Monday, March 26, 2012

TEAM KATNISS: Despite its record-breaking ticket sales this weekend, we didn't put up a thread to discuss The Hunger Games, in part because I didn't get to see it until yesterday afternoon. Generally, I thought it was a damn solid piece of filmmaking. Yes, some things kind of fall by the wayside from the books (Haymitch and Snow are very underdeveloped characters, and the "Effie as frustrated social climber" point gets lost), but I thought the additions (some material between Seneca and Snow, and the "control room" scenes) gave some context, and meant that Jennifer Lawrence (who is particularly effective) didn't have to appear in every single scene. Obviously, the massive success guarantees a green light for at least Catching Fire, if not Mockingjay as well, and I'm interested to see where they go as the stories get progressively darker. As a note on spoilers--both the first book and the first movie are fair game, but let's stay away from spoilers from the subsequent books.


  1. I also liked it very much (and especially liked the score).  Tucci is just phenomenal.  If I had one complaint, it would be the way they neutered the gruesome idea behind the muttations.  I don't know whether it was too hard to explain, too expensive to execute, too horrifying for a PG-13, or what, but that really was the icing on the cake of awfulness in the book.

  2. isaac_spaceman12:43 PM

    I assume they greenlit/greenlighted the other two long ago, and that the plan is to film them together to the extent possible. 

    Haven't seen, but did they delete the mayor's daughter giving Katniss the mockingjay pin and make it Prim instead? 

  3. Katniss finds the pin while shopping, gives it to Prim (before the Reaping) as something to keep her safe, and Prim gives it to her before she leaves.

    Catching Fire is in pre-production, with Ross returning to direct and Simon Beaufoy doing the first draft of the screenplay (I assume Ross will do a rewrite), but Mockingjay hasn't been formally greenlit.  All the principals are signed for four movies, and the assumption is Mockingjay will be broken into two parts.

  4. lisased12:58 PM

    I needed this to be a disturbing movie, as horrifying as the book. I knew it wouldn't be, because of mass appeal and the PG-13 rating, but I thought they went near the edge and then stepped back. When I read the book, almost every death punched me in the gut, and the muttations made my stomach drop. In the movie, I really only felt that dread when I saw them standing on their pedestals and I thought, "YEAH!", and then I realized that I couldn't wait to see them kill each other. That scene and the control room scenes made me feel like a spectator, which worked really well.

    I remember the debate about how the actress playing Katniss couldn't be too old because that was the point -- these were kids. I didn't have a problem believing the actors as teenagers, but I did think this was too much like an adventure film, when it should have been something more. That said, I think they did a great job with the Reaping and Rue scenes, and Jennifer Lawrence was everything I knew she could be.

  5. isaac_spaceman1:03 PM

    Two parts?  I guess you do what you need to do to make a buck.  The book is about 70 pages long, the only natural break points are at either 20% or 80% of the way through, and it is terrible.  Basically three things happen.  Sure, let's stretch it to three hours. 

  6. What got me was the post-Rue's-death scene of Katniss crying and desperately trying to wash her hands--the mixture of the mourning for her friend and trying to wash herself clean for having taken a life in anger.  It's also fascinating that Katniss wins, but the only people she kills (in the movie) are Glimmer, with the Tracker Jacker nest, Marvel, after Marvel kills Rue and is about to kill Katniss, and Cato (as sort of a mercy kill as he's devoured by the Mutts).

  7. Maret1:09 PM

    I was very satisfied with the film - I thought it was just about as strong an adaptation that they could make, given the need to make it palatable for teens and to condese some material for time.

    I thought Jennifer Lawrence was phenomenal as Katniss, though I do wish that overall there weren't the filming issues that come with casting teen actors, etc. I would have loved to see the Katniss, Peeta and Gale roles cast younger, despite how great these performances were, because I feel like in the books there's a sense of desperation and horror that can't quite come through when the actors are not as young as the roles are written.

