By this time most people who haven't gone to see The Hunger Games over the weekend have seen it on Cheap Tuesday (the first Tuesday opening being the average person's equivalent to a grand weekend opening). If you still haven't seen it, then the next best thing would be to wait for it to come out on DVD and host a viewing party. That's right folks, this here is my response to the film.
SPOILERS included (until I figure out how I can highlight copy to hide spoilers)
I've written earlier about what I hope to expect with this film, and it seemed a little bit hit and miss. The scene in which President Snow is talking with Gamemaker Seneca Crane is not in the book but it worked really well here, offering a monologue on Hope.
Was I the only one who thought Cinna was a straight stylist when reading the book? I think because you would expect a gay stylist is why I didn't think he was, because Cinna is not what you would expect at all. When others are congratulating Katniss for being a tribute, Cinna feels sorry. He doesn't want to dress her up in typical mocking costumes of coal, but uses his own talents to create something better, with fire. In reading the novel I liked Cinna almost instantly, mostly for his direct and honest approach, and his ability to treat a person humanely, no matter their social status. Still, the fashion team should have had more screen time, at least enough so we learn their names!
In terms of cinematography, I knew going in to expect a Bourne-like experience with shaky-cam. I understand what Ross wanted to do with it, and I think it worked well in some scenes (the fighting/killing, running through the woods) but it definitely wasn't needed for most of the film. A wider lens to capture The Capitol and the people would have been better. Scenes like the very beginning, when she's running past the fence into the woods, it would have been good to capture more than just her; I wanted to get a better sense of her living conditions and the people. Shots of The Hub. Again, this probably comes down to time limitations, but I hope it's not something they cut in the editing room.
The most significant change I would make to the film would have been to have each of the fallen tributes picked up by the hovercraft. This would be a good set-up for when the muttations are released later. In the book, the muttations look like the fallen tributes, so it wouldn't have been a stretch to think that The Capitol used genetic mutations with the bodies, mounting more anger against this government.
The way it ended with the Gamemaster was terrific. There are different directions they could've gone with ending his life, but the route they chose was appropriate (as far as story-telling goes).
I was sad to see no interaction with the avoxes, and so anyone who didn't read the book wouldn't know or care about them. But I think that it would have been good to include something, because with a trilogy you need to think beyond the one film, you have to prepare for a second and third. (Television is doing this exceptionally well, bridging story plots not just between episodes, but between seasons). Suzanne Collins was able to do this in her series, so let's hope it happens with the films.
That being said, Gary Ross is fortunate that this film is part of a triology, which means he has at least three more chances (the 3rd film is reported to be divided into 2 parts) to get it near perfection. This was his first shot at an action film, and if he's going to move forward with the sequels then this was very good experience for him.
The movie is more than okay; it's good, just not great. Other critics suggested that the story could've been told better through first-person, like the book. I'm not so sure, because it would add to the similar comparisons to Twilight (at least cinematic-ally). A balance would have been nice, at least that way Jennifer Lawrence could have had a few more lines instead of this annoying silent stare. She did perform well, but I think that what resulted was that in the film I liked her more than Peeta who appears weak and emotional, when in the book I disliked Katniss and rooted for Peeta who was strong and grounded.
Now that I have said my piece about how good the film is and why you should watch it (and if you didn't get that impression, the film IS good and you should watch it), I will share some more of what I wish I had seen in this film.
1. The scene where Peeta shares about his mom placing more hope in Katniss than him could have been MUCH more impactful. The book communicated this perfectly, when Peeta tells Katniss, "my own mother doesn't believe in me. I heard her tell my father on the way out 'Our district actually has a chance of winning this year. She is a good hunter.' She." And when his father brought Katniss cookies without telling him, that was also a strong silent indication of the amount of trust that is thrust on Katniss.
2. The response from the audiences was nothing like I had imagined during the interviews. I expected more audience reactions and tremendous applause and cries. When he said those final interview words, "Because she came here with me," I expected the audience to just loose it and mayhem to break out. Instead you could simply hear a pin drop, and interviewer Caeser Flickerman lost his silver tongue.
3. Similarly to 2 above, I didn't expect the Reaping to play out the way it did, so silently. I would consider this a good thing, because I believe this is as close to reality one can get with the way reality plays out. There is no background music, there is no marching band. Only puzzled looks and stares from people who have no idea what to do next. The awkwardness was unexpected as the viewer, but I do find it fitting.
3. When Rue died, there should have been bread coming down from District 11 like it happened in the book, if only to help set-up Catching Fire. It really helps set the stage for the revolution, that now we have tributes from competing districts in alliances outside of the games.
4. I can't get over the fact the Avoxes or Cinna's fashion team had no roles. I will wait to see how they play out in the next films.
5. The Feast when there were 4 backpacks, in the book they were different sizes because of need. Crato and Clove needed backpacks 3 times the size of Katniss because their food supply was cut off. It was suppose to represent the fact that other than killing they had no idea how to survive. Also it would have been good to see Crato in the full body armour suit, which would also explain the bigger backpack.
I think that's all that come to mind now, but I'll probably update this again if more come up. In the meantime, check out this fun Beanie version of the film (one that contains Madge).