I was so excited to see the movie version of The Hunger Games. Then, within the first five minutes, I realized it was going to be a shaky camera movie. Ugh. Why?????
The first half of the movie was literally nauseating. Headache inducing. I wished they'd hold the stupid camera still, so I could enjoy the great story. And the kicker? These weren't even action scenes.
I've read a lot of people saying the jerky camera was to ramp up the tension, but the plot itself does a fine job of that. Besides, if your audience can't tell what's going on, I don't think you're doing that great a job of building tension.
Other people say it's to show how Katniss' thoughts are jumping around, or how she can't afford to really focus on the whole big picture, or how much of the time she's just trying to survive, disconnected from the world. Fine, as long as you can do it without majorly annoying or sickening your audience.
Then there's the argument that Katniss is experiencing everything fast and confusingly, so the only way for us to experience it that way is to have fast and confusing camera angles. Uhh…we experienced it just fine in the book, without any special effects. And if you compare Suzanne Collin's writing style to that of a camera, I would never describe it as jerky.
To me, the shaky camera is gimmicky and off-putting. In writing, we talk a lot about how you don't want to push your readers out of the story. You don't want to clutter your prose with too many big words, too many synonyms for "said," or too many wild stylistic stand-outs. These can easily upstage the characters. That's the last thing you want to do. Well, to me, the shaky camera shoves me out of the story more quickly than bad acting or budget special effects or even flat dialogue.
During the second half of the movie, ironically, when Katniss IS fighting for her life in deadly action scenes, the cameras aren't quite so bad. Still, I couldn't tell what was happening in any of the fight scenes. The camera would pan out for a moment and I'd sigh in relief, then BOOM it was back to a bunch of shaky close-up blurs. Doing this strategically to minimize the on-screen violence is fine. But strategic it wasn't, and annoyed I was.
It's really a shame too, because I thought the adaptation was spectacular. Yes, they changed a few odd details, but overall I think it really captured the book as well as any movie can. The visuals are great. The acting is excellent. The pacing is spot on. If only they'd bought one of those camera stabilizers beforehand, or tested it afterwards on an audience of people who like to actually see what's going on, it would have been a near perfect experience.
And Suzanne Collins, I've said it before, and I'll say it again: wow. I wish I had written this.