Thursday, 5 April 2012

The Hunger Games

I read kiddie books. And I am not ashamed of it. I watch the film versions of the kiddie books, repeatedly and I talk about them passionately. These are my thoughts on my most recent discovery in this genre: The Hunger Games.

Ok, so this is going to be long, and spoiler heavy, so, you have been warned, stop reading if you don't like spoilers. I personally love spoilers, I read spoilers on purpose. I Google episode descriptions of TV dramas, read plot synopses of films or sneak a look at the back page of a book before the end of the first chapter so that I know the ending. Only then can I concentrate on the actual storytelling, If I don't know the ending, I can't focus on the story. Or the way it's told. The one and only time I haven't known the ending before I read the story?

Harry Potter.

And  that is because Harry Potter is special. So so special. The Hunger Games will go in to my top fave books list (for now) but Harry Potter isn't in that list. Harry Potter, for me can't be defined by a list. Harry Potter wasn't a book. It was a life, a tool, a comfort blanket, an era.

So anyway. Yesterday I saw The Hunger Games with Laura. We waited a few weeks from the release date as we were so busy. This tells you something. With Harry Potter I queued through the night for my book. I sat up all night reading. I went to see the films (sometimes in fancy dress) the actual second it was released. I was happy to wait for this, so I don't have the Harry Potter passion, but I do adore the franchise. I adore it more than I adore His Dark Materials. Which is pretty damn amazing itself. I was so sad when they didn't make the second and third films. So sad. I was glad I waited though, as it meant that I could read all the reviews and take them on board and really focus on the finer details of the film.

I have to say I loved it. I cried. I laughed. I gasped. I cringed. I cowered. It was true to the book, but I was a little bit disappointed that not all of my favourite parts made it to the screen. I realise that it can't ever be like that because narrative and internal dialogue doesn't translate to the screen, without it being cheesy or childish. So with that in mind they did pretty damn well to make it work.

