Like every other literary-inclined-slash-hipster teenager in America, I was outside the theater at eight o’clock on Thursday with my hiking boots and caffeine. And all the other hipsters will tell you that they read the Hunger Games before it was cool, but I’m telling you the truth. Working as a student aide for the librarians had its perks…. One being that, before they trusted me to actually shelve books, I could just do my homework and sleep. But once I was allowed in the sacred realm of young adult lit, I shelved all the new books as they came in, and frequently checked them out myself before anybody else, if the synopsis sounded interesting. (And I got to read three books at a time, instead of the standard two. Except the librarians were kind of creepy, and once the one with a mustache told me that if anything happened to my parents, she’d adopt me. I’ve never slept quite as soundly after that.)
Moving on. So I’ve been a fan of the Hunger Games series for two and a half or three years now, and it kind of feels like the rest of the world’s just catching on. But my glasses are still from an optometrist, not from seeing Avatar in 3D, so I think I’m okay.
Back to Thursday night. It was a lot of sitting, a lot of doodling, a lot of talking about Finnick Odair with two dozen other people who blush at the sound of his name. I didn’t end up getting my mockingjay pin in time, so I didn’t dress up, but I saw several girls who tried to replicate Katniss’ arena digs. Then there was a Peeta (blonde guy with a loaf of bread), and an Effie (looked really, really cool, but a bit out of place), as well.
My butt got really sore, but the crowds weren’t nearly as bad as either of the Deathly Hallows, so we got to sit inside the entire time. At about ten, they let us inside the actual theater rooms. My friends, my sister’s friends, and I took up the entire back row and half of the row in front of it. A few people initiated a popcorn fight, some brought the books to read, and others tried to fall asleep. Okay, I was the only one trying to fall asleep.
When the movie started, everyone in the theater fell silent. Our attempt at a Three-Fingered Salute Flash Mob failed, but it was okay, because A) we were in the back row, and B) nobody cared about anything but the movie at that point.
I WILL REMAIN SPOILER-FREE. All I will say about the actual movie is that it remained delightfully true to the book, all the actors were brilliant, and while the camera direction was jarring and, at times, painful, it helped give the illusion that you were inside Katniss’ head. Transitioning from a first-person, present-tense book to a third-person, omnipotent movie is not easy. Ross, Collins, and everyone else involved did a wonderful job. (I still feel that, after my second time seeing it just an hour ago.)
In fact, the only thing I can criticize is that Peeta and Katniss both referred to the redheaded tribute as Foxface from the time they met up, without any discussion or agreement. I’m guessing it was either in one of the deleted scenes, or everyone involved in production was so invested into the book that it didn’t occur to them. It was pretty obvious who they were referring to, though, and it didn’t make any difference to the plot.
I reread The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and part of Mockingjay between the first time I saw the movie and the second, just to refresh my memory of the books. I could picture, vividly, almost every scene in the first book based on the movie. There were things that I wish had been kept, but ultimately it was the best adaption I’ve ever seen. Even tiny details like the “little duck” bit were kept to maintain the feel of the book.
Now I’m excited to see where they’ll take us with Catching Fire, and ultimately Mockingjay. First and foremost, they need to give us the perfect Finnick. If he’s not absolutely everything that the fans want, Catching Fire isn’t going to do well. But I have confidence in Ross and Collins, and based on their casting of the first book, I’m trusting them to deliver.
Then, they need to acknowledge that Catching Fire comes in three distinct parts: after the Games, before the Quell, and The Quell itself. Giving each part its own movie would be ideal, but splitting Mockingjay into two movies is probably the best we can hope for. Balancing Katniss’ lack of knowledge with their omnipresent viewpoint is going to be difficult. In the book, Katniss just goes her merry way and then everybody else’s actions are explained later, through flashbacks. The filmmakers don’t have that luxury.
Mockingjay is going to be the final test. Can they balance action, character development, and romance soundly?
There’s only one way to find out. May the odds be ever in their favor.