The Hunger Games – spoilers ahead!

Do you see Jennifer Lawrence’s face? That was exactly the look I had on my face after I left the preview screening of The Hunger Games at the Regal in Union Square tonight. Shock, disbelief, no words. I still don’t really have the words to do this now, but I’m afraid if I don’t that I’ll forget some semi-important aspect by tomorrow.  It was a trade screening for employees of Scholastic (no screaming tweens – score!). I know someone associated with Scholastic who didn’t want their passes, and I was more than happy to take them off his hands when he offered them to me. 

I read this trilogy last year and I will admit that I almost put the first one down before I even started it. It was about a futuristic societyMeh. Sounded too Harry Potter-esque for me. I was never a fan of the Harry Potter or Twilight series so I was a bit skeptical of this at first. Luckily, I gave the books a chance and they were incredible. Once I heard they were making the movie for the first book, I started counting down the days to the release.  Director Gary Ross showed up before the screening, said hello, and took a few questions. I don’t remember what the questions were because the anticipation was swirling around inside me like a shark ready to bite when the lights went down. And now this is the part where I try to speak articulately about the movie adaptation of a book I loved so much…

The movie starts with the words of the Treaty of Treason spelled out, explaining exactly what The Hunger Games were and why they were played annually. We watch Katniss relax Prim who wakes up screaming from a night about being picked for The Hunger Games before she goes off to hunt. Katniss is given the Mockingjay pin for free in the Seam by who I’m assuming was Greasy Mae.

I’m not doing a very good job of talking about the movie, huh? We all know the story, or most of us anyway. They didn’t change anything noticeable from the books – except for the Mockingjay pin part. I guess I’ll talk about my favorite parts, in no particular order...

  1. The Reaping: Everyone’s seen the parts on the trailer but in complete, it’s even more powerful. It takes Jennifer Lawrence a good 20 seconds to step up for Prim, a lot longer than I originally thought, and after she does so, she spends the rest of the scene looking completely dumbstruck (see above). I guess she hadn’t really thought of what she was doing until it was already done. She can barely look at Peeta after he’s been chosen. I definitely teared up.
  2. The Capitol itself: It’s a world of grandeur. It’s aesthetically beautiful, and the people are just as the book describes them: incredibly unique. Judianna Makovsky, the costume designer, had her work cut out for her to create these unique designs but she definitely succeeded. She deserves an award for her creations.
  3. Katniss’ turn to impress the judges: In the trailers, it doesn’t look like she ever has to shoot at them to get their attention but oh boy, she certainly does. This scene is as frustrating for the audience as it is for her (“Come on, guys, look at her!”).
  4. Katniss’ goodbyes: They say she gets 3 minutes with her mother and Prim, and another 3 with Gale, but it feels more like 30 seconds. I guess it would feel like that though if you were saying goodbye for possibly the last time to your loved ones.  
  5. The beginning of the games: There’s not 10-9-8, etc countdown like there is on the trailers. It’s very quiet and everyone is very still, and holding their breath. Then the countdown reaches zero and it becomes a slaughterfest of teenagers. It wasn’t overly gory, it was just a lot more death than I’d remembered there being the beginning of the games in the book. Katniss is almost killed but she gets away with a backpack and runs into the woods.
  6. Rue’s death: There were sniffles washing over the audience as the smart and stealthy Rue slipped away in Katniss’ arms. Katniss gives her a beautiful resting place and then grieves really harshly by herself, now alone again.
  7. Thresh’s mercy: Thresh saves Katniss from being impaled by the seriously insane Clove and then lets her run away just this “one time” in honor of Rue. The audience clapped, as we should have.
  8. Stanley Tucci as Caesar Flickerman: He was fantastic in this role. He was a standout for reasons that I can’t quite pinpoint. He was on screen a lot more than you’d think from reading the book, so he plays a more major role. 
  9. Woody Harrelson as Haymitch Abernathy: As Katniss and Peeta’s alcohol coach, he’s at first annoying and then after he realizes that Katniss could really win, he sobers up a bit and starts being helpful and encouraging. He’s really funny at Haymitch too. I fully enjoyed his take on the character.
  10. Lenny Kravitz as Cinna: I knew I’d love him in this role. He’s soft, caring, smart, and encouraging. 
  11. The Mutt(ations): They came along at the end, of course, and they were really scary. But they decided not to ever mention the fact that these mutts had the eyes of all of the now dead tributes. It would’ve been another ten minutes added to the movie, and it’s no the most important part, but it’s something I thought was worth mentioning.
  12. It felt really, really short. It was two and a half hours long, but it felt like it could’ve been 90 minutes. It really flew by. This was now in fact a favorite part of the movie for me – it could’ve been longer by all means.

I would talk about Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen, but you know deep down inside of yourselves, even if you haven’t seen the movie yet, that she’s fantastic. Watch the one 10 second moment from the Reaping in the trailer. I really enjoyed Liams Hemsworth as Gale too, although his character isn’t very big in the first book – he just is big and brooding most of the time in the movie. Josh Hutcherson as Peeta, well, he was good, but left the smallest impression on me of the cast. I didn’t feel like he was being genuine, or is it just that Peeta isn’t genuine? I think Peeta is genuine (or at least a very good faker) and that’s that threw me off about his performance. I’m looking forward to seeing what he can do in the next movie though.

This is a paltry attempt at capturing the experience of seeing The Hunger Games tonight, I know. If I think of more tomorrow, I’ll add it. In the meantime, read the first book (if you haven’t already) and get thee to the theatre this weekend.

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