Mar 26, 2012

Hunger Games [2012]

Hunger Games is a trilogy of books written by Suzanne Collins about a dystopian world and a girl who is forced to compete against 23 other kids her age, until only one survives.

Now, I am writing this review of the Hunger Games, firstly, as a reader of the books, and secondly, as a film viewer. Just to let you in on my take of the trilogy, I will say that the 1st novel is very good, it sets the mood, introduces the characters and it's a real page turner; the 2nd one is just as slow at the beginning, but after the 1/3 of it or by the middle, it picks up the pace and introduces great new individuals (like Finnick) and provides another page turning experience- I can't wait to see the film; the 3rd one is very disappointing for me and I do not look forward to watching it on the big screen, with the exception of some scenes.

As a fan of the books, you can understand my excitement previous to the screening of the film- I had heard so many great things about it and I love the casting, so normally, I had rather high expectations. After seeing it, I have to say it didn't fully rise to the occasion, at least not in my eyes.

Now, don't get me wrong- it is a very good movie, well made, with perfect casting, a good visual representation of the story, Panem and its characters, and faithful to the book. 

BUT, it did have some weak points that I can't just get over. First of all, the shaky camera- I knew it was a problem because this topic came up in every review I read, so I was aware of it; I agree it was a little annoying at times, although I understand the use of it, mainly to support the idea of reality TV.

Second of all, considering it's a teen movie and especially, after observing the soundtrack list before hand, I thought the music would be amazing, but it wasn't- I don't remember any of the songs; it was mostly orchestral and poorly used. 

My biggest problem was the lack of emotional depth....I could not connect with the story or the characters, even if I tried, and that just ruined the experience for me. Script wise, it was very faithful to the book; it added interesting new scenes (especially those between Seneca and Snow), and cut out the unnecessary ones (too many Capitol preparations), but it all felt very robotic, like scene A, switch to scene B....nothing made me cry or have an unusual reaction (the only moments I can exclude from this would be one of the tribute deaths and the cave scene; the second one just because I loved it so much in the book). How can you not transport that raw emotion and excitement that the book transmits from the beginning, to the big screen? Where did Gary Ross mess up? I am very curious- I can't figure out what he did or didn't do to make me jump off my seat or connect with the actor's performances.

Speaking of which, I thought the cast did a great job- I liked every one and not for a second did I think "Oh, that guy is not right for the part" or "They should have gone with X". Jennifer Lawrence delivers the best performance, considering she has the most screen time, and has good chemistry with the two male leads and the girl playing Rue. I, unlike some (or most) critics and bloggers out there, liked Josh Hutcherson, playing Peeta, because not only did he understood the character and portrayed it just like it was in the book, but also because of his charm, sweetness and likability factor. He is not your typical handsome Hollywood star and yes, he is short, but that is why all the girls love him- he is approachable and a genuine nice guy- you will notice that in interviews.  I was pleasantly surprised by Lenny Kravitz as Cinna- not an obvious choice (if you read the books), but very good anyway; another one of my favorites has to Woody Harelson- he just is Haymitch and I can't wait to see him in the other movies, as well. Stanley Tucci stands out as Caesar Flickerman, providing the most laughs, and a special mention must be given to Wes Bentley and his Seneca Crane beard (why isn't he in more movies?).

Overall, I think it is worth spending your money on a ticket, for many reasons:
1.Go with the flow and watch the movie that every one is talking about.
2.It is a faithful adaptation of a great book.
3.The cast is diverse, talented and  provides good performances
4.The capitol and Game center offers a new perspective of a possible world and is interesting to watch
5.Jennifer Lawrence in a role that will propel her to superstar level, and this time, she deserves it (*cough* Kristen Stewart)
6.Move over Robert Pattinson, with your brooding, sad looks- welcome Josh Hutcherson, the sweet, next door guy who will win millions of hearts all around the world with his charm and smile. I heard a lot of people calling him a wuss or stupid or silly, and I understand where they are all coming from, but I also know why little girls will love him. I'm in the middle here!

The book is entertaining, raw and powerful, it offers more emotional depth, and the feeling you get while reading the book is ten times better and more appealing than the film experience. But, I think that a second viewing is beneficial, at least for me- I have a feeling I will like it even more and understand and feel the story better. I never watch a movie in theaters more than once, but I might, this time. Still undecided.

