What made me skeptical of this film in the last year were the following:
- Marketing ("Twilight-afying" it)
Let's break it all down.
One huge red flag I had about this movie was how they seemed to be marketing it. Nothing is more laughable than the Twilight series, in my opinion (I literally burst out laughing when Breaking Dawn 2 trailer came on before The Hunger Games; it was real bad). The books are awful, the movies are just as bad, and it could not be anything farther from what The Hunger Games is. So why in God's name would they want to market it like Twilight?
It beats me, but it certainly was the main reason I was not looking forward to seeing it for a long time. I couldn't bear the thought of them dumbing down something as profound as The Hunger Games and funneling it into something as shallow and cheap as "Team Peeta" & "Team Gale." Yet, it had already begun. The headlines read "Hunger Games: The Next Twilight!" or "Look out Vampires: There's a New Teen Sensation!" Vanity Fair even did the EXACT same photoshoot for The Hunger Games cast as they did for the Twilight cast. See exhibit A and B:
|"We are all bffs!"|
|"So are we, but not as snugly!"|
|"Look how there are 3 of us!"|
|"Yeah 1, 2, 3! Only we get trees."|
Because of all of this, I didn't even buy a midnight showing ticket. That's right, I, the queen of midnight premieres, did not go to a midnight showing of a book adaptation that I really love because I was too afraid it would be such a horrible disappointment based on this marketing. Not that the franchise was hurt by missing out on my one ticket, but I just couldn't bear the thought of going and being massively let down. So when the great reviews that gave me hope started to pour in nearing the home stretch right before the movie opened, it was already too late to get tickets.
Plus, what is really funny about this is the movie was so far from being like Twilight. I'm still baffled as to why they felt the need to go that route for so long, but I am SO GLAD that the film itself wasn't "Twilight-afied," which was seriously my worst fear.
Anyone who loves the book series will tell you that one of the most important things about the story is the violence because it portrays how backwards and corrupt the society had become. For the longest time my friends and I would sit and wonder about ways they could make this movie correctly without an "R" rating for violence. It's children killing children, after all, an idea that is not something many movies tend to touch on, and especially won't market for kids. However, this is a YA Fiction series, so it had to be able to fly under the PG-13 line. But how?!
Or was the question actually would they even try to show the violence or would it be overshadowed by the miniscule love triangle that isn't even important to the main theme of the story...? Since they were pitching this as a movie tweens could go to and swoon, I had my doubts that they would portray the story as gritty and horrifying as it needed to be.
Thankfully, the film-makers were able to handle the violence with a perfect balance. It was brutal and upsetting, but not so overwhelming that it was off-putting (which sounds weird... children killing children is, of course, off-putting, but you know what I mean). I felt like most kids could see this without being traumatized, but could also appreciate and understand how sickening the world Collins created had become and the message that lies within that.
When the hype started to surround this movie, I tried to keep my distance. However, it is nearly impossible to not have SOME expectations of a series you love so much, so when the casting was announced I had mixed feelings (none of which were about Jennifer Lawrence because I knew she was top-notch-talented, AND loved the book series).
Josh Hutcherson was cast as Peeta and I didn't know what to think of that. I liked him okay but he didn't look anything like what I pictured the character to be when I read the books. Then I read that Woody Harrelson would play Haymitch. That was a decision I wasn't really on board with, either. I pictured him shorter, fatter, and much greasier. More like a tubby Robert Downey Jr. Finally, the casting decision for Cinna as Lenny Kravitz upset me the most. For some reason, I really couldn't get past it and I refused to even try.
|"Walk. Walk. Fashion baby."|
Naturally I became skeptical of the film immediately. If so many of the characters I love were cast as people that I was not sure of, I didn't know if I could ever come around. I started doing some research and heard about why they decided on Josh Hutcherson. I knew that I had to get on board with this kid if I was going to be able to make it through the entire series. One of the articles my friend read said that they would've cast Josh Hutcherson "even if he were purple and had wings." Apparently his audition tape really knocked it out of the park and he convinced the writers, director, and Suzanne Collins that he was the right guy no matter what. After that I felt a few of my worries were dispelled but, still, I couldn't picture him as my Peeta. The physicality was just too off. Especially compared to Liam Hemsworth, who they cast as Gale.
The only way I knew that I could be completely sold is if Josh nailed it for me on screen, so I entered the theater not knowing what I was going to feel for him. As unfair as it seems for poor Josh, he had a lot to prove to me; a lot was riding on his performance.
As I watched the movie, the first time we saw Haymitch, I just kept thinking "He's not greasy enough! He's not loud and angry enough!!" However, by the middle of the movie I started warming up to him. Even though it wasn't my choice for the character, Woody Harrelson's portrayal did the job and did it well. What was really important was to see a connection between him and Katniss, which was very present and grew throughout.
Which brings me to Cinna. Like I said, I was not on board with him in the slightest, however from the first moment Lenny Kravitz was on screen, he had me. He was genuine and seemed to understand the character very well. He was soft-spoken, portrayed his character tenderly, and oozed kindness. The chemistry he had with Jennifer Lawrence was incredible. I was stunned. Humbly do I admit that I was horribly wrong to doubt him! He has made me eat my words.
I absolutely ADORED this movie. Everything I was worried about was for nothing because it all turned out great. If I am disappointed about anything, it is only that I have to wait over a year and half before I see the next installment. Though, what a wonderful pain, as I never thought I could love again after the end of the Harry Potter series.