    I also want to applaud the audience at the Arclight Pasadena -- as always Arclights are great because of reserved seating, no commercials, and the fact that they have ushers nearby in order to shut down talkers and cell phone users, but in a theater as large and as packed with teens as this was, I expected some rule-breakers and there were none. Everyone reacted and enjoyed the movie but there was not one cell phone or random conversation in the theater. 

    Also, I believe Catching Fire is supposed to be in theaters November, 2013.

  8. lisased1:12 PM

    I was pleased to see that reaction from Katniss. I knew JL would do a great job when I read an interview with her where she said Katniss shouldn't be badass after her first kill -- that the first time she deliberately takes a life with her bow and arrow, it should change her.

  9. bella wilfer1:57 PM

    Thought the movie was great overall.  I'd have liked to feel a little more suffering from Katniss, Gale, Peeta, et al in the beginning - I never really got the idea that these were starving children (the background actors in those scenes certainly looked starving and miserable, but Katniss looked like the picture of health - even in that scene in the rain outside the bakery, I got more "mopey teen" than "girl who hasn't eaten in days").  I also thought the love triangle aspect suffered a bit from us not being in Katniss's head (the way we are in the book) - in the book, you know Katniss is in love with Gale and fears he sees her only as a little sister, whereas in the movie they honestly seemed more like friends and equals.

    However - just minor quibbles - I thought the film was really well-done and I can't wait for Catching Fire.  

  10. Eric J.2:01 PM

    Hopefully the plot will get a thorough rewrite to stretch it into two books. 


    Make part one about the growing rebellion and the mystery of District 13, then make part two about the training and the assault on the Capitol. Make Prim nearly a co-lead in these two movies, give her her own motivations and subplot. Perhaps an extended sequence that provides some background on pre-Uprising Panem and President Snow.

  11. Overall, I thought it was good but I wonder about anyone seeing the film that did not read the book.  I read one review that complained that Katniss was not convincing enough in her love of Peeta... which of course was the point.  If a reviewer, who watches movies for a living, missed something so integral to the story I wonder if it was successful, at all, to those who did not read the books.

    Woody as Haymitch was my favorite casting.  He was brilliant.

  12. KCosmo's neighbor2:14 PM

    Matt, I knew you'd pull through with a post--I've been checking all weekend!! I saw this on Saturday AM with my girls and we all loved it. I feared that if it was too violent someone might call social services on me, but phew...I still have my kids!

    I thought the movie definintely leaned more toward the spectacle of the games rather than the games themselves and the strategy it took for Katniss and Peeta to "win." I thought the acting was great--Tucci and Banks really stole the show and provided some great comic relief. I even liked the few scenes with Lenny Kravitz, and I found his relationship with Katniss to be very powerful, as he was the last one to see her prior to her being "vacuumed" up into the arena.

    My daughter reread the book last week and I'm rereading it now. The movie did leave out quite a bit, but I guess that's what happens. No Avoxes in the movie, and very little development of life in District 12 (the hob, Katniss's mother, etc.). It seemed they really wanted to get us to the Capitol, but I can see why--that was the best part to watch. I feel like the next movie will give us more Gale and more Prim. Gale didn't play much of a role in this movie, and I thought he needed to be a bit scruffier.

    I'm so glad I can weigh in on this topic!

  13. isaac_spaceman2:17 PM

    [SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS] Hadn't thought about it, but you are absolutely right.  Mockingjay could be a much better book if it bounced back and forth between Prim's perspective and Katniss's.  Prim's story in District 13 is certainly more interesting than Katniss's story there.  They'd have to find something really compelling for Prim while the Capitol stuff is going on, but then it would actually be show and not tell when the two plots intersected.  Of course this means that Prim would have to be an actual character and not just an American Girl Doll synopsis, but I assume they're trying to make that change anyway. 

  14. isaac_spaceman2:21 PM

    Matt, that's what bothered me the most about the first book (aside from the terrible writing) -- Katniss and Peeta get to keep their hands clean.  Katniss only kills people who are, at that exact moment, in the act of trying to kill her or as an act of mercy.  Peeta only kills people because he is incompetent at not killing people.  What an extraordinary cheat. 

