Cleolinda Jones (cleolinda) wrote,
Cleolinda Jones
cleolinda

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So I saw The Hunger Games

Numbered thoughts are organized thoughts!

1) From both the reviews and "local" reactions I've seen on Twitter--9 out of 10 people are ecstatic about how this turned out, and I wasn't disappointed.

2) Why did I think I wasn't going to cry in/during/through the movie? Just because I marathoned the books in a fairly unemotional way? I cried every time I watched THE TRAILER. In the theater today I started pinching my wrist to make myself stop tearing up. For some reason, I wasn't terribly attached to Prim in the books except as "someone Katniss cares about who motivates her," but this broken little delivery of "You have to try to win, Katniss" just about had me on the floor. And of course, you have Katniss's last moments before the games with Cinna, and then the countdown to her walking to the tube, and then the countdown when she's in the tube, and the countdown when she's on the field, and then I nearly threw up in vicarious anxiety. I mean this in a good way. It's admirably intense, is what I'm saying.

3) Jennifer Lawrence is amazing, the end. Okay, not the end: she's one of those actresses where you can actually see what she's thinking--Katniss weighing her options, or the ambiguity of feelings that even Katniss herself doesn't understand. Which is another thing: I never understood why people--multiple people--say that Katniss has "the emotional depth of a teaspoon" (somehow this is always the phrase that comes up?) in the book. I know her affect as a narrator is kind of flat; I read it as stoic or shell-shocked. But I guess I read her emotions cumulatively--I saw them stacking on top of each other every time something new happened. So instead of "I can't tell if Peeta loves me or he's faking," which makes her sound kind of oblivious, I read it as "My father was killed in a mining explosion and my mother went catatonic, so I'm really the only parent I've known for a long time now, and I have to take care of her and my sister, and they're all I have and I have to hunt to feed us all at a subsistence level and it's the only thing I'm good at and my only friend is a guy who hunts with me and we're really close and I think I might have feelings for him but I've known him so long that I'm not sure and I'm afraid to get close to people anyway but I hope he'll take care of my family if I don't come back, oh God I've got to come back to take care of my family, I'm all they've got, and Peeta once threw me some bread out of pity and now he keeps trying to be friendly but then he blew me off and trained by himself and then he actually betrayed me and went with the horrible laughing killer kids but wait now it looks like he was doing that to protect me and I think he said he had a crush on me so we would look good on TV but I don't know and in the end one of us is going to have to die and possibly kill the other and I can't get attached to someone I have to kill and maybe he's playing me, I don't know, but now he's all I've got and I can't let him die of gangrene and maybe pretending to have feelings I don't have is the only way for us both to survive, wait I don't know if I have them after all, but even if I do I can't tell if Peeta loves me or he's faking." I saw Katniss as someone who has a lot of feelings; they're just, by necessity, very tightly tamped down. Whether you get that out of the book or not, it's all on Jennifer Lawrence's face. If they nominated her for another Oscar for this, I wouldn't complain.

4) You know, Josh Hutcherson is really very good as Peeta, and I didn't expect that, for some reason. He's really good at looking slightly pitiful but not actually pathetic; he manages to convey to us that he's genuinely in love with Katniss and always has been, while remaining ambiguous enough about it to not make Katniss look dense for not believing it. Everyone is good, really (I LOVE YOU CINNA), but in particular, Stanley Tucci just has some amazing touches as Caesar Flickerman. The big bursting smile he switches on right at the beginning of each talk show is just--really something. He manages just the right combination of complicit, outrageous, compassionate, fake and sincere. And you know, Cato didn't do much for me until his last scene, and then suddenly "I'm already dead, I just didn't know it" was really well done.

5) RUUUUUUUE. ALLLLL THE TEARRRRRS. I don't know if it was just seeing it that made it so bad, or getting to see Katniss completely break down over it--well, it probably had a lot to do with the three-finger salute and then us getting to see District 11 salute her back. (Which is the point in the trailer where I would always start sniffling.) And then, of course, Rue's father and the ensuing riot. The really great thing about the movie is that, because the narrative isn't trapped in Katniss's head anymore, we can see what's going on outside it: we can see the gamemakers gleefully throwing fireballs at her and taking way too much pride in their work; we can see Haymitch working the room for sponsors; we can see President Snow ever-so-subtly threatening Seneca Crane because he can see exactly how "the underdog's" popularity is going to lead to eventual revolution. ("... Congratulations." AHHHHHHHHHH. I love how Donald Sutherland doesn't appear to do anything but clip roses and stand around, and yet is utterly menacing.) Poor Wes Bentley (and Wes Bentley's beard, which probably has its own fan tumblr by now) think that putting on a good show is all that matters, is all that he has to do, without realizing that he's not the only one who can put one on. And now, we get to see all sides of that.

6) Which leads to a point I wanted to make even before I saw the movie: I think that The Hunger Games as a film, if done the least bit well, was inevitably going to be better than the book. And that's not an insult. I think it's incredibly valuable to have Katniss's inner narrative for the three books, but--it's a story about visual media. This way, you get to see Katniss's perspective (in which most of the violence happens in a panicky blur, rather than played for spectacle), and the commentators', and the producers', and the viewers'. I mean, there's a scene earlyish on where Katniss turns on the TV in her glamorous Capitol bedroom and sees Caesar Flickerman gushing about how an older Hunger Games clip playing behind him is such an AMAZING MOMENT, it's the AMAZING MOMENT where you see a TRIBUTE become a VICTOR--and it's one anguished, exhausted kid beating another one to death with a brick. You not only see what really happened on the face of that kid, the way Katniss sees it, but you see the way the Capitol presents it, how they're actually rewriting emotional history right in front of your face to change despair to victory, and you can imagine what it would look like on your TV at home, one narrative trying to erase the less convenient one. And I guess Suzanne Collins (who helped write the script) could have described all of that in the book, but somehow a story about a visual medium in a visual medium is just naturally going to be more effective. I mean, is there a book about books and the reading of them that has been more artistically successful as a movie adaptation? I can't think of one, and it's for the same reason. In the end, I think that's why you're going to hear people raving up and down about how this is the most perfect awesome amazing adaptation they've ever seen--I wouldn't take it as an insult to other fandoms, either. The Hunger Games is just uniquely suited to a movie adaptation, and Gary Ross understood that and made the most of it.

I don't think I'll be able to write any kind of Hunger Games in Fifteen Minutes, though. Even once you get past ALL THE TEARS, I suspect writing a parody of a satire is kind of like dividing by zero. The Panem TV schedule may be as good as it's going to get from me.



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Tags: movie discussion, movies, the hunger games
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