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March 26, 2012

*** SPOILERS *** The Hunger Games ***SPOILERS***
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 12:48 PM * 24 comments

Okay, a place to discuss the book(s) and movie without the need for ROT-13 or further warnings.

CONTAINS SPOILERS

You have been warned.


***SPOILERS*** ***SPOILERS*** ***SPOILERS***
Comments on *** SPOILERS *** The Hunger Games ***SPOILERS***:
#1 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2012, 02:32 PM:

::looks around:: ::lifts up rug suspiciously:: Hm. No spoilers here. ;-)

#2 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2012, 03:08 PM:

Look on the back of the car.

#3 ::: Kevin Riggle ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2012, 05:40 PM:

I really liked the film, but I didn't believe until I looked it up on IMDB that it was a two-and-a-half-hour movie. (142 minutes, to be exact.) It felt like more like 90 minutes, and I really wished that the movie, especially the early sequences in District 12, had given us some time to breathe and get a sense of the place. They did well with what they had, but man, it was a rush the whole way through. It was a distance I didn't want and struggled to feel through -- though judging by my friends' reactions, it was still pretty rough for them.

The one time the movie really opened up to let us grieve -- at Rue's death -- I spent the whole time, as I had while reading that sequence in the book, going "get up, get moving, they set a trap there, they know the place, they've found you there once already and killed your friend, you're a sitting duck, you can grieve later, MOVE!" Knowing how it comes out, I should probably have stomped on that reaction and let myself feel the moment -- I would probably have enjoyed the movie more and been more engaged in the ending -- but habits die hard.

I comfort myself in this with the idea of the real Katniss, on whom the book and movie were both based, sitting next to me in the theater grumbling about what really happened.

#4 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2012, 06:18 PM:

The biggest question mark for me, going into the movie, was how they would deal with the shift from a strict first person narrative to a purely third person one. Half of that concern is purely from a narrative point of view: how can you get all that background info, the context out without Kat's perspective? The other half of the worry is for the Story: so much of the narrative tension is about the conflict between what is going on in Kat's head and what she is expressing on the outside, about how the constant surveillance wears away her sense of personhood.

I think they dealt well with the first and poorly with the second. The choice to incorporate the Games control room, make the Gamemaster Seneca and Snow more present as characters helped show the motivations that Kat knows implicitly, and Ceasar's commentary helped fill in some of the other expository holes. The scene where Seneca is shut in the room with the nightlock was oh so fitting.

But the movie lacked, to my mind, the paranoid and claustrophobic atmosphere of the book. Katniss doesn't seem nearly as closely watched and controlled as she does in the novel, and you hardly get any sense of the internal confusion between what is an act and what is genuine in her relationship with Peeta. In general I felt their relationship was botched: the chariot scene, where Peeta persuades her to hold hands to sway the crowd misses the import of the book's version of the scene: she's desperately glad to have him to hold on to. That there was a genuine chemistry between the two of them, one that gets displaced by the faux romance, doesn't show through on the screen. That, I think, is the real horror of the Hunger Games: they sculpt you into what they want so completely you can't even tell what you want. They erode you away. It's a big theme to miss.

Not that I have any idea how to capture that internal dynamic on screen.

#5 ::: Brad Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2012, 12:03 AM:

I went in having not read the book (started it last night after having watched the movie). I really enjoyed it, but did find the high points totally predictable, which is unusual for me. I tend to be able to turn the analytical part of my mind off and just watch <whatever>. In this case, it was active enough or the plot points were obvious enough to see them coming a mile away.

Very much looking forward to the richer story that I expect to find in the book form of the story.

#6 ::: Kevin Riggle ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2012, 05:38 AM:

heresiarch @4: Personally I was glad that Katniss's struggle stayed internal. I think it was still there, but she lets so little of it show, and I appreciated that the movie let her keep so much to herself. It's all going on under the surface, and hope it will come up later, but for the meantime I think really what we see of her internal struggle is her complete absence of displayed emotion, usually, except when feigned as in the ending segment on Caesar's show.

Even in the books, in the chariot ride, she's grateful to have Peeta there but she can't express it in words. She's willing to do it, she's happier for it, she feels better for it -- and you can see it on her face in the movie -- but she's in no way capable of saying that, and she would probably consider it unwise and unsafe to do so even if she wanted to. He may kill her in scant days, or she him -- how can she dare show weakness now? I had not expected the moviemakers to let Katniss be nearly as hard and as interior as she was in the books, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that they had.

#7 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2012, 10:13 AM:

Disclaimer: I have neither read the book nor seen the movie. However, my favorite movie reviewer's take seems to imply that if one is not already a big fan of the movie, it's tedious and kind of pointless -- any Fluorospherians have an opinion on that? I did discover, by taking John to the Harry Potter movies with me, that those really expected the audience to have read the book already (cutting things that made plotlines make sense, because they assumed you knew they'd happened), and this may be similar.

I may get around to the books someday, but right now I'm really not (NOT NOT NOT) into Dark, and I gather they're Dark. Meanwhile, spoilers don't bother me.

