The odds were always in their favour.
Already slated as “the next big thing”, The Hunger Games (Lionsgate) was predicted to trump The Twilight Saga in the box office for the opening weekend. While THG may not have beaten Twilight on the opening day, it smashed them in the opening weekend, raking in a cool $155million, only behind Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part Two ($169.2million) and The Dark Knight ($158.4million). THG was the only film in the top ten opening weekends that is a non-sequel. Well done Lionsgate.
UPDATED: THG made $155million in the US opening weekend – but across the globe, it made $214.3million.
Now onto the actual film.
Directed by Gary Ross (the man behind Pleasantville and Seabiscuit), The Hunger Games (based on the book of the same name by author and now screenwriter, Suzanne Collins) is set in a post-apocalyptic North America where a boy and girl from each of the twelve districts is offered up as tribute to complete in a starling twist of reality television called “The Hunger Games” where they are made to fight to the death until only one remains (read more about the plot line here).
Side note: While many are lumping this into the tween category, it is not a family friendly film. Rated M, THG shows a startling amount of violence, so I would leave the young ones at home for this one.
The shaky camera work that opens to film gives the audience a glimpse of District 12, where the story’s heroine, Katniss Everdeen (played by Jennifer Lawrence) hails from. We see her on the day of the Reaping (where the tributes are chosen) hunting outside the district borders with her best friend Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth). When her younger sister Prim (Willow Shields) is chosen at the Reaping, Katniss volunteers in her place.
The other District 12 tribute is Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), who during an interview with Ceasar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci) in the Capitol, reveals that he has feelings for Katniss. The two are coached by the only ever victor from District 12 Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson) and along with the help of Capitol escort Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks) and stylist Cinna (Lenny Kravitz), Katniss and Peeta prepare for life in the Hunger Games arena.
As a big (and recent) fan of the book series, what did I think of the film?
When the movie first started, I was a little worried by the shaky camera work, thinking I would have a headache if I had to deal with two and a half hours of this, so I was relieved when I discovered that this stopped after a few minutes. I was happy when the shaky camera work came back for the bloodbath at the beginning of the Hunger Games so the violence wasn’t as confronting.
In my opinion, Jennifer Lawrence was the perfect Katniss. I don’t think they could have cast anyone who would have done a better job at embodying all the complexities of Katniss. While in early casting days, fans weren’t happy with Josh Hutcherson being cast as Peeta, in my mind, he really was Peeta as he showed the exact right amount of boyish charm to make the audience fall in love with him.
I didn’t have any casting issues. I thought Elizabeth Banks looked amazing as Effie (props to the makeup and costume department) and Woody Harrelson embodied a drunken Haymitch. While Liam Hemsworth doesn’t feature prominently, as Gale is only a secondary character, he played the part well with no hint of his Australian accent. My favourite casting was Stanley Tucci as Caesar Flickerman; he is astoundingly good at playing this character. I loved the outfits and hair and makeup that you see as you come into the Capitol, they looked exactly the way I pictured them while reading.
While it wasn’t entirely faithful to the book and they changed a few things that I wasn’t thrilled about, Suzanne Collins gave it the final OK.
The changes I did like:
I liked was that we got to see inside the control room of the Gamemakers, to see how they change things inside the arena. As the book is written entirely from Katniss’s point of view, these parts weren’t shown in the book. I also liked seeing Haymitch rallying up sponsors. I think the addition of the conversations between President Snow (Donald Sutherland) and Seneca Crane (Wes Bentley) were important in setting the scene for the next film, Catching Fire, slated to be released November 2013.
Final note: I loved Seneca Crane’s beard (it was amazing) and while I like the phrase “may the odds be ever in your favour”, I felt they overdid it a little bit (as did Phillipa Hawker from SMH)
Overall, I was satisfied with the movie. I think it embodied the book as best it could and the acting was stellar. Naturally, I still prefer the book, but that’s usually the case.
Monique gives it 4 stars!
(watch this space for the differences between the book and the movie)