The Transition from Book to Film (honoring the text, deviations from it):
There was such an artful balance in the book to film transition. There was so much of the book that we hadn't gotten our hopes up on making it to the film, little lines that surely would be cut out or changed up, had made it in, and it felt like such a nod to the fans. It was as if Gary and Suzanne were saying, "We haven't forgotten you." And truly, they haven't. Not every scene in the books made it to the movie, but every scene in the movie honored the books in such a way that we haven't really seen from a book-to-movie adaptation, except for maybe the Lord of the Rings movies.
The focus is much more on the overall story and certain moments have fallen to the wayside. Don't worry though, every moment that brings a crucial point to the plot of the general arc is at least touched upon, if not thoroughly performed including the cave scene, every death of a tribute, the reaping, and the journey from tribute to victor. The Hunger Games movie not only is structured so that any non-reader can understand what the story is about, but feels the themes and emotion conveyed in the books.
As for the additional scenes, the glimpses of the Gamemaker control room and all of Seneca Crane with President Snow and of course the consequences of a certain character's death, all of that not only fit with the books but enriched the story in a way that couldn't have been done in the books. It seems like such a contradiction, to be so close to the book but still add so much to it, but The Hunger Games does it so well it feels pretty effortless, which we know is not the case. You'd also be interested to find out that these extra scenes give a very cool functionality to the story, and establish future happenings that will occur in Catching Fire. Suzanne was right on the money when she said this movie is separate from the books, yet completely complimentary to them at the same time. Where so many books-to-film feel inadequate, The Hunger Games passes with flying colors.
Special Effects and CGI
We are big fans of practical effects. It doesn't get used as much today, but it always yields supremely realistic results. The Hunger Games completely succeeds in the special effects department. There is such a difference with using practical effects versus CGI. This kind of restraint made it feel as if this fantastical world of the Capitol was within reach. In another director's hands, the old factory they filmed these scenes in would've been just walls upon walls of green screen, but it must be said that the practical sets don't go unnoticed.
The only CGI used (that we could tell) is in The Capitol scenes, the fireballs themselves in the arena, and the mutts at the Cornucopia. It is a very thrilling experience to see a special effect that seems so real that you wonder if that might actually exist. The technology that was shown from the reaping to the Capitol is incredible. The Capitol scenes, no doubt, are the most CGI heavy scenes. Yet, despite this, it is still simple and realistic. As for the chariot scene, the fire on Cinna's designs for Katniss is beautiful, and just might take your breath away.
The mutts, are very satisfactory. They are simple, and look as real as CG can bring. By being a simple design, the mutts don't suffer from looking fake. Fans may be a bit bummed that the most terrifying feature of the Cornucopia mutts are absent from the film, but I can assure you it might not have gone over well in the end. After much consideration, it's possible that entering that feature into the equation might have just looked too fake. It seems Gary Ross' supreme concern in all aspects of the film is making everything intensely realistic.
I guess we are repeating ourselves, but it's also a fact we are huge fans of movie scores because they seem to act as the paintbrush for a film. The score was so beautifully understated. Next to other scores that may be fuller and more theatrical, The Hunger Games score seems almost minimalist. But it works in the movie's favor. The lack of score in District 12 gives the setting a fittingly hollow feeling. And when score did come in, it didn't overwhelm the scene but helped it along. The score is present when it needs to be. The movie is relatively quiet during scenes, in which there is no music under it at all. What this does is really convey the urgency and reality of the situation. The function of the score makes this movie feel very unHollywood, even independent. The score helps achieve this. But you can bet during huge moments such as the chariot scene, it delivers triumphant swelling music to accompany Katniss & Peeta's radiant capes of fire. The score does such a good job being where it needs to be and being absent where it should, makes you not even notice the incredible job it's doing to tell the story. This score complements the movie perfectly and never brought you out of a moment, but instead made you feel like you were in Panem as well.
While reading the books, you imagine such lavishness for the Capitol citizens, but when seeing the interpretation of this, the costumes are works of art in a way that we hadn't expected. The stark contrast between the overwashed, dull colors of District 12 and the garish, over the top clothes that the Capitol citizens wear is immediately evident from your first glance of Effie. The Capitol, though fashionable, look like they're on a haute couture runway in our history. You really do feel like Katniss the moment you see them when the tribute train arrives. "Do they really have no idea how freakish they look to the rest of us?"
The makeup….is breathtaking. You will be quite startled when you see Peeta hiding in the riverbed. The makeup is so incredible, you'd think it was CGI. Everyone in the theatre was flabbergasted. Same goes for the wounds in the arena, very realistic, believable, and pretty gross. But the most impressive out of this category just may be Peeta's camouflage. Bravo.
