It’s hard to know how a review written at 3am while still on the deliriously sleep-deprived high of watching The Hunger Games film adaptation (this one) would differ from one written once I’ve had some time to process and some sleep (not this one). But I am going to say that the film was everything I had hoped and expected it to be.
This film version of the first of the three books that I devoured in their entirety in fewer than three days might not have been perfect, but right now, it feels that way to me. I suspect I’m not the only fan who’s going to be simultaneously relieved and happy.
The casting of Katniss was spot on—I think Jennifer Lawrence was the right amount of beautiful and ordinary and played the role with an even, not-too-likeable, not-too-unlikeable hand. She didn’t overplay the moments, but nor was she wooden and pouty like Kirsten Stewart’s Bella. And, truthfully, she could easily have slipped into that territory.
I was, admittedly, deeply dubious about the casting of Gale and Peeta. Neither guy was, in my opinion, nearly cute enough to warrant the roles. Given their centrality to the tale, I was worried I was going to be in for epic disappointment. But not even five minutes in I was certain that Josh Hutcherson, who plays Peeta, was the hottest guy alive in the universe. I think that comes back to the conversation I’d recently had with a fellow fan who suggested that we’d probably like/fall for the actor by pure virtue of the Peeta role.
There’s too much to cover in this blog, and too much to write given that it’s 3am and I have to get up and be somewhere obscenely early in the morning, so I’ll sum up the film as follows:
- The film opened without us having had a single preview inflicted upon us. Not one. It took me a few seconds to realise what we were watching. I’m actually wondering if someone pressed the wrong button.
- The cinematography was exceptional, with the close-ups giving the right amount of intensity while also demonstrating that the characters could never quite see the whole picture. My stomach sturdiness wasn’t so exceptional, but I looked away when the close-up-induced motion sickness got too much.
- The costumes and hairstyles of the larger-than-life characters and, in fact, the way these characters were played, were outstanding. Woody Harrelson was a greatly sauced-but-savvy Haymitch, the gamemaker and TV host just brilliant, and the Effie Trinket character is outrageous in the best (and pinkest) possible way. Katniss, Peeta, and the arena aside, I could have watched these for hours.
- I loved Katniss’ hair, boots, cargo pants. I’m thinking they’re going to spark a fashion moment.
- Whether it was because the books were written so visually and because they constantly propel characters into action or because the scriptwriters were exceptional, the film stayed impressively close to the book. I can’t think of a single incident I twigged to them having missed out.
- That and the film nailed the right moments the right way. In fact, it was the right amount of exciting and chilling and suffocating and romantic and sentimental. I lost it at the reaping and the Rue parts and am pretty sure the entire cinema heard me snuffling.
- Better yet, the filmmakers respected us as the audience and fans—they outlined key facts simply and quickly, but didn’t faff around with back story or explanations. It’s intelligent filmmaking and meant we got straight into the story and never looked back.
- The music was haunting and evocative. I swear one of the riffs for the more romantic moments was akin to that of in The Princess Bride and had a kind of Pavlov’s Dog experience.
- The storytelling techniques that showed districts’ and characters’ reactions was exceptional—it went from high tech to low fi and was subtle but perfect. For example, it went from showing how the arena action was being viewed via the high-tech game production room to the screens in the villages to the stuttering projector in Katniss’ family’s home.
- The cast was fairly young, but the acting was stellar, and the CGI was brilliantly wrought—no Twilight efforts to be seen, especially not via badly attempted wolves.
That’s a lot of gush for 3am and it’s likely it’ll be tempered slightly once I’ve had some sleep and have read a few others’ reviews. Right now, though, I’m giving The Hunger Games nothing but a double thumbs up, in much the same way I gave the book.