*ATTENTION: Contains spoilers, read at your own risk*
As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I was not a midnight viewer of The Hunger Games. I waited until my family could all see it together, which happened to be the Sunday afternoon following its release. They had all read the novel after my constant urging last spring. My parents read the entire trilogy while my brother is still on Catching Fire (though he plans to pick it up again as the semester is wrapping up.) I was in the middle of re-reading the novel when I saw it the first time. I re-read it slowly, so I could pay really close attention, reading some sections several times trying to absorb all the details. I finished the second reading last Thursday night. (Wednesday night I almost stayed up until I’d read the whole thing, as I felt the anxiety of the combat scenes like I was reading them for the first time, but I knew I’d be dragging at work the following day and that ultimately I know the outcome this time.) I had an unexpected day off from work on Friday, so I decided to go see the film for the second time. I went to a 930 AM showing at the theater, which was nice because it wasn’t crowded, and I could concentrate really easily. (I’m very much a morning person.) I was determined not to close my eyes, and peak through my fingers the second time. I was waiting until my second watch to try and compile some of my thoughts and opinions on the whole thing. This isn’t really a normal blog post for me, I did it more for the few friends who’d asked me so it would be organized and not a novel of an e-mail.
Okay, my first reaction? Awesome! I seriously wanted to see it a few more times as soon as we left the theater. Of course I had some qualms with the film, but for the most part I really enjoyed it. I don’t feel like you can get the full effect of the film without reading the novel though, so if you only saw the movie I strongly recommend you read the book. I had really high expectations, and I was not disappointed, even with my minor frustrations. I had to remind myself that Suzanne Collins herself was very pleased with the film, and she’s the one who created Panem and Katniss and the world of The Hunger Games, so who am I to be crazy about it? My senior year AP teacher told me that I was the most detail oriented reader she’d ever taught, so that’s probably part of why I’m kind of nutcase about these sorts of things. I know it’s really nit picky but I mean in general it’s been weeks of random thinking about it. Really this isn’t very organized and I promise I’m not ripping the movie apart. I know it can’t be perfect. I know it can’t be exactly the same. I was just honestly surprised by some of the omissions. Others are just observations. Obviously, I thought it was fabulous or I wouldn’t have gone twice. If they put it in our cheap movie theater, I’ll probably even go again. It was huge, it was powerful, emotional, suspenseful and intense. I was excited as soon as the music started. I laughed, I cried, I held my breath. I had dreams about it afterwards. Obviously, AWESOME.
- The words on the screen in the beginning reminded me of Star Wars, but I think it was a key addition, (especially for people in the theater who hadn’t read the book. Someone was like oh, man! If you missed the first thirty seconds you were screwed haha.)
- STRIKE ONE: Katniss got the Mockingjay pin from Greasy Sae in the Hob. Why not Madge? Why not show how District 12 has more lax rules than the others, and the Mayor buys strawberries from Katniss? Some people told me, oh I’m sure it’s because they had to introduce the Hob somehow and it would be too long and unnecessary to explain Madge. But really? This is so important later. The Mockingjay is such an important symbol, why distort the story behind it?
- I think the shaky shooting in the beginning was effective, but I’m also thankful it didn’t continue on throughout the entire film, I don’t think I could have handled it.
- Basically I was choking back tears from the beginning. Katniss singing to Prim? Then Gale carrying Prim off to her mother as she was distraught over Katniss volunteering? STRAIGHT TO THE HEART. So touching, and powerful. Portrayed wonderfully. The people of District 12 silently giving Katniss the symbol, after Effie called for their round of applause. Chills.
- I totally understand that you can’t just starve a bunch of teenagers, or close to teenagers and then film them. I’m aware. BUT I feel like if you didn’t read the book, then the idea of intense starvation, and desperation for food wasn’t really pressed upon you. The only reason Katniss had any meat on her bones was from her and Gale hunting. The film doesn’t really describe the tessera except for Katniss and Gale’s short exchange about how many times his name was entered this year, and then her pleading with Prim not to enter her name anymore times. I mean, Katniss did seem excited when Gale pulled out the bread and she exclaims “is this real,” but I think it’s hard to understand the significance behind that question. (I think this continues later too, as Katniss and Peeta aren’t devouring the food in the Capitol until they’re sick. Katniss isn’t rambling on about how much she loves the lamb stew. They aren’t salivating over the mountains of desserts on the table. Their eyes aren’t bugging out of their heads when they realize the dinners are course after course. IMPORTANT!!!! They’re called The Hunger Games for a reason.)
