I am a massive movie fan. If you ask my Facebook friends (well those that haven’t unsubscribed from my frequent updates), they’ll tell you that I am often posting about films and going to the cinema. I love the entire experience of going to the cinema. The snacks, the adverts, the big screen, the magic of seeing a film for the first time in that atmosphere – I’ve loved it since being a small child and it is one of my favourite things in the world to do. So I had to experience it American-stylie. And what better way to do that than to go and see the film of the moment, The Hunger Games.
I should declare myself now and say I’ve been waiting for The Hunger Games with such excitement for a while. I read the excellent and gripping books by Suzanne Collins probably about a year to a year and a half ago, finishing the trilogy within the space of a week. I immediately thought that the story was brilliantly told and was in awe of Katniss, one of the best fictional female characters to transpire in a long time. When it was announced a movie would be made I knew instantly I wanted to see it, and I assumed I would like it.
Last night I had the pleasure of going to a special screening of the film (it is released officially today) organised by the San Francisco MovieBears. It was absolutely no surprise that the theatre was full and that there was a lot of excitement and anticipation in the air. The Moviebears made this screening pretty special though. Essentially a film club, they provided a great atmosphere and fun pre-movie announcements which just made the experience extra special. It made me want to join a film club when I get home (if such things exist in England?). I’ve been to a number of screenings put on by the excellent Jameson Cult Film Club before, but what was different here was the socialising before and after the film – there is a lot to be said for creating that environment.
The actual experience of seeing a film in America was slightly different from back home. Mostly because (and I’m sure this depends on the movie and when it was released) it’s pretty jovial. Of course in most cinemas around the world people laugh at the funny bits but I’ve never been in a theatre full of people clapping and cheering at parts of a film. Before we went into our screening at 7.30pm there were already teenagers and parents camped out in the cinema lobby waiting for the midnight screening. I’ve heard about that kind of thing but actually seeing kids dressed up as the characters from the film, patiently and excitedly waiting for the first screening they could get to, sitting on the floor for hours just to get the seat they want was a real surprise.
As for the actual movie, I was not disappointed. Jennifer Lawrence makes an absolutely perfect Katniss Everdeen. I believed in her entirely, especially at the moment she starts to shake just before entering the Hunger Games arena. She manages to give life to a complex character who stands to be a fantastic female heroine. Josh Hutcherson was a revelation as her fellow competitor from District 12 in the Games. He demonstrates and emotional intensity that absolutely fits how Peeta is written in the book, and shows incredible promise for the future. It was clear that the supporting characters were having an absolute ball filming this movie. Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks and Stanley Tucci are all on fine comedic form, bringing some much needed light relief from the intense and controversial story. I would recommend people see The Hunger Games mostly because it is a massive commentary on our society but full of entertainment, style, comedy and action at the same time. Due to the nature of the story, yes there are violent moments but they are skillfully done so that it doesn’t feel too violent, it shocks in ways that the story means to – it isn’t gratuitous violence for the sake of having gratuitous violence. It’s actually an empowering story about standing up for what you believe in when all the odds are against you – a lesson that is definitely timely.
I loved my trip out to the cinema in San Francisco, I’m delighted that it was to see The Hunger Games and if there’s anything I’ve learned from going to the cinema in America, it is that I hope the magic of going to the movies is something that lasts forever. Good stories are some of the most precious things we have as humans, they are how we learn about different ways of life, how we communicate different emotions and they inspire our imaginations, and the cinema is a brilliant place for them to exist.