When the cast of The Hunger Games was announced, I was excited about Jennifer Lawrence playing Katniss Everdeen, the book’s heroine, but less enthused about Liam Hemsworth and Josh Hutcherson as Gale and Peeta, respectively. Other casting choices intrigued me: Woody Harrelson as mentor Haymitch, the always wonderful Donald Sutherland as President Snow and Lenny Kravitz as Katniss’ friend and stylist, Cinna.
Having seen the film, my opinion remains mostly unchanged. Hutcherson is fine in his role, but seems to lack chemistry with Jennifer Lawrence, and Hemsworth is wooden at best, in a thankless role which (mercifully) gives him little screen time. The rest of the cast did well with roles that are relegated to the background while Lawrence is given the spotlight. She remains as impressive as she was in Winter’s Bone.
The movie itself was entertaining, and though it is lengthy, clocking in at about 2.5 hours, the time speeds by as you are transported to the dystopian world of Panem. The Capitol is exactly as I imagined it to be: all bright colours and plastic emotions. District 12 which is the home of Katniss and Peeta, on the other hand, is dark, desolate, and very, very poor. In many ways, it reminds me very much of the depiction of the Appalachians in Winter’s Bone. The setting for the Games was also much as I imagined it to be, although the Horn of Plenty seemed less imposing on screen than it did in the book and I felt somewhat disappointed in it, especially in the final scene with the dogs (which should have had the eyes of the tributes!).
The screenplay stayed true to the spirit of the story; besides, I can never quibble too much about adaptations because it’s impossible to fill the movie with as much detail as the book has. Movies are limited in the time they have available to them to tell a story — some exclusions are always going to be necessary. As long as the general feeling of the story remains, I can’t get too upset about most missing elements. Cinna was more than enough to get across the importance of turning Katniss into a character in the Hunger Games, and the costume designer for the film got high marks from me for her chariot outfit. Well done.
Overall, I’m satisfied with this first film in the trilogy. Most of the problems I had with it are also problems that I had with the book (the flat love “triangle”, the characterization of Gale, some of the ultimately pointless deaths); overall The Hunger Games was a satisfying Friday night at the movies.