Oh god, The Hunger Games is a movie now, and I saw it, and it happened and I am completely and utterly overwhelmed by everything please help me.
It’s easy to nitpick certain things about The Hunger Games film, especially after most of us have spent so much time thinking about the world that Suzanne Collins created. I think that there are some points I couldn’t really ignored that rubbed me the wrong way, but these were mere gripes. None of them ruined the movie. None of them made me dislike what I was seeing. And none of them distracted from what an immense accomplishment that this was.
I was initially struck by how District 12 looked exactly like what I had in my brain; that alone is a feat of wonder because I can’t imagine shit in my head. But I wanted to see a drab, rundown locale, one that was muted in color and excitement, where people were filthy and clinging to what little hope they had day-to-day. Those opening rapid shots of the film that cycled through these miniature portraits of the citizens of District 12 set a tone that was both satisfying and expected. This needed to be a film that alternated between the gritty and the visually absurd. Specifically because this was done so well, I did find myself disappointed that District 12 seemed to receive a whole lot of whitewashing, even in terms of the background actors and actresses. Honestly, I don’t even think it would have been as jarring if the Reaping itself didn’t look so clean. I get that the families would wash up and prepare their children for this annual event (which in and of itself is a disturbing thought), but it clashed so much with the opening clips of the town that it made it even easier to notice how few people of color their were. (To the film’s credit, everything involving District 11 made me want to roll in the aisles with delight and joy. DONE SO PERFECTLY MY GOD.)
But otherwise, right from the start, this just looks so right. It’s disturbing as hell, and I knew what was going to happen. That moment when Effie arrived was so perfect that I could not believe this was a Hollywood adaptation of The Hunger Games book. That’s not to say there weren’t changes made to appease various parties, but I could not fathom how faithful this was to the original source. The Reaping was just a silent as I imagined it. Katniss’s characterization was 100% accurate (JENNIFER LAWRENCE, MY QUEEN); Gale’s face was too brilliant for words; and I could not accept anyone else aside from Josh Hutcherson as Peeta or Elizabeth Banks as Effie. The same goes for Woody Harrelson or Lenny Kravitz. (God, I could spend a novel talking about how fucking stella Lenny Kravitz was as Cinna.)
What’s interesting about the experience is that so many of us who saw it knew the story. So even writing about it, there’s not much I can say about any plot twists or characterization. There were differences, for sure, but the vast majority of them were incredibly subtle in ways that didn’t change the tone or the point of the story. Not that there weren’t things that were left out that I wished I could see! No Madge, no leg injury on Peeta, no loaf of bread from District 11. But I think it would have been unrealistic, at least for my own expectations, to want everything in the book on the screen.
Truthfully, there were even some changes I thought improved The Hunger Games. The chance to see Seneca Crane in a much more in-depth way was fantastic, especially the poetically brutal way in which he was executed. The same goes for President Snow, who had a bazillion percent more lines and scenes. It was so satisfying to watch because you could see how they were setting up the following two movies. Also SENECA AND YOUR PRECIOUS BEARD.
But the truth is, I could deal with things left out if the story was true to the source. An adaptation can rarely be perfect (except for The Princess Bride or maybe No Country For Old Men), so I just care if the themes and the tone is right. For me, that’s why I enjoyed The Hunger Games so much. It felt genuine. So many of the sets, the small moments of characterization, the costumes, the sheer brutality of the bloodbath… that’s what I wanted from this movie. I wanted to experience all of the things I went through when I first read the novel. Obviously, I can never re-live those moments exactly as they were, but I wanted to feel the life-destroying sadness when Rue died. I wanted to see the grotesque fashion of the Capitol. I wanted to see Katniss’s struggle with her own femininity within the context of the Games. I wanted to see how ridiculous the pageantry of the Capitol would be.
Perhaps I expected something so much worse, and this was just better than that. I am going to see it again next week with some friends, and I hope to get a better idea about how I ultimately feel about this film. For now, though, I’m extremely pleased with what I’ve seen, and I’m genuinely eager for my second viewing. For the most part, people I know seem quite happy with this adaptation, too, so I’m interested to see how y’all felt too. What were your favorite scenes? Did you ever know you’d have so many feelings about seeing a cat for half a second? I may have yelled TEAM BUTTERCUP more times than necessary.
Oh god, so many fucking feelings. I can’t wait to see it a million more times.