The games have begun

Shelby Devitt and Sarah Contreras

This weekend, The Hunger Games, based on Suzanne Collins’ monster young adult book series, delighted fans and raked in the dough. Millions of people flocked to theaters around the country, and few were disappointed. Counted among those who were delighted were the Dekalb Scene’s own Shelby Devitt and Sarah Contreras. They’re here to chip in their opinions about what worked, and what didn’t, in the first installment of The Hunger Games trilogy.

CASTING:

Sarah – I could ruminate on just how perfect Jennifer Lawrence is as Katniss Everdeen, but it’s kind of universally agreed. She is magic and amazing and blah blah. Instead, I have two words: Lenny Kravitz. That man is killer. He’s understated, comforting and totally believable as someone who designs flaming dresses as a way of sticking it to “The Man.” Also, I feel that the casting of Katniss’ mother was pretty spot-on. They nailed the whole “I used to be gorgeous and awesome but the world has broken my spirit!” thing. That kind of attention to detail is what makes fans’ hearts go all aflutter. I tried to be excited about the choice of actor for Peeta Mellark, but I just can’t be. Recast him with a Golden Retriever and I’ll be much happier with the movie overall.

Shelby – The adult casting was very well done. Woody Harrelson’s rugged alcoholic portrayal of Haymitch pleasantly surprised me, but as I watched, I kept having flashbacks of Josh Holloway’s LOST character Sawyer. An almost unrecognizable Elizabeth Banks was adorable and hit the role of delightfully oblivious and decadent Effie spot on.

Neither Josh Hutcherson nor Liam Hemsworth are very good actors, but Hutcherson was my least favorite casting decision. He still seems like that 11-year-old child in Bridge to Terabithia to me, and Peeta should at least be a little manly (even if he does like to bake and paint his face in his spare time).

Honesty time: Lenny Kravitz might have been my favorite part of the entire movie. I initially had doubts, but whenever he was on-screen, I was swooning. He smoldered and I melted.

Gore Factor:

Sarah – Personally, I think the violence in the movie perfectly mirrors the violence in the books. Collins spins a bloody world, but it isn’t overly detailed or excessive. As in the books, the butchering happens quickly in the film, with just enough horror to make you cringe but not leave the theater. Those who want more gore should go pop in a Saw DVD; the film and books are not solely about violence, but about the struggle to maintain one’s humanity amidst such violence. Well done, director Gary Ross, well done.

Shelby – The gore was toned down from the novel, a wise choice to keep it PG-13, but that didn’t make it easier to watch Cato snap a kid’s neck for being the worst watchman ever. Despite the bloodiness of the other deaths, that was the second hardest death to watch after Rue’s. Anyone who says they didn’t sob during Rue’s death has no heart.

Costuming/Art Direction:

Sarah – When I read the books, I always envisioned the Capitol citizens’ garb as borderline terrifying. And so it is! I’m a huge fan of what they did for the excessive, outlandish Capitol. If the outlying Districts are worlds full of limits, than the Capitol is the place for limits to be completely thrown out. The result is very Wicked meets Lady Gaga meets a paintball gun. When Effie Trinket teeters toward the Little House on the Prairie-ish District 12 crowd, you can’t help but think, “Why yes! This totally looks like someone who wouldn’t understand why infanticide is wrong. Look at her lipstick.”

Shelby: The District 12 sets were intricate and accurate to what life in a dystopian, impoverished coal mining town would be. I was most impressed by the remnants of Depression-era ruralness (think Cracker Barrel, but dirtier and with no hashbrown casserole to be had), from the vintage microphone Effie used at the Reaping to the feed-sack dresses and overalls worn by the residents. Even in the tracker-jacker hallucination flashbacks, in which we see Katniss’ house explode and come back together, the items seem like artifacts from the 1930s, which helps put poor country folk from the future a little more in an imaginable realm for us.

Obligatory Teen Romance

Sarah – If anyone tries to sell this movie by saying that it’s just like Twilight one more time, I just might break something. Sure, there is a female hero who has tingly feelings for maybe more than one guy – the similarities end there. Katniss Everdeen is no Bella Swan. Her choices regarding her love life are not made depending on who is more sparkly; they are made because the livelihood of thousands of people depend on them. She couldn’t care less about who is manlier or more sensitive! She has priorities, people and those priorities are named Mom, Prim and District 12! The romance plot is intricate and heavy, but it is by no means the most important aspect of the book. Take down your “Team Gale” banners and get over it.

Shelby – The mostly imaginary love triangle between Katniss, Peeta and Gale is the most boring part of the trilogy. You might say, “But Peeta is self-sacrificing for a girl he’s loved his whole life!” You know who else is self-sacrificing, not for someone who they have a crush on but her own flesh and blood? Katniss. You might say, “Katniss has been so close to Gale for so long, they should be together!” I say that just because you make good friends through the similar tragedy of being left fatherless with a house full of people dependent on you to survive doesn’t mean you need to make out. They’re 16 and have better priorities. There is no time for swooning and moping about for want of love here. Sure, Katniss has to deal with some confusion after her reality-TV fling with Peeta, but she had to do that to keep both of them from dying, whether it be by bleeding out in a cave or assassinated by Snow’s cronies after the fact. Who among you can say you haven’t used someone? When it comes down to it, Katniss makes her choices based on necessity, not hormones. There are no ‘teams’ here. If there are, I support Team Katniss, in which boys are not the most important issue we deal with.

Most Important Scene:

Shelby – The best scene in the entire film was the riot following Rue’s death. Not only is it perfect foreshadowing for events in the next two movies, it is the emotional climax for those of us who don’t care about the romantic subplot. The District 11 riot, triggered by the death of a sweet, innocent little girl, perfectly illustrates the frustration and sorrow of the oppressed people of Panem, especially those in the deprived outlying districts.

Sarah – Oh, that riot scene was so, so good. Katniss, the face of the impending Revolution! Powerful stuff. But I think that the most important scene in the film stars Effie Trinket, scolding Katniss for manhandling a terrified/elated looking Peeta. “Manners!” she shrieks, pointing a scary, manicured finger at Katniss. This is important because no-nonsense Kat really needs to calm herself down and see the big picture here. If she doesn’t play by the rules, and treat those around her nicely, no one is going to be sympathetic towards her. And if she doesn’t tug at heartstrings, she will be left high and dry in her most dire moments. Katniss needs to play the Capitol’s game, as horrible as it sounds. Effie’s heart is in the right place – she doesn’t want this brave young girl with awesome hair to die.

It’s also important because, seriously, theater-goers: learn some manners. No texting during movies!

Score:

Sarah – The music in the film is used pretty effectively. I’m not a musical expert, so I won’t pretend to know much about crescendos and violin runs. What I do know is that the four-note whistle used as a signal between Katniss and Rue is amazing. The first time I heard it, at the end of the first trailer, literal tears spilled out of my eyes. It is haunting and inspiring, and I feel it captures both the hope and despair of the film perfectly. Team Whistle!

Shelby – Katniss is very clearly from what used to be Appalachia, USA. As such, I was impressed to hear musical themes in the score that echoed that region’s musical heritage and connected to several tracks on the soundtrack by country and folk artists.