#8 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2012, 10:40 AM:

Argh -- editing my @7, "already a big fan OF THE BOOKS".

#9 ::: Milton ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2012, 12:22 PM:

I'm a 60-ish man who hasn't read the books, and I was really impressed by the movie. The script is superb. The slightly alien ambiance of a near-future culture felt just right. I really admired the Woody Harrelson role, of a surly drunk who ends up doing a good job.
A couple of complaints: the pointless jitter-cam shots were pointless and jittery. Eesh! Also, I felt the second half of the movie (the half that takes place in the woods) dragged a bit. I was way more fascinated by the build-up in the first half.
By the way, am I correct that the books are written in the present tense? For my money, that's the literary equivalent of shaky-cam: pointless and VERY distracting.

#10 ::: Tracey C. ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2012, 12:47 PM:

Warnings for the folks who can't handle nausea-cam: I spent the first ten minutes of the movie watching through half-closed eyes, and looking away a lot, because the hand-held shaky cam stuff was THAT BAD. The occasional use of it later in the film (during fights, mostly) wasn't as intolerable, but the beginning was really awful, and if I hadn't been warned it was the first ten minutes but then over, I would have walked out.

Read the books, enjoyed them, thought they did a fairly good job at the movie, but like someone else said above, there's just not enough of the conflict that she was going through (esp. regards Peeta and her 'romance' with him) showing. There were small tells - her looking into the sky/cameras at the end before both she and P eat the berries, showing that she knows they're watching and that this won't be an acceptable finish, but that they're serious about doing it and will go through with it - that was nicely done.

The sponsors weren't shown to be as crucial as they are in the books - you didn't have a sense of why they were necessary, from the film. I also loved the shots of District 11 after Rue's death, and wanted more of the outside view.

Consider me completely appalled at the people who are complaining loudly about Rue being black (there's a tumblr collecting them, somewhere, it's really awful).

#11 ::: JCarson ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2012, 01:16 PM:

Milton @ 9, yes, the books are in present tense... which I had to go back and check, because I didn't remember, so at least for me it wasn't distracting. I'm with you on the jitter-cam, though - I understand it for running-through-the-woods scenes, but when it's showing the village in the first part, I really wanted a steadicam.

I was impressed with how they handled the shift from Katniss' tight perspective in the books, to showing us all of the games-making scenes in the movie... while keeping Peeta pretty opaque - you never find out why he joined up with the pack of District 1 and 2 tributes, or how he's dealing with everything. I'll be interested in how they do that in the next book, too, because there's a lot going on then that Katniss doesn't know about until after.

I also thought Jennifer Lawrence did a really great job showing Katniss' internal conflict - there's only so much it's possible to show on screen about her authentic feelings, particularly when she's acting for the Games' camera within the story, too. I think that may also be why they pulled back on the amount of physical affection she and Peeta share - it would be jarring in the next film to have her showing hesitation if they'd done more.


#12 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2012, 04:29 PM:

Kevin Riggle @ 6: "Personally I was glad that Katniss's struggle stayed internal. I think it was still there, but she lets so little of it show, and I appreciated that the movie let her keep so much to herself."

Yes, it would have been absolutely foreign to her character and to the story for Katniss to actually express her internal monologue. That's why it's hard: it's central to the story, but alien to the medium. There are nonetheless a set of cinematographic techniques that have accrued over the decades to portray characters' internal lives on the screen; this movie doesn't make much of them.

Don't get me wrong: I much prefer this to Katniss flopping down on her bed, flipping open her journal and delivering a "Dear Diary..." voice-over. I just wish they had evoked the psychological tension some other, theoretical, good way.

#13 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2012, 10:25 PM:

Since shakycam is a deal-breaker for me (OMG motion sickness DO NOT WANT!) I don't plan to see the movie. My 2 younger daughters (ages 19 and 22) liked it, apart from the camera work.

The books, though--I love the books. Among the many things I appreciate about them are the realistic treatment of depression, traumatic brain injury, and the aftermath of war.

I'd like to recommend this fan video depicting the Quarter Quell won by Haymitch.

#14 ::: Robert West ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2012, 10:51 PM:

heresiarch, at 4:

I should note, possibly, that I've never read the books, which cannot but color my reaction.

It felt like more like 90 minutes, and I really wished that the movie, especially the early sequences in District 12, had given us some time to breathe and get a sense of the place

I think the fact that they didn't was brilliant; we no more got time to breathe than the characters did. The rapidity of the transition, and the surreality of it all, really brought home the fundamental wrongness of the situation.

The one time the movie really opened up to let us grieve -- at Rue's death -- I spent the whole time, as I had while reading that sequence in the book, going "get up, get moving, they set a trap there, they know the place, they've found you there once already and killed your friend, you're a sitting duck, you can grieve later, MOVE!" Knowing how it comes out, I should probably have stomped on that reaction and let myself feel the moment -- I would probably have enjoyed the movie more and been more engaged in the ending -- but habits die hard.

