Action comes alive from books, but there, heroine is small and scrawny, totally unlike here Jennifer Lawrence - rosy fat cheeks, plumply nourished - indeed entire cast. Effie's costumes from the outrageous Capitol, contrast with the national park beauty, and harsh fight for survival. Preview. Catching Fire sequel quotes: "Every revolution begins with a spark." "Her entire species must be eradicated .. the other victors .."
Heart stopping suspense - choir, countdown, silences. Despite fore-knowledge from books, I'd forgotten enough, too much. Romance is low-key, yet love rules.
Quibbles: In the books, I disliked her final choice of husband, but forget who and why. In the middle of being hunted, Kat pauses in the middle of the forest, more than once. Why doesn't she get caught?
I accept violence more in films than books, will watch sequel, but casting of lead role grates. In Extras, cast and bigwigs go on and on how perfect Jennifer is for the part, but I strongly disagree. My book review xx starts with how small and scrawny she is, even at 16. Jen is plump rosy-cheeked, well-filled, always too clean. She is not "subtle, nuanced", Liam Hemsworth (home friend Gale) is. She's harsh fierce, screaming.
One heart-felt gaze rivets the room of controllers. Despite hand and knife violence, not X-rated. First (look like cougar-cat saber-tooth-type, but tail-less dogs) beast (unrealistic) attack is light in sky memorial, second is screams beneath a pile, until the eye-shot we know Kat can execute.
Settings contrast, from poverty, through extravagance, to woodlands. I remembered more variation in the Arena, could be from sequels. The North Carolina natural landscape is phenomenal, a character itself. Costuming of theatrical funny ridiculous outrageous Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks), modelled after 40s movies, is another. This is another of those films I can watch without sound. Woody Harrelson (Haymitch) conveys tragedy beneath clowning, straggly straight hair in his face whether drunk or sober. Kravitz is a soft supportive Cinna.
The heroine, uncomfortable with pressure for sponsors to like her, is easy to identify with. On the first night out, a light show of the fallen remind us of the combination entertainment and danger, "13 gone in the first 8 hours". Sound and camera manipulation recreate her states of hallucinations and concussion deafness.
In coal-mining District 12, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence - unrecognizable as Xmen First Class Mystique) hunts with a bow for her family in the forbidden fenced-off forest, a capable volunteer, at the Reaping selection, in place of her beloved younger sister, pig-tailed Primrose (Willow Shields), as Tribute for the gladiator-style 74th annual Hunger Games. Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), son of the local baker, has always had a secret crush on her, and holding her hand up during the chariot Parade impresses sponsors almost as much as the flaming costumes designed by supportive stylist Cinna (Lenny Kravitz).
The 16-year old pair convince drunken mentor Haymitch (Woody Harrelson - also unrecognizable from comedies before), a previous winner, to sober up and help. Their team toast "the Girl on Fire". Knowing what happens, from the books, is easy to guess anyway, such as the eventual fate of tiny contestant Prue (Amandla Stenberg). District 2 trains professionals that usually win, and Cato (Alexander Ludwig) almost does. The survival skills instructor warns more will die from natural causes than each other.
Memorable for his bushy white facial hair, President Snow (Donald Sutherland) asks sleekly black-haired Seneca (Wes Bentley) "Why do we have a winner? .. execute them all at once .. faster .. Hope .. is the only thing stronger than fear .. A spark is fine .. contain it."
The central Capitol City is a frivolous tinsel town of awesome opulence, opposite to starving rural districts. When Peeta admits his crush during an interview, Haymitch reminds her that their fight to the death is just "a television show .. I can sell the star-crossed lovers". Unable to sleep before the Game, Peeta confesses his fears to Kat, that they will "change me .. turn me into something I'm not". He wants to show them "they don't own me .. I want to still be me".
