the hunger games (film)

I have read the trilogy before (please don’t read the last two links if you haven’t read the books), so to refresh your memory about the first installment:

Katniss Everdeen lives in poverty in District 12 in the country of Panem, which was once North America. During a dark era in Panem’s history, all thirteen districts rebelled against the Capitol, Panem’s seat of power. District 13 was obliterated, and the 12 other districts were subdued. To remind the districts of the Capitol’s might, the Hunger Games is conducted every year. Every year, two tributes from each district – a boy and a girl – is sent to an undisclosed area to fight to the death.

That year, Katniss’s young sister’s name is called, and she steps forward to take her place. Thrown into the arena with her is Peeta, a baker’s boy, who has once done her a kindness.

Would it be strange if I told you that I wished the film was longer? This film adaptation was able to give us a complete sense of the weariness and poverty in District 12 and the grandeur and greed of the Capitol without being too heavy-handed in the dialogues, but failed to make us care for the supporting characters in the bloody competition. Plus points for the shaky camera work, the close-ups, and the haunting hum of the soundtrack (the camera following the doomed children, the focus on Katniss as she scrubs herself for the Reaping, the silence as Effie Trinket unfolds a paper with a crisp and final note – all beautiful and perfect); minus points for not even introducing us to the other contestants. I couldn’t even remember their names. They might as well not have names. “I will get you Person Number One! Bob something-or-other!”

I understand that this is an introductory story, but one scene where they could have done this in an economical manner was during the Tribute Parade. I plant a palm on my face for this missed opportunity. Introduce the tributes per District, talk a little about the Tributes and what they are wearing and what the costumes mean, and move on to the next. End scene! Was that so hard? It will take up time and perhaps cost more money (but then the costumes are already there, why not focus the cameras on them a bit?) but it will make us care. When a cannon booms through the speakers it will make us sit up and wonder who has died this time,  instead of just leaving us fidgeting impatiently on our seats.

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