They did not.
From the reaping in District 12 to the opulence of the Capitol to the carnage of the arena, the story felt honest. The fight scenes weren’t tricked out with special effects or slow motion or made to be longer than would seem natural. In fact, many of the deaths happened so fast, especially in the cornucopia scene, that one hardly had time to process what was going on, similar to how it might feel if you were actually in the arena. The Capitol citizens were despicable. The gamemakers were as well.
The movie inspired many emotions, including unease, anger and sympathy, not just for the most beloved characters, but for all the tributes forced to enter into the Hunger Games, which I think is Suzanne Collins’ intention.
The documentary style of filming, as well as the absence of a peppy soundtrack, added to the austerity of the film. There was a lot of silence throughout, or a simple backdrop of forest sounds that allowed for thoughtful moments and space for reflection. The settings were authentic. They really nailed the Seam, the District 12 square, the Capitol and its lavishly dressed audiences, the arena, even the modes of transportation. The extras were some of the best I’ve ever seen. Give them all a raise!
I felt each of the principal actors held their own. There could have been a little more chemistry between Katniss and Peeta, but their connection was tender and heartfelt in the cave, rather than completely staged for the Capitol audience, and I appreciated that.
Some of my favorite bits:
Prim–outstanding in every way.
Effie Trinket twirling her hand in that glass bowl right before she pulls Prim’s name.
District 12’s solemn salute to Katniss after she volunteers.
Peeta greeting the Capitol for the first time with genuine excitement.
Rue in the rafters of the training center.
Katniss throwing Peeta up against a wall after he confesses his love for her on stage.
Rue and Katniss cuddled up together in the tree.
District 11’s riot after Rue’s death.
Gale’s attempts at not noticing Katniss and Peeta kissing in the cave.
Cato’s last monologue at the top of the cornucopia.
Seneca Crane and the bowl of berries.
Prim atop Gale’s shoulders when Katniss and Peeta return home, as well as the look on Peeta’s face at the realization that Katniss is conflicted in her feelings.
Overall, I feel J-Law did Katniss justice. In quiet moments she evoked a lot of emotion while leaving room for viewers to have their own thoughts and feelings on the matter, though I did wonder how that might work for people who haven’t read the book. Josh Hutcherson also did well as Peeta, though I’m hoping for Catching Fire there will be more opportunities for him to take the lead. Liam Hemsworth as Gale didn’t get enough screen time for my taste, but in his brief scenes, he did inspire the brooding mystique that surrounds Gale in the book.
But in the end, this fan is pleased.