redbeanbun goes to the movies: the hunger games, at midnight in harlem

Well friends, I have a lot of feelings.

First off, just a note of weirdness - I've promised at least four groups of people that I'll see this movie with them, so I'll be taking you with me through that process, so you can know the optimal number of times to see it (and/or the optimal time of day to see it, possibly!).

[Spoilers note: the entirety of the Hunger Games book series, the movie The Hunger Games]

I know. You're probably already concerned, since I've separated the books from the movie in my spoiler warning.

Guys, it's different. It's very different.

Okay, but, just for having some better context of how I'm feeling about this - I've read the books about seven times, all the way through. My most recent re-read was done directly in anticipation of seeing the movie, and I've spent far too much time imagining Jennifer Lawrence saying Katniss's dialogue.

So, suffice it to say, I was disappointed.

Or, rather - half disappointed.

If you really think about the content of the books, far more than half of it takes place exclusively inside Ms. Everdeen's head. Flashbacks, internal struggles, cold calculations - none of these are possible to present in the movie without an obnoxious internal monologue voiceover (which, just, thank goodness they didn't do that, because I would have run sobbing out of the theater).

So, in order to give context and some depth of play, we the audience are put in the position of watching the Games, not unlike the citizens of Panem. Caesar Flickerman and Claudius Templesmith provide an ESPN-like color commentary, explaining tracker jackers and asking if Katniss will figure out how the Careers have booby-trapped their supplies. We see a lot more of President Snow, seeming beleaguered and not nearly as Capital-ized as I would've liked. There's also the introduction of Seneca Crane, Gamemaker, as a big character - he has nearly as much screen time as Katniss - which I think was actually rather brilliant.

Additionally, as omniscient creatures, we get to see the spark that Snow tells Katniss about flaring up. We see a riot in 11 after Rue is killed. We get to see more of 12 than we otherwise would - there are some really hilarious quick cuts between the cave in the arena and Gale's face - and we see a whole hell of a lot of the Capital and its audiences.

The thing is, though, that by refocusing the lens as they did, in order to explain things, makes it feel almost like the story isn't even about Katniss - which, in a larger framework, I suppose you could say is true. Technically, the novels are really more about the revolution than the girl on fire, but the most wonderful parts of the books, to me, were some of the most glaring omissions from the movie - Katniss never tells Peeta about getting Prim's goat. She finds Peeta with a serious leg wound, but still more or less alive and well, not near-hallucinatory from fever and snarky to boot. So much of the relationship between Katniss and Peeta is swept out of the way by a need to hem in the running time (which, at around two hours, still feels incredibly short and rapid-fire).

I guess, as many pre-premiere commentaries I read noted, that it's hard to have the entire Katniss-Peeta relationship, without Katniss's running commentary, without ending up hating her. So much of the action in the arena felt glossed over, aborted. The only things that were really done right were Rue's death (still abbreviated, but in a less slapdash way) and more or less anything Cato was involved in - the bloodbath at the Cornucopia was hauntingly silent, making the quick deaths all the more disturbing, and when Katniss blows up the Careers' supplies and Cato snaps the neck of the boy from District 3... Well, you fear Cato.

Outside of the arena, more things went well. The contrast between the districts and the Capital was marked, to say the least, though the Capital inhabitants were somewhat less altered than I would've liked. There was more of a focus on strange wigs and extreme clothing choices than on tattoos and piercings and the occasional person-surgically-altered-to-look-like-an-animal.

Cinna's relationship with Katniss was actually really elegantly played, which made me weirdly happy. Effie Trinket was possibly the greatest thing to happen to the screen, maybe of all time? Effie and Haymitch played off each other well, but Haymitch -

Look, guys, Woody Harrelson in a bad toupee is NOT how I pictured Haymitch. And he was barely even drunk! He pulled himself together way too quickly for my taste. And also that hair was just... It was just completely ridiculous.

All in all, the parts that weren't in the books were, in general, pretty cool, and the parts that were in the books were, in general, sort of muted and lame.

I don't know, guys. I have a lot of hope for the future of this series in film, but I think we're all going to have to readjust our focus away from Katniss, which, it just feels wrong to me.

Sigh. May the odds be ever in our favor (of enjoying these movies). Sigh.