***HUMONGOUS SPOILER ALERT FOR THE BOOK AND THE MOVIE*** You've been warned.
What I Loved About the Movie
1. Main Characters
I loved Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson as Katniss and Peeta. How great were these picks for these much beloved characters? Josh in particular really captured that likeable quality that was so essential for Peeta. And Jennifer paired a sort of vulnerability with kickassery in a way that I wasn't expecting. As you can tell from this post, we're--Josh, Jen, and I--on a first name basis now. Especially after that smoking hot Cave Scene that they pulled off despite it's unfortunate brevity.
2. Secondary Characters
Stanley Tucci, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Lenny Kravitz, Amandla Stenberg...all I can say is 'Wow'. And you can picture me doing the slow clap off to the side like the Wiserhood dudes. Rue was endearing, Caesar Flickerman was hilarious, Haymitch was spot on, Cinna was all that and a tube of gold eyeliner, and Effie the perfect blend of bizarro and charming. They all nailed it.
3. Behind the Scenes Glimpses & Additions
- The Control Room→ Since we spend the book inside Katniss' head, we don't get to see this aspect of the games. Each and every time they cut to a scene of the control room, it reminded me that this is set in the future, and just how much the tributes' circumstances were manipulated by the Gamemakers. Easily one of the best additions to the movie.
- District 12 vs. the Capitol→ The disparity between life in the districts versus life in the Capitol was brought to life so vividly in the movie. From the Depression Era feel to District 12 to the runway-esque appearance of the Capitol, the total disconnect between the districts and the Capitol was made abundantly clear. You actually feel the assault to the senses experienced by Katniss and Peeta along with them as they arrive on the train.
- Riot in District 11→ The scene where Katniss gives the three-finger salute to District 11 gave me chills and actually choked me up far more than Rue's actual death for some reason. So gripping to actually see it acted out and to get a glimpse of the direct result of Katniss' small bit of rebellion.
- Seneca's Punishment→ Wow. Just wow. The crystal bowl of nightlock was an incredibly clever way of showing how Snow might have dealt with Seneca Crane.
- Other→ Haymitch wheeling and dealing with sponsors, the snippets of conversation between Snow and Seneca Crane, Gale's reaction to the Cave Scene...all fantastic.
4. Handling of Violence
The filmmakers needed to keep the movie's rating down, so they obviously had to spend a lot of time finding ways to get around the very obviously violent aspects of this story. I think that they did a phenomenal job of this. They showed either a) the weapon used to do the deed, sometimes bloody, or b) the dead tribute on the ground. Never did they show a) meeting b). Very carefully handled.
5. Costumes and Set
I was floored by all of the attention to detail in both the costumes and the set. The juxtaposition of vintage and futuristic was genius and truly represented the feel of the book. Katniss and Peeta's flaming chariot outfits as well as Katniss' Girl On Fire dress were amazing. Also, something subtle that I noticed that I thought was a nice touch: Peeta's Reaping Day shirt was completely wrinkled. I think it underscored that even though he was better off than Katniss, his family was still not well-off or rich. Not by a long shot. Remember Peeta's mention of eating stale baked goods in the book?
Perhaps the most chilling part of the movie for me: The cannon fire after each and every tribute death. It made me jump and gave me chills every time. Amazing how the movie brought that to life.
What I Thought Was Missing
I understand that in the interest of not creating a 5-hour long movie certain things had to be cut, dealt with differently, or snipped down in size. Though the Cave Scene felt a little brief, I realize that this brevity was necessary, and attribute my disappointment to simply wanting to see more smooching and cuddling. Here's what I thought should have made the cut:
1. Katniss and Peeta's Separation
After they win the Games in the book, Peeta is bleeding to death and they have to resuscitate him while Katniss looks on completely separated from him. This is one of the first real glimpses we get into how Katniss actually feels about Peeta. Strip away the strategy and you see a girl terrified that she's about to lose someone she cares about. Of course she doesn't realize this yet, but it's still so important. I really feel like this should have been included.
You got a bit of an idea about the strategy going on in the arena, as evidenced by Haymitch's message attached to the parachute. But I think if certain viewers hadn't read the books beforehand, the full extent of this strategy wouldn't necessarily have been clear. The movie's Cave Scene made it seem as though Katniss and Peeta were on the same page with their feelings. Not so in the book.
3. Katniss' Prep Team
I needed only about two minutes of screen time with these three just to be introduced to them and to see how moulded by the Capitol they were. I'm thinking of something that happens later on in the series involving these three that would make giving them a little screen time in this movie kind of important. Unless they omit them altogether. I won't say anything more about this to avoid spoilers.
I seriously loved this movie. The hubby and I went to see it again (my second time, his first), and I enjoyed it just as much if not more. The first time around I think I was distracted a bit by wanting so badly to have my expectations met. I went into it with such high hopes, and I didn't want to be disappointed. The second time I already knew that it was good so I could just enjoy it. They did a fantastic job of adapting this book, and I think a large part of this is because Suzanne Collins was included in all aspects of its development.
I also couldn't shake a surprising feeling of guilt, realizing the unfortunate similarity between me and my bag of popcorn watching this spectacle and the Capitol citizens doing the same. I don't think this is a failing of bringing the book to film. It's quite the opposite actually. Point definitely taken.
* * *And just because Seneca Crane's beard deserves special mention and a standing ovation with a Wiserhood slow clap, I thought I'd include this