Testimonial time! There was just too much we had to share about the acting:
Courtney: "WHOOOOAAA BUDDY. Everything is top notch in this movie. Truly. The best thing? The acting, by far. It's no surprise that Jennifer Lawrence's acting is out of this world, but every single actor in this movie gives an amazing performance. For many of us who have seen the film, no doubt the biggest surprise is Alexander Ludwig's performance. I see why he was cast. Really, I see why everyone was cast. Even the lesser known tributes do a fantastic job. You won't just be sobbing at Rue's scene, you might just shed a few tears at the bloodbath. It's very realistic, and there's something about that scene that does not leave you. So realistic, so terrifying, and so tragic. Don't get me started on the chemistry between Jennifer and Josh. You can FEEL the sparks flying between their characters! Woody and Elizabeth deliver great comic relief, but just the right amount. Woody in particular, not only shows what Haymitch is all about, but his humanity. All cast members for ALL the awards!"
Tiffany: "In terms of acting, there was not a weak link among the cast. Each actor embodied their character in a way that I wholly believed them to be their character. As Katniss, Jennifer Lawrence made me feel what Katniss was feeling. When she breaks down, you feel her agony. But there was never a moment where I thought she was overacting. Lawrence has so much strength in her understatedness. Josh Hutcherson's portrayal of Peeta was understated as well. His natural charisma matches that of Peeta's in the books. There is so much that he conveys in a look; where words and lines of dialogue worked in the books, Hutcherson as Peeta told it in those looks. Liam Hemsworth brings an unexpected and much needed lightness to Gale, but still keeping in line with who that character is and what his convictions are. From the first minute we saw Woody Harrelson as Haymitch to the very end, I understood why he was Gary Ross's only choice; his take on Haymitch was interesting and really told so much of this complex character. Elizabeth Banks as Effie brings much needed comic relief to the movie; I've never seen her in a role like this before, with such a huge transformation, but she really impressed me. Donald Sutherland as President Snow was a subtle villain, forgoing the theatrics of more traditional villainy by making Snow seem as rational as possible. Donald Sutherland's Snow is not crazy, and that makes him all the more frightening. When it comes to the tributes, I could not praise Alexander Ludwig more. I didn't know what to expect from his portrayal of Cato, and I was especially blown away by him. He wasn't hired to be just another brute, and he wasn't just another model either. He really brought it and made Cato so very human. And Amandla Stenberg as Rue was sweet, lovable and clever; she was exactly how I imagined Rue to be."
Denise: "The acting is something I was very scared about, but I knew that I was in for a treat as soon as I saw Katniss and Prim interact. From Prim's nightmare on, I felt exactly what the characters felt. The pure fear on Prim's face when walking to sign into the Reaping, the happiness on Katniss' face in the woods, Peeta realizing he's been practically sentenced to death, Cato's rage, Snow's snake like eyes, everything was how I pictured it in the books, and these actors frankly shocked me. I had no idea how amazing the young cast was on their own. I have to admit, I didn't really start crying with Rue's final scene until Katniss gives herself time to mourn. Jennifer shows the anguish on her face that you can only feel when you've lost someone. Though everyone was amazing, Jennifer is something out of the past. She didn't seem like she was acting. She became Katniss Everdeen, The Girl on Fire."
Overall Feelings of the Film
Courtney: "My expectations were completely unattainable, yet they could have not done a better job. This movie is more than we could have hoped for. I usually never have a shortage of words, but this left me speechless."
Tiffany: "There were such high expectations for this movie that I was scared to see it. Surely nothing could live up to these expectations. But I was floored, with this movie and this cast far exceeding what I had thought I wanted. This is something that I've never seen before. I can honestly say I can't compare it to anything else. What you think you know about the movie, with all the trailers and clips that have been released, you really and truly don't. There is no way to explain what it feels like to watch The Hunger Games, to be in this world. Where other movies would focus on what is happening on the screen, this movie focuses on the consequences and emotion behind it all.
What Fans Ought To Know Going In
Remember the message. The Hunger Games isn't about showing the violence. Excessive gore is not needed to get across the fact that violence is wrong. It is in how the characters react to the violence that tugs at our heartstrings, not the violence itself. This is the heart of what makes this movie so genius and what sets it apart as a truly unique film.
We're all die hard fans here, but you guys MUST remember that this is a movie adaptation. Not everything can be in the movie, and yes things are changed to keep the movie going. Know that your favorite scene was cut or condensed or someone said something with one word different than it was in the books; Get over it. Seriously, it does not ruin the film. The film is its own separate entity. Let it be. Besides, it's not hard to see why these changes were made and it was all done with Suzanne Collins' approval. So please, guys, keep an open mind!
*And the usual things, don't make unnecessary noise, go pee before so you don't walk in front of someone's view, and bring lots of tissues, because you will cry.
-Reviewed by Courtney, Tiffany, and Denise