- Katniss’s flashbacks of Peeta. The boy with the bread. Just how I imagined they’d portray those scenes.
- The darkness of District 12 juxtaposed to the gaudiness of the Capitol? Spot on. At least they showed the minors. The big electric fence (obviously not turned on.) People gathering water. Prim’s cat (yet, not her goat.) The hob. The square.
- I wish they would have included the part where we’re not sure of Gale’s last words to Katniss when the Peace Keepers forced him to leave. That sparked my interest in the dynamic between them from the beginning.
- In contrast Katniss’s farewell to her mother. Brilliant. “DO NOT CRY!” etc. Just brilliant.
- Not to be too wishy, I’m completely aware it can’t be exactly the same but I also was really intrigued by how Mr.Mellark visited Katniss and brought her the cookies in the book. (We got a glimpse at her determination to keep soft emotion that would make her weak at bay, when she through the cookies out the window on the train too!) I want to know what the father who fell in love with Katniss Everdeen’s mom looks like.
- The peace keepers reminded me of the men who come to quarantine the house in E.T. which is basically what I had pictured, anyways.
- Peeta crying in the car as they transport him and Katniss, while Effie is rambling on? Oh my heart ached for him.
- Where are the avoxes?! I know this part may have been harder to explain since in the novel we’re actually inside Katniss’s thoughts, we know her history but come on. Katniss felt such guilt for how she handled the situation in the forest with the red-haired avox and her brother. Peeta covered for her when she accidently revealed that she knew her during a dinner. We’re even more aware of the Capitol’s wrath on disobedient citizens when we find out how the avoxes are tortured. She apologizes to the avox. When she returns from the games, the avox is there in her room! It also was a really important part of the story.
- One of my favorite parts of the novel was the device in the Capitol that upon leaving a shower, detangled/parted/combed your hair. I know this one is kind of ludicrous, but I just thought if I saw it in the movie it’d be one step closer to being created in real life. (This is a more laughable pet peeve okay?) As for high-tech stuff though, their “penthouse” was pretty tricked out, and that screen thing in Katniss’s room was just the kind of thing I’d have thought they would see.
- Okay, a more reasonable question. Remember in the book when Peeta and Katniss are on the roof and find out how there’s the force field that prevents them from jumping off? Yeah, that’s omitted, which okay I understand but ummm aren’t you going to have more explaining to do now later?
- Maybe they’re thinking when the game keeper said “she’s almost to the edge” that covered it? Which I will say, that whole view into the game controller room? Crazy! Who’d have thought? Just insanity. They’re creepy look of satisfaction on their faces as they drop obstacles like flaming fireballs into the arena? So creepy. Another perk of seeing the film outside of just Katniss’s perspective.
- My unruly imagination envisioned Peeta and Katniss’s flames at the opening ceremonies to be like fourteen feet high waving wildly above them. It’s a movie, be dramatic. I didn’t like how they made it Peeta’s idea for them to hold hands. That’s not how it went down…
- I was not disappointed in her red interview dress that flamed when she twirled though. Good job, Cinna.
- It’s unfortunate that we weren’t introduced to Haymitch at the Reaping where he falls drunkenly off the stage. A pure spectacle, and horror at the idea of being their mentor. (I was curious about Harrelson’s depiction of him because while reading I had pictured a round sloppy man, but Woody was fantastic!) When we did get to meet him on the train he wasn’t nearly as ridiculous as he was in the books (remember he was sloshing around in his own vomit?!) I mean hello, that was a huge jump from the man who couldn’t walk or talk straight to the one who was willing his mentees through the games. But the gnarly foot slamming into Peeta’s chest was pretty good, as was his indifference towards Katniss at their meetings, and then his comedic timing with the killing the placemat comment.
- CINNA. The gold eyeliner. His gentle voice. Oh, I just wanted to hug him. Lenny did a wonderful job.
- The Capitol citizens? Just as completely outrageous as my imagination conjured! The extravagant eyelashes, hair, sharp cosmetically engineered features? Just perfect. Disturbingly perfect.
- Effie. Ohh, Effie. As hard as it would be to play a character who is oblivious to the sadistic nature of the acts at hand, Elizabeth Banks did it flawlessly. From her pursed lips, her high pitched voice, her “manners!” Ahh. Just spectacular.
