|Zen and the Art of Cinematic Time-Compression|
You know, it's my own fault. I know better than to read through a book series shortly before I go see the movie version. I've run into this problem hundreds of times, through a litany of celluloid and digital displays. The English Patient, Slaughterhouse Five, Gattaca, pick your Stephen King novel; it's a long and distinguished list of films that somehow just don't measure up to their literary source materials. And yet, I keep going back. The lure of seeing if someone else can conjure up something as cool as my imagination is simply too great. Sometimes I'm pleasently suprised: The Harry Potter Series, Jurassic Park, Treasure of the Sierra Madre, most times however, I just can't help but feel a sense of disappointment as I leave the theater. Dissapointment that the screenwriters, directors, even the actors simply couldn't capture the magic that played out in my mind's eye as I read the books.
In the run-up to The Hunger Games movie, I was ready for this disappointment. I had prepared for the letdown. But, by the time I actually got around to watching this movie, it had already generated one of the highest grossing box office opening weekends ever, and it was number one with a bullet to break all sorts of money related records on a bunch of different lists. Obviously a lot of people didn't share my trepidation, or if they did they got over it mighty quickly.
Here's the thing. The Hunger Games as a movie is not that bad. It's not Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone great, but it's at least on par with the excellent but much maligned The Golden Compass, and it's a far better movie than that half-assed attempt at adapting Rick Riordan's wonderful Percy Jackson series. The Hunger Games hits all the key scenes from the book well enough, though thematically it misses the point a bit. As a book, it is far more a satire on the nature of modern class warfare and how it ties in to the current deplorable state of mass entertainment. There's simply not enough time to drive that message home without excising a lot of what will appeal to this movie's intended tweener audience.
And that's okay. The movie is entertaining and appropriately horrifying. If you can live with the inevitable and necessary time compression, you might find yourself enjoying it. Elizabeth Banks and Woody Harrelson are spectactular as Effie Trinket and Haymitch Abernathy respectively. Special props to Harrelson for finally showing audiences that he is perfectly capable of dropping his trademark dumbass hick accent and trying on something completely different. Jennifer Lawrence is perfectly fine as Katniss, though compared to her other works she seems a bit stiff in the role. Hopefully she'll lose that by the next movie.
Gary Ross shows that he's still a good cook, as the movie's look and feel is as close to the book as you can get without marching Suzanne Collins up on stage and simply having her read the story out loud. It's a movie tailor made for the tweener set, complete with the requisite love triangle which seems slightly forced in the books, and translates to really forced in the movie. They do a nice job of filling the audience in on what's happening by translating Katniss' running internal monologue from the book into commentary from Caeser Flickerman and the other announcers. It's a stylistic imperative that works well. All in all, The Hunger Games is well done, I just expected... more.
Trailer 3: The Hunger Games
After reading these books, I'm curious as to how they're going to faithfully adapt the gorier portions into a PG-13 movie, but I guess we'll find out in March. They're certainly not showing much in these trailers.
Trailer 2: The Hunger Games
Running Man with kids? This movie is basically everything I've ever wanted.
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