In the Arena Cornucopia, Haymitch warns Kat to go for high ground and water, not be fooled into going for a bow or supplies into a "bloodbath" between contestants. Cinna pins on her the Mockingjay brooch she and sister Prim exchanged as a symbol of security. A huge white room of white-garbed controllers, guided by Seneca in red and black, observe through cameras hidden in tree trunks, and chase Kat from the Arena outer edge with fire bombs into the arms of the combined group of pro killers, who want Peeta to track Kat, their strongest opponent.
The action centers on the Arena; we forget the hidden cameras. Peeta asks "You would do if for me, wouldn't you?" I know she lies "I'll stay". Small details - brooch, berries - foretell later crucial acts.
Haymitch plays a pivotal role. I remember he convinces sponsors to send crucial supplies, a healing salve when Seneca orders her wounding. He forestalls Seneca. "Don't kill her. You'll just create a martyr. .. you know how to handle them. If you can't scare them, give them something to root for." (echoes Snow's lesson about hope. Snow does NOT like underdogs.) "Young love."
-----------Spoilers The first night, Kat experiences both relief, Peeta lives, and betrayal, a pro team have co-opted his help to find her. Treed, Peeta convinces the others to sleep, wait her out, and Prue points out a lethal wasp nest. Stung herself, she hallucinates, including her father's death in a mine explosion, and mother's depressive catatonic stupor. Unnecessary. She sleeps for two days, while Prue changes leafy compresses. Prue points out the competitors' supply pile, detours around their traps, and teaches her the mockingjay call for a signal. Ready for the tear jerker scene, I'd forgoten the ensuing riots in Prue's home grain-growing district, seemingly triggered by Prue's father, after he and co-workers echo Kat's three-finger salute, respect, farewell, traditional funeral gesture. http://citizensofpanem.com/books/hunger-games-dictionary/
The rules are changed to allow two victors from the same district. I"m glad I forgot. I was unsure if Seneca suicides with the poison berries presumably left by Snow after his warning "I like you. . Be careful". Because he is executed for the mistake in the book, his death is likely. http://thehungergames.wikia.com/wiki/Seneca_Crane
Peeta decorated cakes? Poor miners could afford fancy cakes? His cake-decorating skill disguises his face into fallen stones. Kat has the salve to heal his sword wound, and hides him. "We'll figure something out." I like the note signed "H.": "You call that a kiss?".
1 Phenomenon interview clips with publisher bigwigs, book pages I The Idea I was right on my first book reviews http xx according to David Levithan, Scholastic publiaher, one of her three editors. Author Collins, looking for older audience than previous Gregor (The Overlander #1), started when flipping channels, hitting war war war, on TV. Drew McWeeny, senior reviewer, hitflix.com also on my side, classifies her work as "speculative fiction" rather than YA, that I shelve under "fantasy". Authors fantasize, speculate, and reward readers. Pauline Hughes thehob.org agrees the work is for "anyone of any age".
II A Reaction - Why Marlborough School (girls Gr7-12) interviewed is never explained. They assigned the book over summer for students and teachers, from 10 group choices. - not escapism, rather analogy of our world exaggerated - addresses issues, themes war, power, hunger - relates to choices in real life
2 Making Interview clips with bigwigs of crew (directors, publisher) & actors, film, behind-scenes, script pages
1 Countdown - Despite emphasizing author Collins, she never speaks, says she agreed with Seneca going from 3 lines to major character, cuts to Control Center - Long lens hand-held for personal rough feel, "voice", plan
2 Casting - Intimate character stories rather than scifi or action film - My opposition to praise for perfect Jennifer so strong I moved arguments to top of review
3 Design - Detailed plan of every shot month before in-field confusion on-set -Effie has different wig, eyebrows, eye cheek lip colors, for each outfit needed to ground, make real, Capitol & Effie against drab District 12 so we feel afraid, not amused & distracted. -Caesar (Stanley Tucci) has blue hair, fake white teeth, tanned, taped back his skin to look like plastic surgery. I hadn't even noticed, he had looked perfect. -Seneca (Wes Bentley) was "Game Keeper", ok, his precisely curved facial hair is artistry, masterpiece. -Director modelled Capitol after Tibet, communist Russia, World's Fair 30s retro, Chrysler/ Ford titans, "brutalism" (real) form of architecture, not futuristic, scifi. Soaring evokes joy, wide spaces are power.
