This movie is very important to me (as I am sure it is to all the fans), and I wanted to give time for it to set in. So, I purposely waited to write a review because I wanted my honest opinion and not an initial one.
Overall, the direction of the movie was very well done. It took me a few minutes to adjust with the camera style at the beginning of the movie. It was only until I realized what the director was trying to capture that I had a sense of appreciation for Gary Ross. His depiction of district 12, and giving it an almost concentration camp feeling was quite skillfully done. It really drove home how impoverished and controlled these people really were. Does this stray far from the book? Not entirely. They are very poor and have to make do with what little they have, however the police forces have very little influence in the book, but for a movie I prefer this imagery.
The Capitol was outstanding and exactly how I pictured it in my head. The outlandish, colorful outfits, the massive crowds cheering on the walking dead children, the pomp and bravado of it all. Wonderful depiction. I could not have asked for more. And for the special effects? Absolutely spot on! This is exactly how a dystopian future with such an important story and message should be done. You do not need huge and in your face special effects. There were just enough to show this is a Science Fiction movie but not enough to annoy people and slap them in their faces proclaiming “Look how much money we spent and look at all the cool things”. That sentiment was one of my fears too. I did not want the movie to lose the book’s character. And within the actual Games, feeling what Katniss felt, seeing what she saw, a brilliant choice for a book that has such copious protagonist narrative. You really did feel the angst of it all, the fear, the despair.
Of course, I unfortunately cannot give direction, production, and writing only praise with this blog post. The shots of Gale throughout the Games… I cannot put this lightly. I hated them. This is the touch of Hollywood I was afraid of and wrote about previously. He has no business cutting into some scenes at all. Why were these added? Were they really necessary? No, they were not. I thought it detracted from the fact that these young kids are fighting for their lives and trying to figure out any way possible to survive. This is not a generic, boring Hollywood love story and as such should not be treated that way.
Another issue, though much smaller, is a type of depiction of Katniss, who is played by Jennifer Lawrence. I do not want to touch on the actress now, as I will after this, I am more interested in a specific choice made by either the writer or director. Why is she crying all the time? This is a strong, young woman who in the book makes a conscious choice to NOT cry! She even rationalizes it in her head throughout the story. Why did she have to cry so often? To make her more relatable to mass moviegoers? I do not like this choice at all. She is a strong woman and I think it was a big mistake.
The other small issue I had involved timing and pacing. The shots of the district 12 and then subsequently district 11 were too short! Why weren’t they given the time they needed to give the full impact of their meaning? This same issue happens to a lot of book to movie adaptations. Harry Potter is a great example. They are so focused on action or comedy that the actual drama found within the books suffer. I am by no means a drama fan but I know how important the lows are to get the highs to their full potential. There just needed to be some more time. I do appreciate that the movie was to be as long as it was because any shorter would have definitely ruined it. For that fact I do tip my hat to the studio.
Finally, onto Cato. Quite bluntly, what right does his character have to give that speech at the end? He is a cold-blooded killer, born and raised into that lifestyle. Why should he have a sense of remorse and a possible character redemption scene? Why should he show defiance? That is Katniss’s job, not his. Those few minutes should be taken out of the movie completely because they do nothing. They showed rioting in district 11, things are already catching fire. We do not need you Cato.
I purposely put my negative comments above this because I wanted to end on a positive note. That note you ask? Casting! Lenny Kravitz… Wow. What can’t you do? Though his scenes were small, he controlled the screen with his powerful presence. You sir, are a tremendous actor and I had no idea. Amandla Stenberg was absolutely adorable the entire movie and her final scene was so touching my girlfriend began crying.
Jennifer Lawrence, you absolutely, without a doubt, are the girl on fire. The individual evaluation scene with your defiance and bow, pure brilliance (I fanboyed out a little). And you see it throughout the entirety of the movie as well. From her touching scene with Rue to her charming interview all were done perfectly.
One of the most important things I wanted to touch on, I did not express properly when speaking to my girlfriend so I hope to do a better job here. Jennifer Lawrence is a beautiful woman. I do not want to take anything away from how pretty she is in the movie or outside of it. What I do want to say is how much I appreciate her being cast for this role and how her looks were treated. When you think of Hollywood starlets, leading ladies, what are your initial thoughts? Overly done makeup perhaps? Accentuated figures? Unfortunately those are mine. One of the reasons Katniss is so strong in the books is because she is not a princess that is asking to be saved, she isn’t concerned with love (other than her family), and she certainly isn’t concerned with looks. Those first few shots of Jennifer were absolutely gorgeous, and not because she had pounds of makeup on, or because her hair was just perfect, it was because the shot was just her. Freckles, beauty marks, everything, it was just Jennifer Lawrence. Nothing to fix or change. When I saw her on-screen, actually saw her up close, I knew that the movie would be in good hands. I literally breathed a sigh of relief. After the movie I tried to explain to my girlfriend but I didn’t get my point across properly. It’s not that Jennifer wasn’t pretty, it’s that she actually was beautiful, and they allowed us to see it. So I want to take this time to thank Gary Ross. Thank you sir, and your entire studio and crew for understanding that a woman can be strong without having makeup caked on her, she can be motherly without needing sex appeal to balance it, and she can be a leading lady just on talent and natural beauty. Take note of this Hollywood, we, the fans, want to see real women as leads.
If I absolutely had to give this a letter grade, I would say solid B+. However, the second book is actually my favorite of the series so I am eagerly anticipating the movie’s release. Also, I will definitely be going to see The Hunger Games for a second time next week.
I truly do look forward to watching Catching Fire, and may the odds continue to be in our favor.