So, here we go...
  • KATNISS: Katniss, Katniss, Katniss. Good lord that girl is on FIRE. She took my breath away. The close ups of her firing the arrows in to the apples with the bowstring against her lip... I swear she made my body tingle. I love her.
  • Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss: What a great find! Those tears she cries for Rue? The silent ones as she holds her. The wracking sobs as she sits wounded and alone in the forest. Those tears took my breath away. What a girl. And what a body. And her skin. Straight to the top of my girl crush list.
  • Rue: What great casting. That little girl was stunning. Actually, I'm typing this on my phone on the tube and I just welled up at the thought of that scene.
  • The finger kiss/salute: Tears. That is all I can say about that without crying all over again.
  • Caesar Flickerman: What a dude!
  • Stanley Tucci as Caesar Flickerman: Amazing. That head turn and the smile? A. Mazing.
  • The setting: The depictions of Districts 11 and 12 were fantastic. The montages made it less of a science fiction film and more real (more later)
  • The "reason" montage they play at the Reaping: Chilling. That was a real life message. Not just part of the story. "Dear humanity - stop being so f**ked up please. KR Suzanne"
  • Effie: I want to hate her but I actually adore her. I want to cuddle her and tell her it'll be ok. "Welcome, welcome". And her outfits? So Gaga!
  • Cinna: Great casting. So pretty.
  • Lenny Kravitz: Wow. Just wow.
  • Haymitch: I love that we get to see how much he cares
  • Peeta: I thought I was going to love him. But I adored him. He is just adorable from start to finish. He could have been annoying with his scared-angsty-shocked face at the Reaping, but I felt like it was ok. in fact, it made me love him, so it was more than ok, obviously. He was just the right amount of in-love with Katniss to make me want to hug him not slap him. And of course he's very, very pretty. Much prettier than in real life.
  • President Snow: He was just the right amount of creepy and sinister, but seemed so calm, logical and sensible. A calm, logical and sensible crazy-mad dictator is the scariest kind of crazy-mad dictator. Don't you think?
  • Gale: I wanted to adore him though. He wasn't strong enough for me. He was strong, but I needed a bit more from him. I know, long term, he's about the "fire" but there was a bit too much whinge. He was, however, very very pretty.
  • The Capitol: I didn't adore it. It wasn't quite as I imagined it, which is fine, but I didn't feel like we saw enough of it, and it wasn't real enough. It was a teensy but too CGI. Still great though. I hope we get to see more of it in parts two and three point one and three point two. In the meantime, check these links out: the "official" Capitol website and some Capitol Couture
  • Seneca Crane: I love how he came alive in the film. In the book he was forgettable to me.
  • Seneca Crane's facial hair: I don't like facial hair as a rule. But I love that facial hair.
  • The cuts to the outside world: I think this tool worked well for keeping up the pace and intensity where the film couldn't cover the material in the book.
  • The games makers, their HQ and their tools: Clever, very clever. I hated them as people/characters. But they're just doing their job, right? Makes me scared about real-life Games Makers. Anyone else thinking about Simon Cowell? Read Ben Elton's Chart Throb.
What I DIDN'T love, but liked (but I didn't hate)
  • No bread!: Where was the District 11 bread? Where?!?!?! That was a defining moment for me. I was sad they left it out.
  • The cave kiss: was a bit too awkward for me. But then again, maybe I did like it. Maybe that was true to how it was going to be for them, right there, in that situation? Maybe I should move it up...?
  • The "Girl on Fire" outfit: I wanted more than that. Cinna would have given us more than that. Wouldn't he?
  • Prim: I know she's meant to be a child, and a scared, damaged one at that, but in the book and in my head, she had more inner strength that they gave her in the film. When you compare her to Rue it's just silly.
  • The Twirl: It didn't work for me. I wanted to see the finger twirl from Cinna and I wanted more reluctance.
  • Where was the angst?: Where was the screaming to get back to Peeta when they "won" and they took them up to the hovercraft. I know he wasn't injured, and that part of the story had been cut but they could have added in a bit more angst. I wanted to cry a bit more here. A bit more realisation that she is starting to love him.
  • The other tributes: I started to form a few hateful thoughts about some of the girls. I wanted to hate Cato more though. At the end where he loses it on the Cornucopia I started to feel a bit sorry for him. That was probably some good acting or screen writing, you know, making us realise that he's still a scared young guy after all, just trying to make his home town proud of him. But still, I just wasn't in love with that scene. I didn't want it to go that way. Clever though.
  • The Cornucopia: I wasn't feeling it. It reminded me of the sound stages at festivals. A bit too normal.
What I hated:
  • The Mutts: They just didn't have the terror factor that they had in the book. I know it's hard to translate that kind of stuff without lots and lots of explanatory dialogue. I'm not scared of monsters but I am scared of deep-rooted psychological torture. In the books those mutts tortured them mentally and physically, the mental torture was harder to bear.
And what deeply affected me (in both the books and the film):
  • The way I actually lived Katniss' love dilemma: The way her thought process about Gale and Peeta also became mine. In the books I was Team Gale, in the film I was Team Gale at the beginning, blah blah, he's so pretty, blah blah. I also read all the stuff about Peeta not living up to the fan's allusions of him, Well... all of a sudden, I became Team Peeta. I was in fact Team Peeta throughout the Game, even with the wistful flashbacks to Gale in District 12 (suck it up dude. Stop whinging) and I thought "wow, I've really gone over to the blond side" and then just at the end when they return and stand in front of the crowd, BAM, there I was, back in Team Gale... or was I. I thought that was good. Very good.
  • The scenery: It was science fiction enough to be completely un-real... but something about the scenery and the setting is just real enough to make it really, really, erm, real. In my head the post-apocalyptic future doesn't have woods and meadows. It looks like Judge Dredd's world, or Waterworld. It doesn't look so normal. And so I loved that it looked so normal. I don't read fiction about real life or about people doing things similar to my day to day life. I can see that on the news or in the papers. I like fiction that's properly fiction. About magic, about the past, about the future, about worlds that don't exist. But this? This was something else entirely. It made me think about current reality. Are we already in this "science fiction future"? Which leads me on to....
  • The message: The message that deeply affected me all the way through the books. This wasn't lost in the film. The message wasn't forgotten in favour of Hollywood-isation. In my head this could actually be happening a few miles away. In fact, is it? (did that just go all a bit Inception there?) I work in Canary Wharf. I wear a lot of bright colours. I have a lot of unnecessary stuff. Is this the Capitol? Are we sending kids out to warzones to die so that we can keep a tight hold on our oil fields? Are we living the life of luxury whilst tiny, scared children are dying for lack of the basic human needs of nourishment and shelter? Are we watching people play out their deepest feelings on reality TV for our own enjoyment? Are there rooms full of "suits" sitting around tables, entirely removed from the real world making decisions about TV content, battle tactics, food distribution, the things that we see, do, touch, eat, feel, hear etc etc etc  in "real life"? Yes. Yes we are. Yes we do. Yes there are. This message is what made the books so deeply disturbing, but utterly intoxicating to me.
And there we go. A new obsession is formed. I literally can't wait until the next film comes out. I'll possibly have to re-read the books.

Maybe twice.

But, oh, before I go... Stephanie Meyer, KStew... would you like a cuddle?

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