This film surprised me, and not so much in terms of what happened in the story(I already read the book). What surprised me was the approach director Gary Ross and his team did with the film. This is a big budgeted sci-fi film that somehow also has an indy movie aesthetic. It’s epic and fantastic, but grounded and intimate. It’s exciting and thrilling, but heartfelt and touching. What I’m basically saying, is that this a good movie.
First , let me go back to the aesthetic and tone of this film. It would have been easy to make this a showy sci-fi film. To really revel into the design of The Captial and the other Districts. To make the costume design and the production design a huge focus (looking at you IMMORTALS) but Ross doesn’t want you to focus on that. He wants you to focus on Katniss, and her story.Ross’s matter of fact approach to the world of Panem is confident and non distracting. It feels lived in, even when the budget shows, (the CGI work in this film is a little shoddy) you still buy into this world.
Of course, for us to focus on Katniss, he needed the right actress. Jennifer Lawrence shines in this film. This is the film that will push her further as a true movie star. She’s compelling, subtle, and straight up likeable in the film. She is also a believable action heroine; tough and brave, yet never loosing her femininity.
The rest of the cast does well too. Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks and Lenny Kravitz all deliver in the roles of Haymitch, Effie, and Cinna. I also quiet enjoyed Stanley Tucci as the over the top Ceasar Flickerman, and as well as Wes Bentley giving a wonderfully nuanced performance as Seneca Crane, the Head Gamemaker for the games.
As an adaptation, I’m also surprised how close to the book they where, with very minor changes. I also felt the changes were made for good reasons. For example, how Katniss got the Mocking Jay pin is different in the film, but it adds a nice emotional impact for the adaptation and I think it works great. I also quiet liked the added scenes of Seneca with President Snow, played by Donald Sutherland (who brings a quiet menace to the role.) .
The action in the film was surprisingly as brutal as the book, being able to be exciting with out being over the top.
Try as they might, the cave scene drags the whole middle section down ,which is how I also felt was the problem with the cave scene in the book (click here to read my previous blog about the book) and, yeah, I don’t like Peeta.
Josh Hutcherson does a great job playing Peeta, and I have no issues with his performance, but I overall just don’t find the character that great. Just like in the book, it feels like he is mostly there to give Katniss another obstacle.
The Hunger Games has a huge fanbase, this time out, not only is it a film that I think (most of) the fans of the book will be happy with, but I think it’s also an exciting and smart film for non-fans to jump in and enjoy.