- Caesar Flickerman. His wild blue hair that matched his electric blue suit. The montage of pictures behind the stage that shows how he never seems to age. The way he interacted with the tributes in their interviews, playing up their strengths just as he was described. Fabulous. It just made me wish there was more he could do for them, of course. (My bleeding heart…)
- The other tributes. Fabulous casting. The callousness of Clove. The shimmering beauty of Glimmer. The menacing death machine behavior of Cato. Fox Face and her sly escapes. Thresh with his monstrous power. Sweet Rue in her angelic fairy-like flitting and gregarious smile and eager eyes.
- When Katniss shot the apple in the pig’s mouth? YES! Genius, display. “Thank you for your consideration.” SPOT ON.
- OH MY WORD. Can I just tell you I thought I might either throw up or pass out with anxiety as Katniss entered the tube before the games would begin? My parents started laughing at me, I’m sure I looked absurd but I felt the way I do when I’m freaking out in line to get on a roller coaster. (I hate roller coasters.) Overwhelmed with fear and anticipation. I was dying. Katniss’s departure from Cinna too? Just beautiful.
- The opening sequence of The Games? So intense. Kind of thankful no one was blown to smithereens from their capsule, I probably couldn’t have stomached it. The initial combat was intense enough as it was.
- UM SPEAKING OF! The Cornucopia? Excuse me? The book explicitly describes it as a golden horn. Smooth. That’s what makes it so crazy when Katniss and Peeta and Cato are scaling it at the final fight! How the heck are they dragging their ravaged bodies up this slippery horn? I think that design would’ve added to the intensity of the final fight scene. (I’ll elaborate on that.)
- Katniss scaling the trees? Awesome! She made that look totally believable. Well, crap. Jennifer Lawrence really made me believe she was Katniss. Totally awesome all around. She was fierce and strong. Capable. Relentless. Yet, she also showed her sweet side.
- The mentors do not deliver notes with the parachutes. The tributes have to use their own skills to decipher the gifts. Give them credit for their cleverness. (Like how in the book Katniss was so dehydrated and it took her what felt like forever to find water, but she knew Haymitch wasn’t sending it because he knew she was close.) This is another thing I’m guessing played out where we can SEE it, since we can’t hear Katniss’s thoughts.
- The tracker jackers were scary. Of course my brain imagined some golden heavy bug that was as unmistakable in its sight as it was in noise, but their swarming, and relentlessness and Glimmer’s distorted body lying lifeless with the bow stuck in her hand? Effective.
- Oh Rue. While I would have liked them to include more about Rue’s agriculture district like they did in the book, (it helped Katniss know more about plants she couldn’t remember from her mother, or that weren’t common in her district,) more detail on signal used to notify the end of a work day…the mint leaves. (If you didn’t know what they were, and missed Rue’s quick mention you might not have noticed.) Katniss and Rue had a longer bonding time in the books. We learned more about the atrocities in other districts that Katniss wasn’t familiar with. (The public beatings and executions.) How even though they tended the crops of their area, they weren’t allowed to eat the food they grew. How hungry they were. Yes, Rue devoured that meat, but we didn’t learn how it was the first time in her life she’d gotten to eat the whole leg.
- Rue’s death. What a powerful, powerful scene. It was done so tastefully with Katniss adorning her with the flowers. Just as I’d imagined. There was a grown man next to me in the theater crying silently, which really moved me. (I was crying too – of course.) Katniss’s pain and frustration and rage over her death as she cries and screams. Perfection.
- Even though we’re not in Katniss’s head, we get to see cool stuff like when Rue’s district started their revolt, after her death. And when they all gave her the symbol as they stood in the square watching what she did.
- Clove’s last attempt to kill Katniss was one of my most intense scenes I’ve ever read. The movie? YES! Definitely one of times in the first viewing I was peaking through my hands, terrified. Thresh’s pardon “for Rue”? OUCH, my heart!
- Haymitch did not have such wielding control over Crane’s actions. They made it look like it was easy to change his mind. That whole star crossed lovers act being expressed to him? What?!
- On the other hand, it was cool to see Haymitch mingle with the sponsors. And President Snow in his rose garden, (which Collins told us she thought was a cool element of the film as well.) Or President Snow’s private conversations with Cane as they talk about “containing the spark.”
- Character development. Personally, I wouldn’t have minded if the movie was two hours longer if it meant the character’s personalities were more developed. The acting was superb, but I wouldn’t have minded more strength in their stories. Make them more dimensional. Have the audience believe whole heartedly in their courage and fight. Peeta had a lot more to struggle through in the novel, and he was more brave than portrayed on the screen. If I was part of this whole Team Peeta/Gale debate, I would have thought they portrayed him more weakly than he deserved in the movie.
