Movie Musings: The Hunger Games

Sunday night I went with five friends to see the movie "The Hunger Games." Those who follow the blog regularly know I've been obsessed with the Suzanne Collins book trilogy since I finished reading it in September and I've been counting the minutes until the movie hit theaters. If you need a refresher on my past reviews, here you go:

So Sunday night we arrived at the Harvard Square theater to discover there was a line to get in, even if you already had tickets! Once the staff opened the doors people stampeded up the stairs and into the designated theater to grab seats. We wound up in the last row, all the way at the top of the bleachers, but we did score seats in the center of the row.

I can summarize my thoughts on the movie in three words, "I loved it." First of all, I think the screenwriters, the director and the casting team did a superb job maintaining the tone of the book. District 12 felt just like I thought it would, the Capitol was even more fantastical than I could have imagined and the games were exactly as brutal as they were in the book.

For me, the casting of Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss is sheer perfection. She manages to balance the strong, caregiver role with the badass hunter whose skills are superior to all others. I thought her best scene was her final moment with Cinna before she entered the arena. When that glass tube shut and she looked back at Cinna, she looked completely and totally petrified in a way that sent my heart into my throat.

I felt badly for Liam Hemsworth who plays Katniss' soulmate and best friend, Gale. In the book he gets much more attention especially in the beginning. People who saw the movie but didn't read the book probably don't understand what an important person he is to Katniss and her family.

Josh Hutcherson plays Katniss' fellow District 12 tribute, Peeta. I'm sorry, but I just can't root for him. I don't find him attractive at all and in the movie version, he is a total sucker. Peeta is portrayed in the movie as a soft, fairly helpless boy. Also, Josh Hutcherson keeps wearing three piece suits to all the premieres which only make is short frame look heavier (translation, fatter). Josh, it's time to get a new stylist.

Many of the supporting roles were cast as expertly as the role as Katniss. Woody Harrelson is genius as the drunken, District 12 mentor. I can't wait to see more of him in the second film.

Stanley Tucci plays Caesar Flickman, the play-by-play announcer for the games. I loved when they would show him prepping to film and he'd be scowling and then the house lights would go up and poof! He'd have a smile on his face. It's those small gestures that made the character.

I was also impressed by the casting of head gamemaker Seneca Crane. How crazy was his facial hair?

Elizabeth Banks (who looks exactly like Modern Family's Julie Bowen) plays Effie Trinket and boy did the costume designers do a number on her! Her outfits, hair, make up and nails were always completely outrageous.

In fact, everyone from the Capitol was over the top. In the scenes where they showed the people of the Capitol cheering I felt like I was watching "The Wizard of Oz" when the people of Oz said goodbye to Dorothy at the very end.

I have to say that all of the tributes were cast well, particularly Rue and Foxface. I think we were all bracing ourselves for Rue's death and it was just as heartbreaking as you knew it would be. I looked around during that scene and everyone in the theater was sniffling or wiping their eyes.

Two final notes on casting: I thought Lenny Kravitz held his own, but I wasn't blown away. I think Donald Sutherland is miscast as President Snow. For some reason I was picturing someone much more clean cut, sharp and tightly wound.

Though I knew everything that was going to happen in the film I still found myself nervous, scared and with a pounding heart. Mutant dogs anyone?

Though the movie was 2 hours and 22 minutes I never once looked at my watch. When it was over and the credits began to roll I didn't want to get up. I just wanted it to keep going! I can't believe we have to wait for the second installment. Knowing Hollywood it will probably be another year until "Catching Fire" hits theaters.

Did you see the movie? How do you think it compares to the book?

*Images courtesy of TheMovieBanter.com, Gaiaonline.com, Moviefanatic.com, Digitalspy.com, Screenrant.com, Fanpop.com, Ottawacitizen.com, RyanSeacrest.com, HungerGamesMovie.org, NextMovie.com and TheHungerGamesMovie.net.

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