So, first thing I'm going to say is that I did like this film a lot. It deserves all the praise it has been getting and it stays pretty close to the book. What I'm going to do throughout most of this review is nit-pick, because the movie is that good to where the only thing you can do is point out all of the minor flaws. And yes, I have read all the books, so I'll give my two cents on things they left out or changed. I liked the opening of the movie, it set the stage nicely and allowed the uninitiated to not be completely in the dark about what was going on. I thought Katniss' relationship with Prim was portrayed very well in the pre-reaping, with the director taking liberties with the mockingjay pin to build up the sisterly bond. Did I mind that they totally scrapped Madge? Nah, she wasn't necessary, and I think it was important to emphasize the sister's dedication to each other. The scenes with Gale were OK. I feel like they could of built up that relationship a little bit. I mean, they are supposed to be soul mates and they just seem a little playful in the movie. The whole reaping scene was perfect-o. The beaten down look on everyone's faces, the eerie stillness in the air, and the sense of dread that is all over Prim. Enter Effie, whose cheeriness seems very out of place against the white-washed stage. Elizabeth Banks played Effie very well, to the point where I didn't think about her being Effie, but that the person there was Effie herself. Anyway, the scene that really hit me was when Effie calls out Prim's name. Everyone kind of backs away from her (and Peeta too when his name is called) as if she has an incredibly contagious disease and she looks around as if she isn't really sure if this is a dream or not. Is she just having a recurring dream or has her worst fear been realized? She snaps out of it long enough to tuck in her duck tail and heads towards the stage before Katniss intervenes and blah blah blah. We all saw the part in the previews. Anyway, its sad and we all know it. Good job, movie.
A few things missing from the beginning: The fleeing Avox girl and boy are gone. This is also not a huge loss and I can see why they ditched it. Katniss thinks about the Avox girl a lot in the book, and it would have been hard to translate that to the movie screen. There is also little to no explanation about why they have to put their names in several times or what that gives them. It's said by Katniss very quickly before she leaves, but if I didn't know what was going on, I probably would have missed it.
On the train we finally hear from Peeta and it's right then that I realized that perhaps Josh Hutcherson wasn't the best choice for Peeta. I really didn't like him throughout the movie. Peeta was borderline worthless in the first book, which is why I didn't really like him until a little ways into Catching Fire. Hutcherson just played him as being this dull idiot who meant well. Oh, and he was super whiny. Don't hate on me yet, Team Peeta, as I'm all for him, but he wasn't portrayed well in this film. Someone who was portrayed well was Haymitch. Woody Harrelson is Haymitch, end of discussion. All the capital scenes played out pretty much how I imagined them, with people wearing tons of different colors and all looking like hipsters. Cinna was oddly the only person in the prep team who has a lot of screen time. The others are seen for maybe ten seconds. They'll be along in the next film, trust me. They are too pivotal in the third book to be left out completely. I though Lenny Kravitz did a fine job as Cinna. He played him basically how I thought he'd be in real life.
A few good things about having a movie based on The Hunger Games is that we get to see things through more eyes than one. In the book, we only see things through Katniss' eyes and hear her thoughts. With a movie, we can see scenes with Haymitch, Seneca Crane, and President Snow, even though they are not sharing a scene with Katniss. It was fun to see Haymitch helping his team out by going and talking to sponsors, because in the book it seemed like he wasn't doing anything at all (though he was). The only trade-off is that we do not have Katniss' thoughts. We don't hear her think about her relationship with Gale or her confusion with how she feels for Peeta. We don't hear her thoughts on the Avox girl, or her close studying of Foxface, or her fear that she may have to kill Rue if it comes to it. That's why when it really comes down to it, books are just a bit better than movies. I really felt that I understood Katniss and her struggles in the books. It's harder for me to say the same thing for the movie. I don't know, maybe it's just me.
OK, now for the arena. It was just as bloody and violent as I hoped it would be. That makes me sound like a horrible person. What I meant to say is that I'm glad that they didn't sanitize all the violence from the book. It still had kids getting sliced up, beaten, and not to mention eaten. Best deaths go to the male tribute from District 3 who gets his neck snapped by Cato, and my all time favorite death is Clove getting her head bashed in by Thresh. She totally deserved it! I'm glad they kept the scene where she is fighting with the boy for the backpack at the beginning of the arena.
I'm not sure why I like this part so much but it just shows how real the whole thing was, that Katniss was a backpack away from getting a knife in the face in the first minute. The whole thing with Rue is beautiful, if not tragic at the same time. Cato was much more menacing than I thought he was going to be. I saw a picture of the actor before seeing the movie and I thought he wasn't going to pull it off. He just looked...well...not scary. He pulled it off though. But how is he the "main villain" for the movie? Sure he lasted the longest, but he didn't really come close to killing Katniss. Hell, Clove almost killed her twice! She should have been the main villain. Too bad she got cornucopia'd. Yeah, so the whole Peeta-Katniss cave scene: yuck. I didn't like that part in the book either. It was too awkward and honestly cringe worthy. As soon as Peeta started talking about how he should have gone out to her in the rain that one day and given her the bread, I started rolling my eyes. Their relationship was just not believable and Peeta shouldn't have been fooled for a second.
Foxface always intrigued me in the book. She was that tribute that I figured would either help Katniss, or would end up being her foil. It turns out it's neither, but she isn't even mentioned until ten minutes before the credits roll. That was a little odd. The mutts were...well....just big dogs, as I guess it would have been hard to show that they were supposed to represent the dead tributes. I guess if they would of focused more on the tributes eyes and then showed the mutts eyes? Nah, too much work for something that wasn't that important. I honestly didn't like the cornucopia scene at the end. It just wasn't as suspenseful as the book. Instead of Cato running out of the woods being chased by the mutts, he's already on the cornucopia. Then Cato throws both of them around for awhile until Katniss shoots his hand and he's knocked over into a gang of hyenas...er...mutts. Meh. It was alright, but not exactly what I expected. I kind of wish Peeta had actually done something during the games. Sure he warns Katniss and gets slashed because of it, but the rest of the time he is just kind of there. Katniss killed Marvel, Glimmer, and Cato (kind of, Peeta helped), while Peeta unwittingly killed Foxface. I just never got the feeling that Peeta was ever really protecting Katniss, but that she protected him. Oh, and one last change from the books is that Thresh was killed by the mutts instead of Cato. Fine.
My biggest gripe with this great movie was the very end. Here is the end of the book:
""It was all for the games," he says. "How you acted."
“Not all of it,” I say, tightly holding onto my flowers.
“Then how much? No, forget that. I guess the real question is what’s going to be left when we get home?” he says.
“I don’t know. The closer we get to District Twelve, the more confused I get,” I say. He waits, for further explanation, but none’s forthcoming.
“Well, let me know when you work it out,” he says, and the pain in his voice is palpable.""
Heartbreaking, right? It's also a fantastic ending to the book. The movie says somewhat the same thing, but only shorter and lacks any emotion. She says she wants to forget everything, and he says he doesn't. That's it. I didn't like it. It didn't even seemed like he got that she was playing him to keep them alive. So, not the best ending in my book. So, the movie had some disappointing parts, but it had a hell of a lot of good parts to make up for it. Sure they left out some things or didn't explain other things, but it all worked out in the end. Right? What did you think of the film? Better or worse than the book? Me, I say the book was better. The movie was great, but it lacked the satirical edge that the book had, and I felt more invested in Katniss while reading it. I give the film a B+. It's sure to please both fans and outsiders alike!