- My friend mentioned before I saw it the first time, that she thought the games were too fast. The first time I saw it, I was like what?! Because me sitting there paralyzed by anxiety, I was wondering how could they be longer? But then when I re-read the book, and remembered how long it seemed Katniss and Peeta were in the cave. (Or even how long it seemed before it was announced there could be two victors if they were from the same district! Which the second time I saw it, there was a row of girls a few behind me cheering and clapping when that happened.) Her slowly warming up to him, developing real feelings. Her affectionate actions out of her own desire, not the game. Peeta’s make up was amazing when he was hiding out with his bum leg in the ground. The first time I went to the movie, I stupidly drank three cups of coffee at brunch before. I waited as long as I could for a bathroom break, and then got up when Katniss and Peeta were in the cave, and Gale painfully watched them kiss. I pretty much ran to the restroom, for the quickest break in history, but I still missed most of Peeta’s speech about how long he’d fallen for Katniss, and the delivery of the pot of broth. Luckily, I got the entirety the second time around.
- The ending sequences of the film, I was filled with excitement (and already anticipation for Catching Fire and the desire to re-watch the first one like five more times,) but at the same time I was thinking wait what?! Because while the mutations were seriously freaky, they were lacking what made them so eerily haunting (and also another example of the extreme lengths the Capitol went to, to show their control and ability to evoke fear.) Their collars didn’t have the numbers of the tributes they represented, and their eyes didn’t frighteningly resemble the tributes. (Remember when Katniss realizes she’s staring into Glimmer’s green eyes? Sooo chilling.) In the books Cato came towards Katniss and Peeta before they realize about the dogs and they were alarmed at first thinking he was charging them until they realized he was running from something else. I liked that element of the story because it put Cato in a different light for me. Basically all of the scenes following did that. Obviously Katniss and Peeta wanted to stay alive, but there was this other element in the mix. I did like how Peeta still drew the X on Cato’s hand, and Cato had that powerful speech about spending his life training to kill and that being all he knew. I think that was a really good reflection of the society they’re living in, the sadness. The even more terrifying parts of this scene in the books were when Peeta’s leg is chomped on by the dogs, and Katniss has to make the tourniquet and she knows his leg isn’t going to make it. But also how agonizing Cato’s death was. Hours and hours of crying, pain, screaming, the dogs chewing away at his body. She described at as the worst night of her entire life (look at all she’d been through, that says a lot.) I know that would have been completely disturbing and depressing to have to witness even on screen (the drug out death of Cato,) but they wanted to hear that cannon go off so badly, as his screams were driving her to insanity, and they also pitied him. It was an even more merciful act for her to shoot her arrow at him in the book, than in the film, especially since she had to wait for so long to get a good shot in. The scenes with the berries. Great! But hello? They escape the arena with Peeta’s leg intact? You’re totally missing key elements. That’s part of what saves Katniss’s butt in the follow up interviews when everyone is seething with anger at her making them look foolish. The footage of her pounding on the glass window as she sees them operating on him. Her learning on camera, that he has a FAKE LEG! Hello. Major plot points. Plus, she curled up to him on the couch. They had two interviews. We had to watch how horrible the game makers are, forcing the victors to watch everything they just survived on-screen. The brutal murders of these people they were in the arena with. In the movie she’s sitting apart from Peeta all stiff and formal. Make us believe it. Make us see her fear and torment over what’s about to happen. Allow us to see heartbroken, upset Peeta, feeling betrayed by Katniss. How he holds her hand only for show because he’s so frustrated by her. (Though I will say I loved how when the train pulled in we see Gale in the crowd with proud Prim on his shoulders. They work together so well on-screen. Total appeal to my emotional core, which makes me really sad to imagine Mockingjay on screen.) So yeah, since he has a real leg and all I’m really curious to see where they go with that in the next films.
Honestly though, it was really the pin, the force field, the avoxes, and the final showdown at the horn that really irked me. The rest were just me idealizing an adaptation. Gary Ross did a really amazing job, and the cast was incredible. I can’t wait to see the casting choices for the rest of the films.
Obviously, these are just my ideas. I’m not looking to start any controversy with my critiques, I just wanted a place to write them all out, especially since I keep making mentions. I could probably write five million words and still be rambling on. Of course, I could think of a ton of more awesome stuff in it too.