  15. I think part of the point and horror is that even without killing people at all, the situation scars those who participate in them--everyone's morally compromised.  Indeed, a character who goes a long distance in the Games (Foxface) didn't kill anyone.  The Haymitch backstory gets into that as well--I believe he won his Games without actively taking a single life.

  16. Paul Tabachneck2:51 PM

    My girlfriend and I went to a midnight showing, and I have to say, it was the first time in like EVER that I felt my age without someone else hammering it home for me!  That said, I found the movie serviceable, with all of the good and bad notes that term connotates.  

    On the one hand, it was faithful to the book.  On the other, at the start it looked like it was going to be faithful to the point of just putting actual text on screen for a few hours.  Really, guys?  In that amount of time, you couldn't have just added Stanley Tucci giving an orientation to the Hunger Games?  I really didn't like the text intro, because for the rest of the movie it pretty much feels like the filmmakers are assuming that the audience has read the book:

    1) Very little indication as to the crassness of Peeta and Katniss' relationship,

    2) The failure to truly establish how poor Katniss' family was, and what tesseracts are, etc.  You can't tell me that audience wouldn't have sat for three hours -- those kids were invested.

    3) The cutoff of the plot at the end of book I proper when  (SPOILER)(SPOILER)(SPOILER) extending the first movie to the confrontation between Katniss and PresSnow in her living room would have been so much more suspenseful (END SPOILER), and would have better compelled newcomers to see a second part.  They could have even accomplished this by having Sutherland have a conversation with his aides about it, but they just left it there.

    On the whole, it was laid out for the fans, and what you see if you see that movie is what you read if you read that book, so I don't really have any room to complain (TIME TRAVELER'S WIFE I AM LOOKING AT YOU AGAIN), but I like to nitpick and this is the place where we do that, so.

  17. lisased3:23 PM

    Oh Paul, you and I have to let go of "The Time Traveler's Wife".



  18. isaac_spaceman3:42 PM

    Uh, SPOILER ALERT, Matt. 

  19. Katie3:45 PM

    <span>I finally read the book this weekend and went directly to the movie.  Agreed that the writing in the book was sub-par, and for me was actually distracting.  So, in a way, the movie was more enjoyable.  I loved Tucci and the taping of his show - marvelously grotesque.  I saw the movie with my boyfriend who had not read the book and who knew nothing of the premise.  He hated it.  Absolutely hated it.  My fault for not preparing him, but I do think reading the book first is probably necessary for full appreciation.</span>
    <p><span> </span>

  20. Paul Tabachneck4:24 PM

    Never forget.  

  21. Anonymous4:47 PM

    To me is was a mix of something that might not read clearly to people who hadn't read the books and not wanting to use really really fake or really really expensive CGI.

  22. Jenn.5:25 PM

    I enjoyed both the book and the movie, and especially thought that Jennifer Lawrence was great. 

    The husband had not read the book and found the movie to be difficult to swallow, even as he acknowledged that the acting, etc., was good.  Basically, he had two sets of issues with the premise:  (1) too damn grim, leading to this exchange: 

    Husband:  "Why would anyone put themselves reading a book about that?" 
    Me:  "Actually, it's the first in a trilogy of books." 
    Husband:  "People put themselves through reading <span>three</span> books about that?!?!"

    Er, yeah.  Plus he has major issues with the premise, as to why any society would do this every year, and why there isn't more uprising given how awful the Hunger Games are.  Also, he asks why any society that is mean enough to have the Hunger Games and that also has the technological ability to create those dogs out of thin air doesn't just get rid of all of the people in the districts and replace them all with digital workers.

  23. Between The Hunger Games and Game Change, Woody has had a very, very good month. 

  24. Wrinkle in Time5:51 PM

    Tessarae, not tessaracts. 

  25. Adlai5:52 PM

    Funny, that's the way I feel about Lord of the Rings.

