May The Odds Be Ever In Your Favour
I almost started this post saying I thought I’d found a new Harry Potter but then I realised that that’s a total lie. I haven’t found a new Harry Potter at all because Harry Potter is Harry Potter and owns a part of my soul that can never be replaced but it’s a long time since I was as excited about a film as I was last night before I went to see The Hunger Games.
I was excited, and I was worried, that knot in the tummy that screams ‘I will hunt you down and I will yell at you, filmmakers, if you have destroyed a book I love’ because it’s always a fear, that the film will ruin the story. Helen whispered to me before it started ‘I have that funny feeling in my tummy’ right before she started to hum Hedwig’s Theme which made me laugh in a nervous ‘why are we here’ kind of a way.
My problem is and always has been that I love the books and the characters I love so much that it almost becomes personal and actually kind of hurts when the film destorys them [yes, The Golden Compass. I’m looking at you] and in the wake of the whole Twishite thing, I was a little bit worried about what might happen to THG because what if they tried to appeal to that fandom? That would be disastrous and there would have been nobody to blame but Stephenie Meyer
I need not have worried. The Hunger Games is such a good book, and it made for an equally good film. It was unrelentingly tense and I am still drained this morning. I was sat with my knees pulled to my chest and holding my breath the whole film, it was not the best of times but at the same time it kind of was.
There were things that niggled, of course there were. For example, the whole Mockingjay issue. The Mockingjay storyline is so so important in the books, particularly later on and whilst the scene with Katniss giving the pin to Prim was touching beyond belief and was super effective at showing the relationship between the two sisters, [and oh my WORD the stuff with Prim, every scene with Katniss and Prim all but broke my heart] I missed the whole scene with Madge giving it to Katniss, and learning what it signified and why. As far as anybody who has only seen the films knows it’s just a pin that Katniss picked up off a stall, but in reality it’s so much more. I’m interested to see what they do about that in the future films.
I wasn’t happy about Katniss not drugging Peeta to go to the feast either, she just lied to him and went and that didn’t sit right with me because it’s a scene in the book that I think said a lot about their relationship and about them individually. It might seem a little niggle in the grand scheme of a 2 and a half hour film, but it’s indicative of what is perhaps my biggest bugbear regarding the whole film: Peeta.
The film just didn’t go deep enough; enough wasn’t said about their relationship, about Peeta’s feelings for Katniss and hers for him; about the set-up with Haymitch; about Peeta’s heartbreak at the end when he realises Katniss’s feelings were all for show, and there is a scene in the book, at the end where Katniss is in the hovercraft and she is screaming for Peeta and banging on the glass when he’s being resuscitated, a scene that [I think] is later played to the Capitol to reinforce the star-crossed lovers story that I think the film really really needed. That whole chapter actually, after the end of the games with them being taken from the arena and their recovery and the ensuing conversations Katniss has with Cinna and Haymitch about the Snow being pissed about the ‘fake’ suicide and how to play it and her asking Haymitch if he’s given Peeta the same speech. I think they should have found a way to include that, and that more should have been made of the victors interview with Flickerman and that moremoremore should have been made of Peeta’s feelings at the end of the book, and probably about Katniss’s too.
I don’t feel that the whole love story issue was properly portrayed as a whole actually – not from Peeta’s side and not from Gale’s and certainly not from Katniss’s. I am so far on Team Peeta that Team Gale is barely a speck in the distance but it’s book Peeta, who is brave and clever and tender and who loves Katniss wholly and selflessly and not film Peeta who [should have been hotter, albeit in an understated way] just seemed like a boy with a crush and because Peeta and Katniss weren’t properly explored and because Gale wasn’t much more than a pretty face, I think it was hard to feel a connection to either or to understand Katniss’s conflict. I also don’t think Peeta was particularly well cast although he had grown on me by the end.
There was so much that I loved though. The Games themselves were exceptionally well done. From the long silences to the fast moving action scenes, from the violent deaths [Clove] to the tender ones [Rue] the tension in the air was palpable and it didn't let up, not even for a second. This was not easy viewing and really brought the message home I think, about just what The Hunger Games are: these are children, killing children, for the viewing pleasure of the people of the Capitol. They were watching what we were watching, it felt real. The whole film was really well shot and the camera work was so effective, it was violent enough to get the message across without being senseless; people died but it never felt gratuitous although I think maybe Peeta’s leg and Katniss’s hearing should have been more of a plot point. I actually don’t think I took a proper breath from the second the tributes made the dash to the Cornucopia [which looked so much grander in my head] to the end of the Games. I was so so tense, despite knowing the outcome. Helen turned to our friend Kez at the end, who hadn’t read the books and said ‘how did you cope’ and I have to admit, I was wondering the same thing because the fire, and the tracker-jackers and the mutts and the way Katniss seemed to spend so much time not running when clearly she should have been doing exactly the opposite, it was hard to watch for somebody who knew how it ended, nevermind somebody who had zero clue.
Rue’s death and District 11’s reaction [which we never got in the books, and I thought it was a really clever move to let us know now that the Uprising starts in 11 – as a reader you don’t learn that til Catching Fire] KILLED ME DEAD, I was almost in tears from the first shot of Rue at the beginning, and oh my LordyLord, Katniss covering her in flowers and then doing the salute was just so moving, although I have to admit I missed them sending the bread to Katniss, I don;t really see why that had to be cut...
Haymitch was amazing, so good and I loved all the extra stuff with him sweet talking the sponsors and the scenes with Seneca Crane. Also his ‘loosen your corset and have a drink,’ to Effie. Stunning. I think good ol’ Woody was perfectly cast and Haymitch perfectly played. I loved him, I do wish he’d been drunker though – his alcohol problem really hammered home the emotional effects of the games on the victors and in the film he just seemed like a guy who liked a drink and not a guy who’d been to hell and back, had to keep sending people to follow in his footsteps to never return and drank to try and escape that. Haymitch is much deeper than he appeared on sceeen. I did love him though. A lot.
Presidents Snow’s rose garden *shudders* setting the scene for the rest of the saga. So creepy but so relevant, I liked that it was in there although whilst I think Donald Sutherland was a great Snow I hope he creeps it up a bit in the next two films; just thinking about book Snow is enough to make my skin crawl. There was a lot more Snow than I expected and a lot more Seneca Crane, I can see why though and I thought it worked well, the scenes involving Crane and the game control table were very effective –Kez seemed to be particularly horrified by those parts, the perfect illustration of just what the Capitol is capable of.
Cinna. I adore Cinna in the books and Lenny Kravitz? No words, there are not enough words to express my love for him. Helen wasn’t convinced [I think she actually used the word ‘shit’ but I love her too much to hold that against her] but as far as I’m concerned it was flawless casting. Flawless. So much love. And I literally had to swallow down a sob at the ‘I’m not allowed to bet, but if I was I’d bet on you.’ Gah. Are you trying to kill me, are you? I thought the relationship between Cinna and Katniss was perfectly perfect.
And Katniss, oh Katniss. Jennifer Lawrence was incredible. So so good and just so exactly like Katniss was in my head. Her every line, her every move, her every damn facial expression, she played that part so so well.
Flawless casting, flawless acting, touching, exciting and so well done. I am pleased, in an emotionally-drained-my-heart-just-went-through-the-actual-wringers kind of a way. I want to read the books again and I can’t wait for the second movie. Amazing.