As Effie Trinket, in her best Lady Gaga impersonation, welcomed the people of District 12, director Gary Ross has visually welcomed us all to the wonderful world of The Hunger Games. This is Suzanne Collins’ first book in her best selling trilogy that is somewhat reminiscent of Takami’s Japanese novel Battle Royale.
It’s the time of the year again, where in two individuals (a boy and a girl) serve as representatives of their districts to the annual Hunger Games, a survival of the fittest where in only one emerges to be alive in the end. District 12’s representatives are Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) who volunteered as replacement to younger sister Primrose, and baker’s son Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson). Once there, they’ll receive help from drunk Haymitch (Woody Harrelson), eccentric Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks), and fierce stylist Cinna (Lenny Kravitz) they will undergo a series of pageant-like preliminaries (such as a costume showoffs and interviews) in order to get sponsors when the actual Games begin. And once it started, one by one, people die left and right in order to find out who will be the victor of the Games.
First things first, I am pretty confident in saying that the movie was loyal to the book. Sure, there are details that were changed here and there (I won’t say which for the benefit of those who haven’t seen it yet), but any moviegoer knows that there is no such thing as 100% faithful interpretation. The medium of book is different from the medium of film; thus, there will actually be changes. So in that aspect, I can say that the movie is faithful.
Director Gary Ross was successful in re-telling Suzanne Collins’ novel, and I like that he strayed away from the 3D effects. I saw some parts that would have benefited from it, but they’re not too vital and the 2D version works perfectly fine. If anything, it was very fast-paced, and you wouldn’t realize that it had been 2 1/2 hours since the movie started. While some camera shots were over the top (we get it, you’re running), I specifically love the colors in the earlier part because they made us feel as if we’re being introduced to the their world. Ross was successful in setting the right mood and atmosphere of District 12 to the viewers, and he was able to maintain it until the end of the movie. Cinematography was astonishing, but my favorite (aside from Effie’s costumes) is the art direction. It was just magnificent.
As for the auditory aspects, I specifically am giving notices to the musical score of the movie. Haunting is the perfect term to describe it. There were moments of silence, and it gives the readers time to breathe (as it was specifically fast paced). And as a segue, the whole soundtrack is cool too, so I hope you give the whole album a spin! 🙂
The casting was mostly effective. I love how they brought all these character actors and gave them characters that fit like a glove. I don’t think it’s enough to specify her once again, but I’m just in love with Elizabeth Banks’ Effie Trinket. Woody Harrelson’s Haymitch, Stanley Tucci’s cobalt haired intriguing host Caesar Flickerman, Lenny Kravitz’ Cinna, and Donald Sutherland’s Coriolanus Snow were just exactly what you had in mind while reading the novel. And boy didn’t I recognize Wes Bentley. The casting of the representatives were very diverse as well, and though we don’t get to see a lot of them, the important ones stood (Cato, Foxface, Glimmer, Thresh) enough. Rue, true enough, was a definite crowd favorite among the watchers. I have no issues with Josh Hutcherson’s casting, but I don’t think the chemistry with Jennifer Lawrence was effective enough to be translated from the book to the movie. Liam Hemsworth, on the other hand, despite minimal screen time elicits response from the crowd every single time.
But ultimately, it was the Jennifer Lawrence show. This reminded me of her Oscar nominated Winter’s Bone performance. Her Katniss was gritty, raw, and effective. What I like the most about Lawrence’s portrayal was that she was remarkable enough to stand out and give us a challenging female lead character to root for. Together with Lisbeth Salander, they’re this decade’s descendants of Ellen Barkin and Clarice Starling: iconic female characters that will stand the test of time.
All in all, this was an effective visual version of an action packed literary piece. It might seem too fast-paced especially for those who have read the book; nevertheless, it was successful in capturing what the novel was about. For that alone, I give this two thumbs up, as it molds another craze that is here to stay. The Hunger Games have officially begun, and we’re now witnesses as how it will transcend in the long run.