Wednesday, 28 March 2012

The Hunger Games - Film Review

This is not just a review, but a comparison. I have now been to see the film twice at the cinema. I am definitely a fan of the film, but I am a bigger fan of the books. I am now halfway through Mockingjay (the third in the series) and if you have read my book reviews you will know how drawn in I am to this story. I feel like a part of it, a part of Panem. Though I know the films are simply ‘based’ on the books and not an exact replica, I cannot help but get annoyed at even the slightest change.

Overall the film is great, evidently seeing as it has achieved the third best opening weekend box office sales, of any movie. Having seen it twice in the opening weekend myself I can see why this is. The Hunger Games already has a huge fandom and bringing it to the screen only increases that, bringing it to audiences who prefer to watch than read. Although, personally, I believe that those who are fans of the movie cannot identify themselves as Hunger Games fans. Having just seen the movie they will not have all of their facts right. That is why I am calling this review a comparison. Perhaps you do not have time to read the books, believe me – they will consume your life from the moment you turn the first page – Therefore I have written this blog, it will inform you and allow me to vent some of my annoyance at the misrepresentations and false facts.

I understand that in order to bring the story to the screen it has to be condensed. The transition of The Hunger Games from book to screen has not just condensed it, but altered it. When the lights came on and the credits rolled, I was surprised to see Suzanne Collins’s name under the title of producer. I think it is great that the author of the novels has had great involvement of the production of her work, but seeing her as producer puzzled me – Why would she allow for some of the changes that were made? Perhaps she was overruled, or perhaps she simply had no choice. Maybe it had to be done that way for it to have made sense to those who are new to The Hunger Games.

Some changes made perfect sense. In the novel Haymitch’s gifts whilst in the arena came with no note or clue as to the timing of them. Katniss worked it out. However it is a bit tricky for what is in Katniss’ head to be expressed in the movie – so having the notes I found to be a good compromise. Not being in Katniss’ head was probably the thing they had to alter most. During the tribute interviews they are not on the stage behind Caesar Flickerman, they are lined up waiting for their turn – and are able to watch on screen. This I feel is also a good compromise for the adaptation as you are able to see Katniss react to Peeta’s interview on a screen backstage, which makes it clearer what her thoughts are on what he says. If she were on stage she would have had all eyes on her and had to play along, leaving the viewer’s unsure as to her true thoughts. Whereas in the book we know what she is thinking when she plays along, in the film that would be difficult to portray, as with the in-cave-scenes where the only inclination as to her pretending is in Haymitches notes. The only issue with the tributes not being on stage during the interviews, is how it will affect the second film, as I feel the victors hand-holding-scene is a crucial one – But we’ll see how that happens when the time comes.

There were a few little things that annoyed me: Katniss going into her private session before Peeta, Plutarch not falling into the punch bowl, Katniss’ crying scene (if you’ve read the book you’ll understand why), appearance of the Cornucopia, the leaves for Tracker Jacker stings having not been chewed, and the minor continuity issue I noticed during my second screening – where before the fire outbreak Katniss goes to sleep in her sleeping bag, wakes up and it’s gone. This may have been done in order for her to be able to make a swifter exit – But Katniss isn’t a magician, either it is there or it isn't.

There were also some bigger things that annoyed me. First of all, the thing which annoyed most readers – is Madge, or the lack of. For those of you who have not read the books, the Mockingjay pin is not a present which Katniss gave to Prim, in order to protect her, it was given to Katniss by Madge for protection, as a token (which also, I should add – all tributes are allowed, one token, therefore Cinna hiding it is slightly annoying – though it does help to identify him as a friend). Madge is the Mayors daughter, and Katniss’s not-yet-close friend.  Having Katniss give the pin to Prim and then Prim to Katniss, does represent their bond as sisters – but writers do things for a reason, and Madge was introduced at this point for a reason. My only guess it that that reason is no longer relevant, and that it will be altered in the second film (we’ll have to see). Other key moments that were missed/added to my annoyance were: Haymitches lack of revealing Katniss to Peeta as having pretended, the adding of District 11 starting an uprising after the death of Rue, Peeta’s lack of a badly damaged leg (resulting in amputation), and a lack of introduction/mention of Katniss’ prep team. We’ll have to wait for the following movies to find out how these changes will affect the future films.

My final thing to discuss is the actual portrayal of the characters – most of which were spot on. Stanley Tucci’s depiction of Caesar Flickerman I thought was perfect, both his appearance and attitude were exactly as imaged. As with the people of the Capitol, their appearances were just as bizarre as the book describes. The one character which I am not so please about is President Snow. It is as if the casting team heard the word ‘snow’, immediately thought of winter, leading them to Christmas – and immediately came up with a depiction of an evil Santa look-alike who has put all 12 districts on the naughty list. I was not impressed. He looks nothing like the botoxed puffy-lipped supreme leader I’d imagined. Even despite his appearances, or perhaps because I couldn’t get past them, President Snow simply did not feel scary enough.

One added moment I particularly love is how Seneca Crane is shown to have been killed; it is brilliant and a really good touch. Though this review must have seemed like a little bit of a rant, I genuinely love the film. The alterations seemed to have just added to my anticipation for the next three (Three books, four films) as I want to know how they are going to achieve things which, having changed/missed/altered in the first film, would be difficult to portray in the next. Good luck to them, and “may the odds be ever in your favour”. 

"Let the games begin!"

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