I've read books one and two and been thoroughly spoiled for three. I enjoyed the first book but didn't think it was the Best Thing Ever, and I was rather disappointed in book two.
I think I probably liked the movie better than I liked book one, largely because the worldbuilding of the book is a bit skimpy for text format, but makes for excellent visuals. Also, I really don't remember many of the details in book one, since I read it about three years ago and never reread. The movie had many of the same major flaws the book (the race stuff, my generally wanting it to be more about revolution and less about the Games), with a few of its own added in, and one major point of awesomeness that made me really love it.
Assorted unspoilery thoughts
I laughed particularly loudly at Haymitch's portrayal. Of course he is now prettified and less unappealing than he was in the book for movie-land, and my prediction is that now he will have many new fans in the fandom. Oh fandom. (Is it cynical that I am expecting the new ship of choice to be Haymitch/Peeta, despite their general lack of chemistry and interaction?)
My favorite part of the movie, though, was how they filmed Katniss. starlady mentioned she was sad that a lot of Katniss' sarcasm and anger had disappeared, but I really liked how well Katniss fit the role of the stoic action hero. I particularly liked how the camera treated her. Even during the prettification scenes in the Capitol, there aren't gratuitous shots of Katniss being naked and wet and sexy; she was dressed in practical clothes the entire way through, except the one dress for the Reaping; there are no sexy wounds requiring disrobing; and although I think she is hot like burning, I think so because she is capable and kickass and tough as nails, not because I saw a lot of skin.
I especially noticed this where we have one long shot of Peeta, Katniss, Haymitch, and co. from the back, and there was this woman with a fairly defined hourglass figure I couldn't recognize. Then I realized it was Katniss, and it was possibly the first shot in the movie in which they had her in form-fitting clothing and shot her at enough of a distance to take advantage of it.
It reminded me a lot of how Ripley and Sarah Connor were filmed, and it was SO NICE because I so rarely see it. *hearts Katniss*
I can see where diceytillerman and sanguinity are coming from in regards to the movie presenting the citizens of Capitol as Other via the makeup and dress and how that presentation works to other queerness and drag. I think it pinged me a bit less because both Seneca Crane (the Games Master) and President Snow are fairly gender normative in terms of presentation (especially President Snow). That said, I really wish they did have Cinna dressed much more flamboyantly... I would have liked to have a sympathetic Capitol character who presents the same way as the other citizens but is not a sheep. Then again, this is also influenced by the fact that my reaction to the Capitol outfits was mostly: "OMG AWESOME!"
There's also this interesting coding of traditional masculinity in the Games arena that I'm still thinking about, both in how Katniss is given the role of the traditional male stoic action hero and how Peeta is The Girl, but also something about how the pack of tributes from Districts 1 and 2 are hyper-athletic and very conventionally attractive. It's an interesting contrast to the Capitol, because while there is some gender neutrality in the Games arena, the tributes themselves aren't coded as gender neutral—almost all the female tributes have long hair, frex, and the bits we see of them on Caesar's show are also less Capitol-flash than I had expected.
Other things: I was very glad they did the shaky-cam thing with the violence, because it was already hard enough on my stomach to watch the movie as is. I think they managed to convey the terror and etc. of the Games fairly effectively without making it too media-shiny. I also like getting more that's not in Katniss' POV, though I wish there had been more of the coercion-via-gifts between her and Haymitch.
Peeta briefly comes alive in the interview with Caesar, but other than that, he's pretty boring, which works for me.
Assorted spoilery thoughts
I loved the girl they cast as Rue, but sigh at the race politics. I also liked seeing District 11's little revolt, and I was particularly glad it wasn't all black. That said, District 12 is very creepily white. I also winced at the Hunger Games flashback clip on Caesar's show with a black man beating an Asian man to death with a brick.
I thought the way they shot Thresh killing the District 2 (?) girl was interesting... on the one hand, it very much looks like the savage violence thing from the flashback clip. On the other, someone in the theater actually cheered that moment when we were watching, and I am glad Thresh got to avenge Rue in a way, and it's so mentally weird to have a clip of a black man killing a white woman and have it represent a harsh sort of justice being done, as opposed to what black male violence usually symbolizes. Still very disturbing though.
I bought Katniss' final game of chicken with Seneca Crane more in the movie than in the book, probably because we actually got to see Seneca as a person instead of a faceless Games Master. (In the book, I was kind of just... "Oh come on. They so would not have let them both live.")
Mostly, though, Katniss made the movie for me.
Links (assume spoilers for first book/movie!):
- my review of Hunger Games the book and Catching Fire (spoilers for book 2 as well)
- sanguinity's review
- diceytillerman's review
- grrlpup's review
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