- Costume Design
The Hunger Games
Director: Gary Ross
Writers: Gary Ross, Billy Ray, Suzanne Collins (novel and screenplay)
Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Liam Hemsworth, Josh Hutcherson, Elizabeth Banks, Woody Harrelson, Lenny Kravitz, Stanley Tucci, Donald Sutherland
Cinematography: Tom Stern
Costume Design: Judianna Makovsky
You may have heard about the little movie called The Hunger Games, which was filmed in Asheville, North Carolina. It’s based off the popular series of young adult novels by Suzanne Collins. Following in the footsteps of franchises such as Harry Potter and Twilight, The Hunger Games has a lot to live up to. But the movie adaptation has now earned enough money to become the 3rd best opening weekend of all time, just behind Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 and The Dark Knight (suck it Twilight). It’s $155 million dollar weekend is the largest of all time for a non-sequel. The film has certainly made an name for itself in the record books and exceeded box office predictions. But the real question is: does the movie live up to the expectations of the fans?
The story is set in Panem, what used to be North America, a country torn apart by war. It has been divided into 12 separate districts based on production. Each of the 12 districts, in penance for an uprising during the war, is forced each year to send 2 tributes between the ages of 12 and 18 to the Capital. The 24 children battle each other in a televised event called The Hunger Games, which can only have one surviving winner. Katniss Everdeen is a girl living in District 12, who supports her mother and younger sister by hunting illegally in the surrounding forest with her fellow hunter Gale. Katniss’s sister Primrose is entering into the Game’s lottery for the first time, and against all odds Prim’s name is drawn out of the hundreds. In an effort to save her sister, Katniss volunteers as tribute and takes her place. She joins Peeta Mellark, the baker’s son, in the fight to the death.
It Follows the Book
One of the things that fans worry about the most is whether the movie changes too much of what was originally written. When a book is taken to the big screen some things understandably have to be modified in order to fit into the two hour slot. For the most part, the movie has everything that you love about the book. I’m sure the fact that Suzanne Collins helped write the screenplay has something to do with that. The plot is basically the same, with only a few minor adjustments. I can’t go into too much detail without giving something away but trust me, as a fan of the books I was pretty happy with the way things played out.
Seeing the Other Side
The book is told from the perspective of one person, our heroine Katniss Everdeen. But the movie shows us some other scenes besides the ones going on in Katniss’s head. For instance, we get to see the Gamemakers as they play around with the different aspects of the arena. In the book Katniss mentions that they will do some things to amp up the action when the game gets boring, but in the movie we actually get to see when they play around with the tributes. It’s an interesting look at the television aspect of the Hunger Games, one we don’t think too much about once Katniss is fighting to survive. We also get to keep an eye on the people back in District 12, especially Gale Hawthorne. There is also an appearance by the very creepy President Snow (who doesn’t actually show up until the second book), which I think is a great addition. I enjoy getting a behind the scenes look into The Hunger Games, so these scenes were much appreciated.
The look and feel of the entire setting is just the way I pictured it. District 12 is grim and dirty, oozing a sense of hopelessness and defeat. The Capital radiates colorful insanity, a painted crowd of people who watch children die with fierce enjoyment. With such vast contrast between the two places it was important to get it right. I was most impressed with the costuming- it had to be difficult to create the “girl on fire” dress but they did a great job. Some of the more action packed sequences will have you watching in complete awe (and if you’ve read the book you probably know which scenes I’m talking about). I may have to pay the extra bucks to go see it at IMAX, because it will probably look amazing on that big hi-definition screen.
They did an amazing job finding the right people to play the parts. Jennifer Lawrence does an amazing job as Katniss, capturing her calm exterior and inner turmoil perfectly. Peeta and Gale both look exactly the way I wanted them too, though in my opinion they had Peeta be too much of a nice guy. It’s more interesting when we’re questioning where Peeta’s true loyalties lie. Most impressive are the supporting cast members. I love Stanley Tucci as the game host Caesar Flickerman, with his winning smile and bright blue hair. And Effie Trinket is played by the perfectly coiffed Elizabeth Banks, who is dripping with perkiness and arrogance. And as much as I enjoyed Woody Harrelson as Haymitch, they unfortunately cut one of his best scenes – where he drunkenly falls off stage and ruins Effie’s hair. Hopefully it’s just a deleted scene that we can see on a Special Edition DVD or something.
The Shaky Camera Shots
I suppose I have to forgive them for using this trick, I mean how else are you going to show the violent deaths of young children without the blood and gore of an R rating. But I still really hated whenever the camera started dancing around, showing brief flashes of the action. Ever since The Blair Witch Project, movies have been doing this to make scenes seem “edgy” and “documentary style”. I happen to think it’s stupid. It’s more important to me to actually see what’s happening, instead of “feeling like I’m in the action”. Because I could really do without the sensation that I’m running around, preferring my comfy stationary seat in the theater.
It’s the one thing that suffers whenever you transform a book into a movie: the little things that cause you to really care about the characters. We’re really only given brief glimpses (and I do mean brief – most of the time it’s just a flash of an image) of certain things that I feel are important. While the general story is intact, the complexities of the book aren’t included in an overview. We don’t really see Katniss’s conflicted feelings for Peeta Mellark and Gale Hawthorne. The audience isn’t given a chance to discover why Katniss feels so connected to Rue, the youngest tribute from District 11. There is only a brief mention of the death of Katniss’s father, and her mother’s subsequent catatonic state which caused her two children to starve. These things are essential to the story in my eyes, and are only hinted at in the movie. I really don’t believe that people who haven’t read the book will be able to get the whole story, or even be able to understand some of what is going on. I have no way to test this theory because like a good friend I passed the book along to everyone I know. If I was a better movie critic I probably would have left a few people out. Maybe next time I’ll remember to have a test group.
Overall: 4 Stars Out of 5
I’ve trained myself not to expect too much of movies that are adapted from books. The general rule is that the page is always better and the film leaves out all the scenes you love. So I was pleasantly surprised to find how much I enjoyed The Hunger Games on the big screen. While I missed some character development, it’s not enough to detract from the rest of the story. It almost seemed like reading the book beforehand enhanced how I saw the movie. We’re given brief images that point to aspects of the more complex story, so if you’ve read the material you know exactly what’s going on. It’s a great start to what I’m sure will be an awesome series of movies. I just hope they leave the hand camera work in the past and focus more on the characters.