Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Film Review: The Hunger Games


About the film
The Hunger Games is a 2012 dystopian/ action film that is based on the book of the same name by Suzanne Collins. It was released at the cinema on 23rd March and has a run time of 142 minutes. The Hunger Games is rated 12A due to scenes of a violent nature. The film also holds the number three spot for films making the most money at the box office during opening weekend, coming behind The Dark Knight and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2.
Plot
In a dystopian future, the totalitarian nation of Panem is divided between 12 districts and the Capitol. Each year two young representatives from each district are selected by lottery to participate in The Hunger Games. Part entertainment, part brutal retribution for a past rebellion, the televised games are broadcast throughout Panem. The 24 participants are forced to eliminate their competitors while the citizens of Panem are required to watch. When 16-year-old Katniss's young sister, Prim, is selected as District 12's female representative, Katniss volunteers to take her place. She and her male counterpart Peeta, are pitted against bigger, stronger representatives who have trained for this their whole lives.
What I thought
As a massive fan of The Hunger Games book series, one of my favourites that I read last year, the film was one of my most anticipated of this year. I do have a bit of a problem with film adaptations that take a lot out in comparison with the book so I was a little nervous about seeing this one as well.
For the most part, the film stays pretty true to the book. Obviously, time is not unlimited so some changes did have to be made and some parts of the book did have to be cut out. I’m not so picky to think that every single little detail should have been included but there were also some pretty major changes. For instance, Katniss and her mockingjay pin have a completely different meaning in the book. The way that Katniss acquires the pin does not happen the same way at all and events leading up to these parts are missed out completely, even cutting out characters at the same time. While this doesn’t seem like that much of a big deal, the mockingjay pin is pretty significant in the book and it doesn’t seem to have the same effect in the film.
To begin with, I wasn’t very sure with Jennifer Lawrence as lead girl, Katniss. I hadn’t seen her in too much beforehand so I had no idea if she could pull off such a role. From the very beginning though, I loved her. Even though Katniss is a teenager, the opening scenes show that she has a hard family life in a district that isn’t doing too well, meaning she has had to grow up pretty fast. Lawrence brings a strength and maturity to the role that shadows the character in the book perfectly. At the same time, Lawrence is also able to show emotion and passion extremely well, especially in on screen scenes with little sister Primrose. After Katniss volunteers, her character really begins to shine. Lawrence shows that Katniss isn’t happy at all about the games in general but is also prepared to do what it takes to win and go home to her family. Overall, I was very pleased with Jennifer Lawrence playing Katniss and I think that she will just keep on getting better as we get to see the other films in the series.
As soon as I saw who was cast as Peeta, I was not happy at all. No offence meant to Josh Hutcherson who plays the character but he just isn’t pretty or good looking enough. I know that this is really shallow but I have my reasons. For those who have read the books, you will know that there is a choice to be made eventually and Peeta would not be my choice at all if it were Josh Hutcherson. Still, Hutcherson does ok in his role as Peeta. While he isn’t as demanding on screen compared with Lawrence, he does give the character the traits that he is supposed to have. He’s sweet and caring and very thoughtful but you don’t get to see enough of this. While the story is mostly about Katniss, the budding romance between the two is a really big deal and I don’t think that this was explored enough. Katniss goes from barely knowing or caring about Peeta to kisses and cuddles. If their friendship/ time together had been explained properly, like it is in the book, it would have been a lot more believable. Instead, it wasn’t very believable at all because they didn’t get enough time together on screen.
The secondary characters are sadly far more amazing than both of the leading roles. Stanley Tucci as TV personality Caesar Flickerman was genius casting and I loved him completely. He is eccentric and crazy but he also obviously cares a lot about the ‘games’ and the tributes. Donald Sutherland as President Coriolanus Snow was also a great choice. Although he isn’t around too much, I could see how amazing he is going to be in later films. Lenny Kravitz as Cinna was one of my favourite casting choices. Being in charge of Katniss’ appearance and costume design, he has a big part in her time before the games and in the person that she finally becomes. Kravitz is sweet and caring as Cinna and everything I wanted him to be. Woody Harrelson was my absolute favourite though as Haymitch, Katniss and Peeta’s mentor. He’s a drunk and he doesn’t care too much but Harrelson is beyond great. Harrelson seems to be an actor who can play absolutely any role given to him and I think he was one of the best in the whole film.
In regards to casting, there has been a lot of racism, mainly due to Cinna and Rue’s casting. Now, to me, this is small mindedness more than anything and people not actually reading the books before seeing the film. Cinna’s skin colour is never described but Rue is described in the book as having ‘dark skin’. Many people have said that they expected Rue to be some blonde haired, blue eyed sweet little thing and were disgusted with the fact that she wasn’t. For me, Rue was perfectly cast and I hate to think that people wouldn’t like the actress or the character because of the colour of her skin. It’s 2012 for God’s sake!!
One thing I was really worried about with this film was the levels of violence. Not that there would be too much but instead, that it would have been not nearly enough. As The Hunger Games was classified as a 12A, it was quickly apparent to me that this would not be a film as violent and gory as it should be. Still, the book is young adult so I guess the film has to be suitable for this kind of audience at the same time. The camera angles and shots used during some of the killings in the arena were choppy and fast, making it so the brutality level wasn’t quite as harsh as it could have been. While this was a good thing in a way, some of the killings were quite important in the book and this way of showing them took a lot away from that. Luckily though, there are a couple of parts where the violence level is as bad as it should have been so the compromise between the two was quite good for me.
Probably the most spectacular thing about this film is the costume design. Coming from a mining district that struggles to keep its people alive, Katniss and Peeta are dressed in quite drab clothes and do not look extravagant at all. As soon as we see the Capitol, there is such a big difference in the way that people dress. Here, people have painted faced, massive fake eye lashes and insanely designed clothes. The costume design was rich looking, different and very futuristic. I can’t remember loving this aspect of a film this much since the likes of The Fifth Element. The different choices of clothes, make-up and hair were all things I could have spent hours looking at.
So overall, while The Hunger Games does have flaws, it was amazing. I can see people picking it to death, comparing it with the book but I think it really was a job well done and I really loved it. It’s probably going to be one of my favourite films this year.

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