I have yet to sit down and read the book, and perhaps that is a blessing since I really enjoyed this film. I have been hearing from a lot of people over the last year that I really need to read the book, and when the movie was out in the theaters everyone was raving over it. Myself…I was rather skeptical, and in my mind I painted somebody trying to do a clever adaptation of The Running Man (1987) instead of doing something original. Now, having seen the movie myself I have no problem admitting just how wrong I was in my expectations.
The story itself was ultimately rather predictable, and followed a rather reliable plot formula. What made it all work was the emotional intensity of the lead character. Yes, I know that the role of the lead character is to suck you the reader (or watcher in this case) into the story, and allow you to find a way to become emotionally invested in the story. However, even knowing it for an obvious plot device didn’t save me from the lure, and I was fully committed before I knew it. The story played out in a predictable fashion, with intensity and action at all the appropriate places, and the required hook at the end where the lead character flexes what little leverage she has and exerts some control over fate. Nothing unexpected, but because of the emotional investment that the watcher makes it carried a lot of impact.
As to the film itself, the pacing seemed to be very well handled. Yes, there were some slow points, but they were dictated by the story and not by failings on the part of the director. The story never stagnated when on the screen, and there were always little extra bits of detail to make you watch and wonder. The acting was actually quite well done by the primaries, though many of the secondaries seemed a bit stilted, and that is part of why I rated it down a bit. Even if your part is a bit part, be proud of your work and try to invest something into the role instead of just being a cardboard cutout. I loved that the lead actually seemed to have a solid grasp of the mechanics of using a bow unlike other films where errors in bow use are so glaring.
Effects and props were also pretty well handled with one exception that kept staring me in the face. That bow used in the arena appeared to be metal, and certainly sounded metal, but it acted more fiberglass than metal. Never mind that a recurve bow made from some sort of flex metal at that thickness would be extremely, if not impossible to draw, much less shoot. Yes, it looks pretty, but functionally I would have much preferred something that looked more genuine. Who knows, maybe they were simply trying to match a description from the book… And the fletchings on the arrows…yeah…those were special. Still, aside from the bow I rather enjoyed the effects and the props. They all seemed to melt right in and become a natural part of the landscape. Nothing jumped out as out of place, even in the fantastical settings. They simply seemed correct for the setting, and that speaks volumes to the effectiveness of the props people.
All in all a very enjoyable film, and one that I am certain to watch again in the future.