Sunday night, after the first weekend, the box office number are huge- the 3rd biggest opening weekend ever, with over $150 millions domestically and $214 million world wide- it's safe to say we have a new Twilight-like phenomenon, but trust me, this one is worth giving it a try. Coming out of the theater, I realized almost all of the teenage girls were talking and gushing over Hutcherson- at one point, I passed by a group of 10-12 year-old girls who were jumping up and down, sharing their enthusiasm over Peeta.

I'm not saying Hunger Games is amazing and I am not giving it a 10/10- it sure has its flaws, but I do think it can't be missed. Hunger Games, in theaters now!


  1. It was definitely an incredibly enjoyable film - I just got back from seeing it myself! The shaky cam footage worked alright in the 'games' scenes, but when it showed up in the first half, I just kept thinking 'Calm the f**k down, camera!' Too jittery. Lawrence was awesome, loved Peeta (I could never decide between Peeta and Gale in the book - now I like Peeta, haha). Agree with your point about the emotional depth (and, like you, found that one tribute death really emotional) but apart from that, it wasn't all there. I did like the way they used the score though (felt really minimalist, and I like when scores are used that way). Overall, pretty cool film!

    Phew, long comment!

  2. @Ruth: Thanks for the long comment, I love it, it's nice to see we agree in so many points (yey Peeta)! Have you read the second book? you will love Finnick!

  3. The film doesn't really get going until they actually do get to The Hunger Games, but when it does get started up its entertaining, tense, unpredictable, and very well executed from Gary Ross. I also couldn't believe that this was his 3rd film after other flicks such as Seabiscuit and Pleasantville, which are both good but are different from this one. Still though, great jobs from everybody involved and I cannot wait for the sequel. Good review Aziza.

  4. Although our opinions do differ on this film, I respect when a critic points out flaws in a film they otherwise love. Yeah, there were things I liked about this, but there was a lot I didn't.

    At any rate, you were fair, so... well done!

  5. Awesome review, it's great that you pointed out both pros and cons. I'm sure as a book reader you went in with a lot of expectations and as I did not read the book, I can't really judge how well they adapted it, but it's one of the many reviews that mentiones how the movie lacked emotions comparing to how many of them were in the novel.

  6. @Dan O: Thanks! I thought the movie was fine all the way through, I wasn't bored during the first part, but that was just because I loved it in the book, too!
    @Alex: Thanks, glad you liked it!
    @Sati: Yeah, that was the only thing that really bothered me....I could have easily passes by the shaky camera or the soundtrack, but this just left me cold!

  7. I'm really glad I saw this on the first weekend and I agree it's not to be missed. It's funny though but I didn't really notice the shaky handheld camera work, and neither did my hubby. I think Scott @ Front Room Cinema didn't either, not sure why but I guess that's a good thing then, ahah. Unlike that silly vampire movie, I'm glad that the Team Gale or Team Peeta thing wasn't really a factor here, though of course people would be torn just like Ruth did, ahah.

  8. I'm in the Peeta camp too. I've read the first two books, but I've put off the third since so many say it's disappointing. The movie was good for what it accomplished. Just not as good as the book.

  9. I agree on the shakycam. I hated it. It rendered large parts of the movie unwatchable.

    I watched through the credits and they played three different songs, so that is probably where the soundtrack you were expecting to hear was fit into the movie.

    As someone who's read the book, the thing I missed the most was the bread scene, which is very touching and moving, being replaced with a scene from the second book of a riot with random, shakycam violence.

  10. @Ruth M: I am glad, too, that love is not the focus of the movie, I think it makes better. Either way, I am Team Peeta :)
    @Max: I totally agree! You should read three, it has some good Peeta, Finnick moments, but I was a little bit annoyed by Katniss! It's ok, but not as good as the first two!
    @Chip: The scene about the bread? to which one are you referring to? they showed the one with the burn bread....

  11. @Diana - The scene where Katniss receives the bread from District 11 as thanks for how she treated Rue. Instead they showed District 11 rioting.

  12. @Chip: Oh yeah, I remember! They probably did that just for the movie, to make it more dramatic and for people to understand how the storyline will evolve in the second part!