Monday, March 26, 2012

What March 24-26th Means To Me: Hunger Games Thoughts

That popping sound you hear is from the champagne corks at the Lionsgate offices.
The Hunger Games proved itself to be the shiniest object in the American zeitgeist this weekend, as it broke all sorts of records on its way to a 155 million dollar box office gross.  For those that care about box office numbers (I've always found them interesting from a sociological standpoint), that's third highest all time, and the highest opening for a non-sequel (it was only bested by the last Harry Potter flick and the Dark Knight.)  Though experts predicted it may make less money because it was a franchise debut, I think The Hunger Games might have more staying power for the same reason.  Harry Potter: Deathly Hallows Part 2's gaudy 169 million opening represented 44 percent of it's total gross, probably because most Harry Potter fans saw it that weekend, and people who were never invested in the series certainly weren't going to start with the 8th installment.  I believe people who originally had no intention of seeing The Hunger Games may give it a shot considering it's the first in the series, thus giving them the ability to get in on the ground floor. 

Though I suppose movies are never as good as their source material, the film adaptation of the Hunger Games is, well, damn close.  An incredibly faithful adaptation of the book, the film hits all the correct beats and, though it couldn't add all the great scenes from the novel, it effectively brought to life a story that is more difficult than one might think.    

Here's some random thoughts:

I actually like "Movie Katniss" better than "Book Katniss":  Katniss is a character with a ton of admirable attributes.  She's brave, yet vulnerable.  Unrefined, but refreshingly honest.  She loves her family and would do anything to protect them.  She's a loyal friend that has strict morals in a moral-less society.  And these traits were all wonderfully displayed in the movie, and Jennifer Lawrence's performance really carried the entire film.  But "Book Katniss" also has a whiny side.  While in the arena, she's constantly mentions that her "love" for Peeta is a sham, just a show to keep them alive, and, at times, she sounds like a 2nd grade girl complaining about cooties.  "Book Katniss" can also be, well, catty.  She's quick to make fun of the first names of the District 1 tributes, and isn't shy about criticizing capital couture.  She, at times, presents a "holier than thou" attitude. While both Katniss's are rough around the edges, I couldn't picture the film version of her displaying much bitterness.  And that's a good thing. 

Wonderfully Casted:  Going into the movie, I had a general good feeling about the cast (with maybe the exception of Josh Hutcherson), but I have to say they all showed up.  I think the only casting choice I had an issue with (and this is REALLY nitpicky) was Clove, for no other reason than she's not what I pictured.  And the only scene in the entire movie I took umbrage with was the one in which Clove almost killed Katniss at the Cornucopia (the second time).  I can't remember how the scene was handled in the book, but the whole "I'm gonna talk to you for a while and admit my sins when I could just kill you" was a bad story technique I wish they did without. 

The Mockingjay Pin:  There was something about the emotional scene where Prim gave Katniss her newly acquired Mockingjay pin that gave me some inner lulz.  In the novel, Katniss receives the pin from Madge, the mayor's daughter, who didn't make the movie cut.  So, for the film, Katniss finds the pin in the Seam, and gives it to Prim moments before heading to the reaping to "protect her."  Now, we don't know the child population of District 12,  but lets put the highest odds of Prim's selection at .2% (assuming there's 1000 children in the District 12 age range and 500 are girls. Add the fact that Prim had never taken a tessera, giving her only one entry in the lottery and, my math right? I got shit math grades in high school for a reason).  Anyway, pretty low odds she beat, some good that Mockingjay pin did her.  So after Katniss volunteers as tribute, and Prim says her farewell, she, of course, returns the Mockingjay pin for Katniss's protection.  Prim should have said, "Katniss, we should burn this fucking thing."

Katniss/Cinna:  Because a movie clearly can't include everything, their relationship got the short end of the stick.  It was arguably my favorite in the book, and though they shared some nice moments on screen, I couldn't tell how well their relationship was developed because my mind automatically fleshed it out with what I remember from the novel. Though, my favorite scene in the entire movie was the one they share seconds before Katniss entered the arena. 

Scenes I Missed:   I really missed two moments from the book.   1) The scene in which Katniss receives the bread from District 11 after Rue dies. (I actually liked the District 11 riot choice, though).  2) There was a moment in the book when Haymitch realizes that he finally has two contenders in Katniss and Peeta, and vocalizes the opinion.  It was a nice moment where they officially won him over. 

Biggest Surprise: How roundly mocked the Twilight teaser was.  Though the Hunger Games is a movie that will have more general appeal than Twilight, it seemed a lot of teen girls in my theater were laughing and poking fun at the preview.  Perhaps Twilight's time has passed, and the kids are on to the new thing?  Maybe much of the Twilight audience has simply grown out of it and turned on the thing they once loved (hardly shocking)?  Either way, I expect that last Twilight movie to do just fine at the box office, but I wonder if it will do as well as it's predecessors.

Where Do We Go From Here:  As I've written before on the blog, I think the Hunger Games books get progressively worse, with the third book bordering on horrible.  The beauty of the first one is how personal the story is.  It's a tale of survival and the sacrifices we make for loved ones.  The next two books concern Katniss's fight against an oppressive government, and the story becomes entirely too big for the arc.  It's incredibly interesting to learn about Panem, the games, and Katniss's life in the first book, but a young adult story about a 16-18 year old girl leading a revolution?  Eh ... it just doesn't hold up, but may the odds be ever in their favor.

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