Lots of action and some story and less commentary about oppressive regimes. As I noted in my review of the book series in September 2010, these books were ready-made to be movies. Here area few thoughts about the movie itself and the experience of seeing it in a full theater.
1. I thought the movie was engaging. At the same time, the movie takes a book that is relatively sparse in terms of character development and explicit commentary and is even thinner in these areas. But there is a lot of action and some of the key relationships, Katniss and Prim, Katniss and Rue, and Katniss and Peeta, are given more time.
2. I thought the best actor in the movie was Stanley Tucci who was perfect as Caessr Flickerman.
3. With not as much time to work with in the movie, the opening parts of the first book are really compressed. What we miss in the movie then is a more complete understanding of the despair and desolation in District 12. I felt like the movie wanted us to think that the Capitol and President Snow were bad people but we didn’t have enough of the backstory to really feel it.
4. I wonder how many of the people in the theater tonight recognized any of the social commentary that is lurking in the books. The books could be taken in a couple of different directions. First, we could think about reality TV – how far away are we from a situation where people are killing each other for prizes on television? Second, the Capitol is supposed to represent tyranny and oppression and trying to stave off rebellion with a futuristic “bread and circuses.” But the movie seems to be more about the action itself and the audience members responded to this. I wonder how much the next two movies take up the social commentary and how they represent the growing rebellion against the Capitol.
4a. There were a couple of points during the Hunger Games themselves when a character was killed and people watching the movie laughed. This is an interesting reaction that sounded like it came from some teenagers or younger kids. While the action was violent (though a number of reviews said it was understated), I wonder how different it really was from what these kids have seen before. How many murders have they already seen in movies, on TV, and in video games? Plus, the kissing got a lot of reactions. Do both murders and kissing make teenagers nervous, thus the laughter?
5. I’m often amused by what “the future” looks like in movies. I was not impressed by the Capitol. Parts of the CGI were impressive (the people modeled in the large crowd scenes, for example) but it was clearly fake. The residents are shown in lively colors and interesting hair and makeup. The buildings are a little different but if you have seen a futuristic movie before, they look familiar. The special computer setup to control the Hunger Games is interesting but we’ve seen things like this before. They have 200 mph trains…which other parts of the world have now. So we’re supposed to be believe that the future includes some more avant garde style, a little better technology, and people are still glued to television screens? Not terribly futuristic.
6. The music during the closing credits was good. I’ve read some positive comments about the soundtrack and it may be worth checking out further.
7. I haven’t been in a full movie theater in quite a while. On one hand, there is a kind of buzz in the air and if the movie is good (and it apparently was tonight), people clap at the hand. On the other hand, you have lots of people going in and out and talking (and revealing key points of the plot to people next to them).
8. I was thinking earlier today that I have hopped on certain cultural bandwagons and not others. Why read all of the Hunger Games books and see the first movie or be an early adopter of Adele’s bestselling album from last year while waiting years to read Harry Potter and see all the movies? I don’t know. But if I do want to join the crowd, I can always say that I am engaging in cultural research…