameras yet seems so unsure of himself while trying to succeed in the arena and in his relationship with Katniss.

The real star and best casting was the fantastic lead role of Katniss played by Jennifer Lawrence. Katniss is not the most lovable and friendly girl you will meet but she is one of the most confident characters you will see.  She trusts in her skills and moral compass and believes she can survive anything.  As I read in one review of the film, “Lawrence reveals a physical and emotional grace that’s astonishing.” Lawrence’s acting was quite impressive and she delivers a real primal feeling to the film. I found myself imitating Katniss’ every emotion. When she cried, I felt sad; when she was angry; I wanted her to kill someone; and when she threw in a smile or two; I found myself smiling as well. Lawrence owns the film and portrays her character's unyielding beliefs until the very end. This is a career making performance.

The Hunger Games is a must see. The genius portrayal of the Dystopian world brings out every feeling of Collins’ original novel.  Combining “epic spectacle, yearning romance, and suspense”, the Hunger Games succeeds specifically because it attacks all these genres head on and does it taking names.
As the same review expresses, “My advice is to keep your eyes on Lawrence, who turns the movie into a victory by presenting a heroine propelled by principle instead of hooking up with the cutest boy. That's what makes Katniss revolutionary. May the odds be ever in her favor.”

Sex: Just some kissing
Violence: Very graphic violence, kids killing kids
Language: Nothing
Drugs: Nothing
Rated: PG-13
Run time: 142 minutes
Grade: 4.5 Stars

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