First of all, I enjoyed it. Not as much as the book, which I love, but I find that to me films rarely live up to their books. I was a bit worried beforehand about how well some things would translate to the screen. Fran came with me and she hadn't read the books, so we had interesting discussions afterwards about that.
Currently the internet is playing round two of race arguments over the casting, round one having been the whitewashing of Katniss, Gale, and most of District 12. I don't really want to go into that here, because other people have talked about it with far more eloquence. I wish the whitewashing hadn't happened, though - I find it pretty upsetting that the casting call for Katniss specified a white actress.
On a happier note, I think it's pretty revolutionary that we have this smash-hit film with a female lead and a female screenwriter. And the publicity makes it very clear that this is about Katniss. I love that. And I thought Katniss's actress did extremely well, and the settings and costuming were brilliant. The whole sequence up to the Games beginning was wonderful, especially the Reaping, which all looked exactly how I'd pictured it except a bit whiter. And I also really liked how they did the Capitol, with all its strange fashions. Fran said it reminded her of 70s sci-fi, in a good way.
Haymitch was not anything like how I pictured him, but I really liked him regardless - just sad that he got the massively short end of the stick in terms of character development. Fran said she didn't really get anything apart from "is drunk a lot for no apparent reason" from him, which is really sad since he's such a complex and fucked-up character. On the other hand, Cinna was almost exactly as I'd hoped, although I'd been visualising him as closer to Shemar Moore. (I now really want Shemar Moore to play Finnick in the next two films. That would be awesome.) Other character who exactly fit my head-picture: Effie Trinket. She was wonderful.
Sadly, I felt that the pace was a bit lost once the actual Games started - I think we could have done with slightly fewer shots of Katniss running through forest and slightly more of her actually doing things, such as hunting or bonding with Rue.
OMG Rue. I adored her, and while I was sad that her scenes got cut down loads from the already small amount in the book, I loved the little things like her stealing the knife, and the grin she had when suggesting the tracker-jacker nest. And I really, really did cry when she died. I was a bit disappointed they left out the scene with District 11 sending Katniss the bread, because I thought that was a really important thing by representing District unity - ie the thing the Capitol tried to destroy with the Games - but on the other hand they did have riots in 11 which I thought were really well-done. But they didn't at all show that Katniss laying Rue out in flowers was an act of rebellion (not supposed to care about other Tributes), so that was a shame.
It was a nice touch showing the Gamemakers toying with the Tributes, and their big virtual overlay was cool. And I did like that they had Seneca, too, it gave some nice perspective on what Katniss was doing.
One thing I didn't think was done well - it really wasn't shown that Katniss was purely playing the romance angle to get gifts from sponsors, to try and get out. When I asked Fran about this afterwards she had thought that it was showing Katniss falling in love with Peeta for real, and that all of it was genuine. So, yeah. And again with the berries, which was the central thing really - they didn't explain exactly why it worked, that if they both died then the Capitol wouldn't have a Victor and they couldn't allow that to happen (now I remember Snow saying at an earlier point that they had to have a Victor, because it allowed just the right level of hope for the Districts, but I really think it wasn't explicitly stated anywhere near as well as it could have been).
So yeah, this is my main criticism of the film: that the political message was massively diluted, to the point of being easy to miss, really. And it sort of became all about the Games - being happy that Katniss won, when the point of the book was that she didn't, really, by 'winning' she put herself in way more danger. And what I love about the books is the politics, so. I think Fran's comment about the end was: "It sort of felt that the other people [Snow etc] won, and I wasn't sure whether was a good or a bad thing." I don't know, probably other people had different take-home messages, but that was our opinion. And I think they're going to have to do quite a bit of political catch-up to make Catching Fire make sense.
I do have to say, though, that my very favourite scene was one not in the books at all, although it was mentioned: Seneca's forced suicide. Being escorted into a lovely room and locked there, with only a table and a glass bowl full of nightlock berries - that was wonderfully creepy and massively in keeping with the series's tone.
So, to sum up: enjoyed the film, preferred the books, but am looking forward to the sequels.
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