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Rewatched The Hunger Games again to refresh my memory before Catching Fire opens. I enjoyed the look back, but was astounded at its overwhelming reception in the U.S. (US$408 million in domestic box office??? Why??? How?????? ?). I mean, it’s a good adaptation, but there are some *crucial* things they didn’t get right.
Things I disliked:
- There was too much unnecessary shaky cam going on in the first part of the movie when they were in District 12. Even if the filmmakers wanted to showcase the difference between the districts and the Capitol by using handheld cameras for the former scenes and steadicam for the latter scenes, it wasn’t done well. My eyes had a hard time trying to focus on anything.
- The editing wasn’t top-notch: sometimes they cut away too quickly at random parts — leaving me with no time to process the images — and then stitched it back awkwardly. (The reaping scene when they introduce Effie Trinket is an example, and it certainly wasn’t helped by the shaky cam.)
- The CGI could have been more convincing: the opening ceremony in Panem being my main beef. Not only were the flames streaming behind them undeniably fake, the crowds were too.
- They forgot to explain the significance of the mockingjays being a symbol of something that got out of the Capitol’s control. Though that came into play more in Catching Fire, it was too important to not have mentioned something about it at least.
- In fact, come to think of it, they barely showed the mockingjay pin when she was in the arena itself! How are the districts going to associate her with the mockingjay if they don’t show her wearing her pin at all?
- Last and most importantly: They miscast Peeta. It isn’t that Josh Hutcherson doesn’t fit the description, because he does (except for his height), but he had absolutely *no* chemistry with Jennifer Lawrence at all, except as siblings. Which is disastrous, since they *aren’t* meant to be siblings. Where was all the playful romantic banter of the books that made Peeta’s love for her convincing? The rapturous reaction of the crowd towards his confession of love during the interviews? Their overt displays of affection after being declared Victors, genuine on his part? The scene of Peeta’s crushing heartbreak when Katniss reveals that it was (partly) an act on the train home? They severely underplayed the romance angle and the Capitol audiences’ reaction to their being star-crossed lovers that helped them to win the Games, and so their whole winning smacks more of outright rebellion than Katniss intended in the books. (Which might be a good thing — would explain why, in the second movie, the districts completely don’t buy their story and therefore see her as a symbol of revolution instead — but it feels off to me.)
- Plus, he didn’t look like the Peeta of many of the book fans’ imaginations — including mine — and paled WAY in comparison to Liam Hemsworth’s perfectly cast Gale. As the Honest Trailers guy below says: “I mean I’m not gay, but I would totally suck Gale’s dick” (which made me guffaw when I first heard it.) I rooted for Peeta in the book. In the movies, I’m rooting for Gale.
(On a side note, I love the Honest Trailers done by the Screen Junkies channel. They come out with new installments every Tuesday, and I swear they are the funniest thing on YouTube, especially if you’re a “screen junkie” like me and like to see what others thought about movies and TV series too.)
But other than that, The Hunger Games surpassed my expectations as a film adaptation. They kept true to the spirit of the book, and even showed what went on behind-the-scenes of the Games in the Capitol — a welcome insight provided by author Suzanne Collins, who helped write the screenplay. Jennifer Lawrence was amazing as Katniss, and the supporting cast pulled their weight well — especially Woody Harrelson’s Haymitch, Lenny Kravitz’s Cinna, Stanley Tucci’s Caesar Flickerman, Elizabeth Banks’ Effie Trinket, and Donald Sutherland’s sinister President Snow. The little girl playing Rue was great too, and her death, Katniss’ salute, and the subsequent rebellion in District 11 were portrayed beautifully.
I await Catching Fire — whose final trailer came out yesterday — with glee. (And among all the things I hope they give justice to, I *pray* Sam Clafin gets Finnick right, because he already doesn’t look as gorgeous as Finnick is supposed to, and Finnick Odair is one of my favourite characters.)
Where to watch The Hunger Games
Streaming services: The Hunger Games is not on Netflix Singapore or US, Amazon Prime Video or Hulu. You can try Netflix in other countries like Canada, Australia, India, the Netherlands and Japan though with the help of a VPN.