4 Arena realistic violence on PG rating tough. They did it. Not choreographed feel. Train actors 2 months so not hurt anyone, few doubles unless falls or tricks. Josh (Peeta) had to put on 15 pounds of muscle. All Tribute actors loved training, they say. - Designed new weapons of real metal, rubber for no damage. Built paths, wrapped ankles, safety people, for days of Kat running full speed. I heard of Parcour before, when reviewed Prince of Persia dvd http xx . Within 20' of real fire. Rehearsed knots & branches in place from 3 trees on set.
5 Panem = Dupont State Forest N Carolina, sense of Appalachia for extras, sleeps in lots of trees, needed hardwood E coast, not coniferous, financial pressure under $80M, Henry River= District 12. First scene is flashback to Peeta throwing bread to Peeta in rain (really sunny). Old company mill town housing complex from 20s, moved out in 40s, disrepair. Reaping shot in 110 F, Shelby N Carolina. No need to pretend hot, sweaty, out of breath. Actors autographed for extras in thanks. Ashville NC was nearby city in mountains, untouched woods, cascading falls. Lake is city water supply so cannot swim. Real snakes, bears. Gloves, boots, every day against poison ivy. Young actors so homesick on location, bonding intense 5 month, same age. Instant camaraderie unique.
6 Effects - Integrate. Plan green and blue screens ahead, built models, paint matte art, Feel like 1930s Third Reich Germany plus futuristic. -Flames during Parade were supposed to look like angel wings, but I didn't see that, just flowed behind. I'd envisioned larger, more shocking display. Fake wasps tricky.
7 Post - Editors on set cut as went along. Added odds board, betting booths, toddlers imitating stabbing, to make pre-game training sessions serious, deadly. Clarifies bigger sickness in whole society. Winter in England after 1 1/2 years, music in studio built for Beatles. Choirs chilling, triumphant. I didn't even hear the words "Horn of Plenty" when watching. Sound designer even went through books, script, thought about character perceptions. Book in first person, Kat tuned in to every sound, because hunting or being hunted. Creates pace, reality, focus, mood. In shot of Kat in tube, perfect silence, also at Cornucopia violence.
8 May the odds be ever in your favor Long trailer, not teaser, was start of wave. I thought trailer= teaser= preview were synonyms. Fans all scream. I wish they did the silent 3-finger salute instead. Premiere, first showing, had 3K in single hall. Josh (Peeta) tiny, like Michael J. Fox, only comes to shoulder of Liam (Gale), even head shorter than Jen (Kat) in heels. -Critique of our culture, waste.
3 Letters from the Rose Garden - Donald Sutherland reads out letters he wrote to director about Snow. Allegory of decaying empire, control by repression & oppression, to maintain power. Roses are passion of President Coriolanus Snow, garden where shows his evil, scenes added.
4 Control room - unlike book, film can cut away. Reminds audience not just woods survival, but manipulated game, behind Oz curtain. All green screen, even work-table tops. By end you realize Capitol are antagonists, Cato just another victim.
5 Conversation with director/writer Gary Ross & film critic Elvis Mitchell, film clips Extras are mostly Ross monologue. Boring repetition of Reaping scene. Prim does tuck in shirt, same as book. Innocent children sacrificed for spectacle is cynical. She finds own truth, morality, refuses to kill Peeta, that transforms her world, sparks revolution. Physicality, training, comes through. They say Kat starts selfish, learns to care for others, but she volunteered because she cared for sister Prim.
6 Propaganda film says 13 districts rebel, but District 12 tributes have top penthouse, last pair. Again tiny detail foretells major plot point.
7 Marketing gallery = 3 trailers; 11 posters 2 fire symbol, others actors; ~73 photos, some behind scenes, some group, most single In the Reaping, Effie calls chosen "man and woman", but these are children 12-18 for death fight.