I had both reactions - the grieving, and the "there's a trap, GO" reaction. And the bier was beautiful.


Milton: the movie portrayed alienness really, really well; a lot of that, I think, came from Peeta + Kat's reactions.


Tracey C, at 10: the sponsors seemed less important than the film itself made them out to be. I found that somewhat confusing; they're made out to be critical, but they're really not.

#15 ::: Hob ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2012, 12:51 AM:

About the sponsors, in the book (I haven't seen the movie yet) I didn't think they actually were that crucial, except for that one care package with the antibiotics. I just assumed that the tributes were encouraged to think sponsors were all-important, because that made for a better show-- it motivated them to keep up an entertaining persona instead of showing how miserable and angry they were, and it gave wealthy viewers a way to feel important.

#16 ::: Hob ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2012, 01:21 AM:

Also-- the sponsor thing, and the idea of the "pro" kids from better-off districts, are part of what I think makes this way more interesting than most stories about reality shows or gladiatorial games(*). The game isn't just scary and violent, it's corrupt and superficial, which feels closer to how any oppressive system run by human beings really is. You don't become a hero by being an indomitable individual like in Gladiator, but by acting out someone else's idea of a hero. And by and large, people don't watch reality shows to see someone really just doing what they have to do and ignoring the camera; part of what makes them involving is the feeling that someone's showing off for you.

(* And I'm so glad no one here has yet said "Isn't this just like Battle Royale?" I like irresponsible mayhem as much as the next guy, so I liked that movie, but there was just about no point in it where I could believe that these were people in a world.)

#17 ::: JM ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2012, 01:57 PM:

My theater-going party was half those who'd read the books and half those who had not, and all of us liked the movie quite a bit. Having read and loved the books, I would have liked to see more development of some of the aspects you guys have brought up already: Katniss's simultaneous mistrust and need of Peeta's friendship, her continual effort to play for the cameras, the claustrophobia of constant surveillance both in and out of the arena -- crucial thematic material.

I had read reviews beforehand and prepared myself for a Harry Potter 5 experience (sort of a brisk, choppy montage of scenes I recognized from the book, disconnected and undeveloped), but in fact, I found the movie impressively coherent and well paced.

As for Battle Royale: I haven't seen the movie, but I have read the book and found it one of the most tedious reading experiences of my adult life. Even if Koushun Takami had been the first person ever to think of an event wherein young people are made to kill each other, and Suzanne Collins had ripped off his entire plot in flawless micro-detail, I'd like hers better.

#18 ::: Rob Thornton ::: (view all by) ::: March 29, 2012, 11:03 AM:

I did not read the books before seeing the movie. That said, I found that I could not get inside the actual Hunger Games component of the film.

In contrast, most of the adult actors--Donald Sutherland, Woody Harrelson, Stanley Tucci, even Lenny Kravitz(!)--were monstrously good. They chewed scenery with verve and panache. I must cast special opprobrium towards the guy who played the Gamemaster, though. He had no game and just drained the energy out of every scene he was in. Where's Richard Dawson when you need him?

But when it comes to the actual Hunger Games, it never really pulled me in. Fight to the death? Nah. Outside of Katniss and Rue (see below), most of the participants never seemed to have much at stake and it all seemed too casual to me. If the director isn't going to do bloodshed, they needed to convince the young actors that they could die at any moment. It just wasn't coming across to me.

Yes, the actress who played Katniss is obviously superb but she only really came alive when playing against the other adult actors or Rue. Otherwise her work in this movie felt artificial. I got the impression that she felt like the entire movie's success was on her shoulders and I felt like the script and the director were letting her down.

And someone *please* get the actress who played Rue some more juicy roles. She deserves more work.

#20 ::: Elliott Mason agrees with Bruce ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2012, 09:00 PM:

Especially since it's an amzn.to link, the only comment by that commenter, and ... why would anyone with half a brain ever think they WEREN'T going to make a Hunger Games movie, given how staggeringly popular the books were, in this era when studios are desperate for 'the next Harry Potter'?

I mean, it's reassuring that apparently it's a GOOD movie, but that they were going to make one? Not a surprise.

#21 ::: JJ thinks he sees spam @ 19 ::: (view all by) ::: April 02, 2012, 07:47 PM:

This is one of those recon spams, no?

#22 ::: clew ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2012, 10:10 PM:

"You don't become a hero by being an indomitable individual like in Gladiator, but by acting out someone else's idea of a hero. "

I've been enthralled by the (basically fluffy and terrible) TV show _Make It or Break It_, about competitive gymnasts, because it *almost* gets there but not quite. The practical disadvantages of the less-than-middle-class competitors are enormous, but no one in the show seems to recognize that for long.

#23 ::: Steve Muhlberger ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2012, 04:17 PM:

Hadn't read the books, thought the movie was brilliant. I thought the role of the sponsors was very clear and a great touch.

#24 ::: Steve Muhlberger ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2012, 04:18 PM:

Hadn't read the books, thought the movie was brilliant. I thought the role of the sponsors was very clear and a great touch.

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