I finally went out to see The Hunger Games with my Dad yesterday. After reading the books by Suzanne Collins right when they came out, I was excited to hear the manuscripts would be hitting the silver screen.
As a fan of such works as Brave New World, 1984, and Lord of the Flies, I’ve thought THG’s off-beat premise is one of the more compelling in the last few years. I admire stories that seem to have their own gravitational pull, not just because of their characters, but their absurdly outlandish yet dangerously plausible scenarios. It’s fiction enough that you feel safe for the time being, but inwardly you’re thinking, “Dang, I sure hope this never happens to me.”
Given that Collins wrote THG in first-person present – not only the hardest point of view to write from, but also the most grueling tense – I had even higher hopes for the film. Yet how often have we all been disappointed by the on-screen adaptation?
Early screen shots released on the Internet last year had me worried. It looked like it was shaping up to be a made-for-TV movie, not a piece of cinema. But fortunately that was the marketing firm’s fault. Within the first thirty seconds I knew I was in for a good show.
If anything, my only complaint was that the film employed too many close ups, not enough wide shots, and the Director of Photography and his crew had IV’s of Jolt as the camera shaking was a little over the top. Granted, I got they were trying to build intensity and probably capture Collins’ first-person present POV; but when things are distracting and not complimentary, the art is missing the point. It could have been toned down and still gotten the same message across. Hungry? I was starving for the steady, wide shots when they finally came.
Having Collins on as one of the Producers ensured the story stayed true to the book – an absolute must for a piece like this. It also made sure the casting was impeccable.
Jennifer Lawrence (Katniss Everdeen) was feminine enough that she was beautiful, yet not so dainty that you didn’t fully believe she could hold her own and survive in the woods. Peta was exactly as I pictured him, as we’re Rue, Kato, Glimmer and others. And I thought bringing in Donald Sutherland, Lenny Kravitz, Woody Harrelson, and Elizabeth Banks were all great touches.
My dad poignantly commented that the score (James Newton Howard, T-Bone Burnett) was understated, a welcomed change to many hyped-up flicks, and exuded the naturally tendencies of the tribal, the hunt, and the melancholy. Strings, drums, and Celtic-folk undercurrents were extremely complimentary.
Obviously the movie had to cut out a lot. But on our ride home, hearing my father bring up a lot of the exact emotions I’d experienced while reading the first book lead me to know Collins had helped invoke her same intensity into the film versions of her story as well.
For those concerned about the content or premise: yes, THG aren’t for everyone. But I found the themes of self-sacrifice, overcoming tyranny, confronting personal demons, and the mob-lust of a pleasure-saturated and flamboyant elite society all strikingly relevant. Not just entertaining, these are reminders that our culture needs to hear.