The one question I kept asking myself after walking out of of the movie theater was, “Would I have enjoyed this film more if I hadn’t read the book?” As an adaptation, it was okay. It was like a Cliff Notes version of Suzanne Collins’ book. You got the basic idea but none of the nuance. The problem is the nuance is where a majority of the story lies.
Because the books are written from our heroine’s, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), perspective, we are privy to her inner dialogue. Without that option, the film, directed by Gary Ross, decided to expand the scope of the book by showing things Katniss was not privy to like the behind the scenes work of the games and their game master Seneca Crane (it’s good to see Wes Bentley working again). I did enjoy seeing the Hunger Games at work.
They kept all the major action setpieces but what was lost was character development and Katniss’ emotional complexity. Even though the movie was two hours and 22 minutes, I don’t feel like we got to know anyone particularly well, even Katniss. More importantly, the movie doesn’t really get into the motivations Katniss has for her moments with her fellow District 12 competitor Peeta (Josh Hutcherson). In the movie, you don’t get that she is conflicted about her potential feelings for Peeta and for Gale (Liam Hemsworth) back home. Also, the conclusion of the film moves along so briskly that you really don’t get the impact of what lies ahead for Katniss and all of Panem.
I don’t know if I would have enjoyed this movie more or less if I hadn’t read the books. On one hand, I think I would have had a lot more questions about why certain things happened if I hadn’t read the books. On the other hand, I would have probably had less complaints. One thing I did enjoy were the performances. Since her Academy Award nominated performance in Winter’s Bone, I have always hoped Jennifer Lawrence would become a star and it seems she is well on her way. You could tell she was trying to convey Katniss’ inner dialogue through her expressions and reactions. Elizabeth Banks is almost unrecognizable as Effie Trinket, the District 12 chaperone, and makes the most of her screen time. Woody Harrelson (Haymitch) and Lenny Kravitz (Cinna) were also great and I wish we had more time with their characters. Stanley Tucci as Hunger Games host Caesar Flickerman looked like he was having a ball. In the hands of a lesser actor, his role could have been completely ridiculous.
Usually, I don’t notice the camera work in a film but it stood out here, in a bad way. There were a lot of closeups and unnecessary quick cuts from camera to camera. It was very distracting and took awhile to adjust to. It was like it was being directed by the Hunger Games master himself.