By Ashleigh Hill-Buxton
My obsessive love for “The Hunger Games” is what landed me my job at Moviehole.
There I was, standing in the juice bar I worked at, rambling on to one of my regular customers – now my editor, “Caffeinated Clint” about how excited I was that Stanley Tucci had been cast for the film as the cheesy television host Caesar Flickerman.
An e-mail exchange, Facebook friend request and several conversations later, I was Moviehole’s newest staff member.
In the months that followed, I posted every set picture, official photograph and trailer that hit the Internet as fast as I could get to a computer; my excitement grew with each passing week until it reached fever pitch and people were sick of hearing about how I just COULDN’T wait to see it on the big screen come March.
So, after almost a year of edge-of-my-seat, finger-nail-biting anticipation, I was beyond any form of coherence when I entered the theatre for the first Australian screening last night.
Unsurprisingly, I was absolutely blown away.
However, I think that my thoughts on this film need to come in two parts – the film as an adaptation of an amazing novel, and the film as a standalone concept to viewers that have never read the book.
“The Hunger Games” is most certainly one of my favourite books; I adored its perfectly flawed characters, whip-fast storyline and the disturbingly realistic future it presented me with.
Gary Ross’ imagining of “The Hunger Games” is definitely one of the best page-to-screen adaptations I have ever been fortunate enough to witness.
Obviously, things have to be changed for the sake of continuity, but the thing I loved most about this film was that despite the changes, the very essence of the story remained entirely the same.
Jennifer Lawrence is outstanding as Katniss Everdeen; she manages to find the perfect harmony between independence and vulnerability, tenacity and faltering, bravery and fear. I never once questioned for a second that she is the Katniss that has existed in my imagination for years.
And, for all of those out there who criticised the casting of Josh Hutcherson as Peeta – you can start eating your words right about now. Hutcherson seemingly effortlessly captures the heart and soul of Peeta as the sensitive, caring but remarkably strong baker’s son who has had a lifelong crush on Katniss.
Elizabeth Banks could not have been better as the delightfully clueless and proprietary-obsessed Tribute Escort sent direct from the Capitol; wrapped up in her vacuous little world of manners, wealth and excitement, she provides some excellent, much-needed comic relief in what is a rather grim story.
Katniss and Peeta’s mentor, Haymitch Abernathy has truly been brought to life by Woody Harrelson, who manages to come across as bitter and acerbic as well as darkly humorous. Another excellent casting choice is Lenny Kravitz, who brings a great deal of warmth to the role as Katniss’ stylist-turned-friend Cinna.
As for Stanley Tucci, nobody could have been better as the maniacally happy, ridiculously flamboyant television host Caesar Flickerman.
Casting choices aside – and considering that there was not one that I didn’t approve of in the end – what really makes this film work is how true to the book it remains despite the necessity of changing things in order to make a successful adaptation.
Sure, a couple of characters cut and a few scenes were changed – but it didn’t change the storyline or the flow of the film. As the end credits began to roll, I was happy with the Panem that the filmmakers had created, because it was analogous to the Panem in the book. It was every bit as grim and frightening as Suzanne Collins’ had created it.
If I had a couple of gripes – some scenes I was looking forward to seeing were cut shorter, a couple of characters were less developed and the ending slipped by far more quickly than I’d hoped – they were minor. Given the limitations of squeezing a 300-plus-page book into a 2-and-a-half hour film, I am over the moon with how well it turned out.
Having said that, I’m not sure how well the film works on its own if you’ve never read the book.
Certainly it comes across as a gripping, harrowing journey with plenty of action and a fantastic storyline. But, the movie races along at such a cracking pace that I’m not sure that some of the meaning isn’t lost along the way.
Scenes smash cut from the Tributes being chosen, to the pre-games preparation, to the televised interviews, the games themselves and then, it’s all over in a blaze of glory. If I had’ve blinked any more than was necessary to maintain proper eye function, I’m sure I’d have missed something.
I guess only time – and Clint’s eventual thoughts on the flick (he hasn’t read the books!!!!) – will tell whether or not this beautifully-crafted adaptation can also be one of this year’s biggest blockbusters.