Yeah, I know, I’m like a month late. But I wanted to read the book before I watched the film and I’m just too busy to read loads at the moment. LOOK AT ME, THE SOCIAL BUTTERFLY. Anyway, I’ve now read the first book and watched the first film and you can sign me up as a fan of both. Huzzah. *Settles down on bandwagon*
So, if you haven’t heard (and I actually do have friends who have no idea what the Hunger Games is. Bizarre) then the basic premise is that America got involved in some big war at some unspecified point in the future, leaving the main city, the Capitol, and 12 Districts around it. The Capitol is full of the rich, the districts with the poor. There was some sort of rebellion against the Capitol which… didn’t end well for the districts, and now to keep them in their place, every year two kids from each district are picked to compete in the Hunger Games, a fight to the death broadcast across the country.
There have been a LOT of comparisons to “Battle Royale”, the cult Japanese classic, and if you plan to do it any more piss off to you. EVERYONE on the Internet has already thought of the comparison, you don’t need to say it, and frankly to just write off the Hunger Games as “Battle Royale for kids” is doing an immense injustice to it. A fight to the death is not a premise owned by the makes of Battle Royale, and both books/films execute (if you’ll excuse the pun) it in entirely different ways. Now shut up, you hipster wankers.
Anyway, thrust into this brutal world is our heroine, Katniss Everdeen, played by Jennifer Lawrence. I ❤ Katniss, I think she’s amazing, bad-ass, and considering she’s the main character in a big budget movie aimed at teenagers, surprisingly complex. Whilst obviously you get to know her better with the book, since she’s the POV voice of it, Jennifer Lawrence is AMAZING (she’s Oscar nominated for “Winter’s Bone”, don’t’cha know) and takes a very difficult character to play and makes her relatable but still just as complex as her book counterpart.
There’s a romance subplot too, which I won’t get into in too much detail here so as not to ruin it, but it’s safe to say that Liam Hemsworth as Gale is VERY attractive (he’s Chris Hemworth’s brother), whilst Josh Hutcherson as Peeta is entirely adorable. I realise that this is a character basically created for teenage girls to fall in love with, but God damn it, if I didn’t fall for it too. Teenage girls and the gays aren’t especially different, let’s be fair. Anyway, fingers crossed for some shirtless scenes in the later films.
What I love about the romance plot, is how realistic it feels. Katniss doesn’t suddenly decide she’s madly in love with either boy, she’s never really sure of her feelings at all. And she never starts being soppy and wimpy over them, her common sense and need for survival are always in control, unlike some other recent female protagonists *coughBELLAFROMTWILIGHTcough* her romantic life isn’t her entire life, it’s just something else going on to complicate things. It helps that Jennifer Lawrence is a fantastic actress with more than one facial expression unlike some other Hollywood actresses around at the moment *coughKRISTENSTEWARTcough*.
Other casting is similarly inspired. Every single part just feels RIGHT with how I’d pictured the characters in my head. Lenny Kravitz is Katniss’ stylist and friend Cinna and is just the right amount of cool and enigmatic, Woody Harrelson does his drunk redneck schtick, but is still believable as a former winner of the Games, Stanley Tucci is Caeser Flickerman, the presenter of the Games, and feels so trustworthy and yet completely cunning and conniving at the same time, he’s fantastic. And Elizabeth Banks is entirely unrecognisable as Effie Trinket, to the point where I kept having to squint to see if it was her, despite knowing full well that it was.
I was very upset to hear that the director, Gary Ross, won’t be returning for the sequel “Catching Fire” because I think he’s done an amazing job here. The shaky camera work, the frequently uncomfortable close-ups, the often blinding lights, the overly bright costumes in the Capitol, the clear visual comparisons between District 12 and a concentration camp, every single decision that he’s made has been to make the audience feel as tense and uncomfortable as possible which is exactly right. It really draws you into the story and makes you feel for Katniss and Peeta and how disorientated they are. I just love it.
There are a few issues that some of the back-stories are sort of brushed over, and the romance between Katniss and Peeta, and Katniss’ motivations for it, are a lot murkier and less obvious than in the book, but since I’d read it before I went in, it was fine. It’s not nearly as much of a problem as it was in the Harry Potter films, which by the fourth were impossible to keep follow if you’d never read the books.
So basically, amazing book, amazing film, but best to read the book first to get the most out of it. Oh, and don’t go if you’re feeling a bit low. I came out of the cinema feeling genuinely depressed. This film is GRIM. And apparently the books just get even more depressing. I might kill myself by the end of the third one.