I was so ready for this movie to be epic!
Of course, I am Janie-come-lately to the Hunger Games movie. It was a deliberate choice for me. I am in that space right now–you know the one where you don’t want to be around goo-gobs of people. Where the thought of being surrounded by that many people ignites such dark thoughts that you know that it is not wise for you to be anywhere near a crowd–that’s where I am right now. Anyway, the one place you shouldn’t be when you are in that kind of mood is in a theater where Hunger Games is playing on opening weekend. So you have my excuse; now let me present my reaction.
I enjoyed the first novel in the Hunger Games series (complete disclosure, I have not read the subsequent books yet). I was prepared to be swept up in the movie. It had all of the elements: a strong cast, a good story, plus Suzanne Collins was a writer and a producer (Yay Suzanne! Score one for authors!) Prepared as I was to completely give myself over to the experience of the movie, I found myself leaving the theater relatively underwhelmed.
As I watched the film, I felt a sense of detachment. I mean, it was interesting to look at, but it did not have me invested the way that the novel–which I read in one day–did. As I watched, I tried to place a finger on what it was the movie was lacking. All of the characters were there, relatively faithfully rendered. All of the moments, which grabbed my heart when I read them in the book were there too. There were moments that worked well. The chilling discomfiture of “The Reaping” was well done and made me squirm a little in my seat. But something was missing. When we got to the scene with Peeta and Katniss in the cave, I figured out what is was. There was no chemistry.
Even though I am way over love triangles (really: way over. I can’t even tell you how over. Ok, let me stop.), I have to say that Hunger Games, the book, hinges in part on the relationship between Katniss and Peeta; the entire latter half of the novel relies on the possibilities that exist between them. The possibility that she is growing to care for him, in spite of herself and the circumstances. Without that, the central motivation for Katniss repeatedly risking her life for Peeta is gone. For me, there was no sense of that possibility in the movie. Not for one second did I believe that Katniss felt anything at all for Peeta. I didn’t even really believe that Peeta cared so deeply for Katniss. Even in the forbidden fruit/never-going-to-happen (at least in this book) dynamic, there has to be chemistry. There has to be the feeling that it could happen, if only one of the characters would let it.
And the Peeta/Katniss relationship was not the only thing that was missing that spark. The development of those relationship dynamics seemed lacking across the board. We did not get to see why and how Haymitch made the decision to really become the mentor that P and K needed. Would you know, if you hadn’t read the book, why Cinna cared so much about K’s success? I sure wouldn’t, because it wasn’t in the film. Those relationships were just presented and we were supposed to accept them as real and having depth. It doesn’t quite work that way. Though Katniss was constructed as protective, even the scene with Rue’s death was not the tearjerker that I thought it would be. Something about all of it just rang hollow. And because it rang hollow, the emotional climax of the movie was…enh.
Maybe the exposition was too brief…I don’t know. I still can’t quite place my finger on it.
As you can see, I am disappointed by my disappointment in this opening film for the series. On the heels of epic series like Harry Potter, I was hoping for another film series that I could sink my teeth into for a while. Sadly, this first installation of the Hunger Games trilogy has not left me wanting more. One thing that the folks who made the Potter films always remembered was that it was about the relationships. The magic and the action sequences my be amazing to behold, but they mean nothing if the character investment is not there. Moreover, that development needs as much time as the action sequences, particularly in the first film of a franchise. I am hoping that the DVD release is the extended cut, that fills in all of the gaps (fingers crossed).
Of course, I am probably alone in this. The film did, after all, rake in goo-gobs of money. Tell me, what were your thoughts?