The only thing that is actually making me want to see this one is how much I actually enjoyed parts of the first one, even when there were parts that were actually shitting on me. Everything that wasn't an action sequence was terrible, and every action sequence that wasn't scorpions was a lot of fun. I really enjoyed Medusa and, admittedly, the Kraken.
My wife and I went to see The Hunger Games today.
The Hunger Games was great. Let me get that out of the way first. I'm just not sure if it was a great adaptation or a great movie. Like, did I feel so strongly about it because I had the details in the book helping me flesh out the story? Or was it actually a great movie? We've been talking about this all night, so I think I'm actually leaning towards it being a great movie.
First, everything it did right. This was about as true an adaptation I've ever seen. And, even better, it wasn't just a true adaptation, it was an adaptation that worked as a film. The powerful moments were powerful in all the right places, all of the story's plot points were delivered and the final product was a great, single piece. You could look at the ending as a pathway for a sequel, but I think, had it (and the book) ended there it still would have been a great story. The events of the next two books aren't really necessary to understand the point of the book.
The biggest point that my wife and I discussed (and that has been discussed all across the internet) was about
SPOILER - click box below to reveal
Rue and her life and death. The book had a lot more that developed her relationship with Katniss, but the film didn't do so much there. At the same time, perhaps the strongest thing about this adaptation was how almost nothing suffered from a Mr. Exposition. The novel is all first person, so characters are developed and the world is shown through interior monologue. The film doesn't have that advantage, but instead of forcing shitty writing into the proceedings, it decides to do what film is most famous for: Showing instead of telling.
There is no opportunity in the script for Katniss to explain how Rue is her surrogate sister, because how would you have a scene like that? Her death is still powerful, even though they only had ten minutes of screen time together instead of thirty. At the same time, a lesser adapter (and the more common one found) would have just had Katniss rescue Rue from the net, cutting out all of their time together, because that single act would still show the world that she was different enough, leading to the riot in District 11, leading the 11 boy to save her, leading to the District 11 stuff from Catching Fire, etc. But these screenwriters clearly had respect for the source material, and they wanted to actually make it a film, instead of making it a film version of the novel, if that makes sense.
Every opportunity they had to tell instead of show (like a novel does), they decided to show and not tell, and I love them for it. This does, unfortunately, lead to my biggest disappointment: The child faced dogs in the climax. As a reader, reading about monsters based on the dead children fucked me right up. That felt like the best possible conclusion: Here you have killed all these children, and now weird monster animals with their faces are hunting you? That's terrifying and brilliant. Unfortunately, there's no way to express that without it sounding a little silly. So, the way they did it was the best possible, I guess. My hope is that they're saving that for the final installment, during the sewer chase, when maybe they can get the actors back to clearly portray their characters as monsters, making the metaphor terrifying and clear. I'm just a little bummed out that they didn't do it here, in part one.
So, in the end, I think it was actually a great movie. It succeeded in every way that a film can succeed. It didn't rely on sweeping violins, even when it had plenty of opportunities to do so.
SPOILER - click box below to reveal
Rue's death was handled with a quiet dignity, even musically, and the reunion stuff with Peeta was also underplayed. In the hands of a lesser writer/director those things would have been played up and ruined.
The silence was one of the things I appreciated the most about the movie. It was clear in its juxtaposition between District 1 and District 12, and the juxtaposition between the games and the viewers of the games. It never beat you over the head with anything, and it never tried to work hard to make you feel differently than you naturally would feel. There was very little emotional manipulation, and that's something that I was really worried about. This film was nice and quiet.
So, in the end, the only thing I'd change was the director. And that's not even fair. I would change how he held the camera. I had heard so much about the shaky cam, but I was shocked to see how much the camera shook on normal, every day, static shots. An old man eating meat off a bone? Shaky cam. People standing in line? Shaky cam. Scenes that are absolutely still and don't need to rely on any kind of kinetic energy or motion? Shaky cam.
Thankfully this becomes more measured and is used far less frequently after the first ten minutes, but man. Those first ten minutes actually worried me.
So. Hunger Games. One of the best adaptations of a source material I've seen and, in the end, a damn fine movie.