  26. Really loved it. I felt immersed in a world that largely felt "right" as if everything was just how I'd pictured when reading. My only quibbles were with the crazy camera action, the fact that the starvation was sort of underplayed, and that I question whether some things would have come through properly if you didn't know what Katniss was thinking. But it's hard to say since I read the book and knew.

  27. Eric and Issac: This is why I love ALOTT5MA. An excellent, better-than-the-original idea and a hilarious way of explaining it ("American Girl Doll synposis").

  28. Kim S.6:21 PM

    I enjoyed the movie, but a friend made a good point: in the scene with Peeta and Katniss and the burnt bread, the kids are supposed to be 11 years old then--it is right after Katniss' father died. My friend felt it diminished Katniss' self-sufficient nature to show her at her current age desperate and "starving." We are not sure why they couldn't have cast different younger actors in that scene.

  29. Devin McCullen6:42 PM

    I thought it was a very good adaptation (damnit, Rue's death got me again!), but there were a few things that bugged.

    1) Gale's line about "What if nobody watched?" was both too on-the-nose & ignores that in the book, everybody is forced to watch.
    2) When the games start, Katniss basically stands there slackjawed for a minute.  I think she was more decisive in the book.
    3) Lenny Kravitz was very good as Cinna, but he should have looked a bit more like everybody else in the Capital. 

  30. Maret7:46 PM

    One of my friends that I saw it with thinks Lenny Kravitz probably just said to the costume and makeup people "You get gold eyeliner. That's as far as I go."

    I think it might actually have been a concious choice in terms of hair and makeup -- the "good" people who are a part of the Capitol (Haymitch and Cinna) who are on Team Katniss are not as elaborately made up or costumed as the evil people (Stanley Tucci, Elizabeth Banks.) So there are visual cues to what side people are on.

  31. Plus which all that would make it ever so much less terrible.

  32. I expect these kind of cheats in young adult literature, when they're up against Sicilians and death is on the line.  Just remember this is a children's book, or nearly.  Is the protagonist supposed to be a bloodthirsty thug or a remorseless assassin? 

  33. Effie's a more complicated character than "evil."  She legitimately comes to care for Peeta and Katniss, though that's largely because she thinks they might actually win and she sees them as her ticket out of being the District 12 escort.  She's more oblivious than actively evil--and Banks was really good--"THAT WAS MAHOGANY!"

  34. isaac_spaceman8:25 PM

    No, but maybe Collins could trust the YA audience to think about the conundrum:  once you're in the Arena, is there a moral difference between active hunting and self-defense; i.e., does that distinction even make sense in that context?  And I think it would add depth to the character if Katniss actually had to struggle with that. 

    Also [SPOILER ALERT FOR CATCHING FIRE SPOILER FOR CATCHING FIRE SPOILER FOR CATCHING FIRE] she gets around to that exact conundrum in the next book.  Maybe Collins was saving it up, I don't know. 

  35. isaac_spaceman8:26 PM

    I would read a lot of books about that, especially if they shit-canned the whole love triangle thing.  Murder tournament with kids?  I'm hooked.  I can't not read that, that's for sure. 

  36. isaac_spaceman8:28 PM

    Haven't seen the movie, but in the books, they say that he dresses in an all-black suit and that the only flash to him is his subtle gold eyeliner.  I pictured him exactly the same way that Kravitz looks in wardrobe, except with Tim Gunn's coloring and mannerisms. 

  37. Devin McCullen11:29 PM

    OK, I didn't remember how Cinna's described in the book.  So I'll take that back.

  38. Joan H.12:15 AM

    What? Katniss was never in love w/Gale.  Katniss was at most confused about what she felt, and questioned that she might be in love w/Gale someday, but she was not crushing on or in love w/Gale.

  39. bella wilfer11:09 AM

    I always read it as that she definitely had "more than friends" feelings for Gale but a) felt he only saw her as a little sister and b) neither of them were at all thinking about romance because their living situation was so dire - they didn't have time for schoolgirl crushes.  "In love" is definitely too strong, bad wording on my part there, but I do think it's valid that - as you say - she could see a future for herself with Gale, just not when they were starving to death.

  40. bella wilfer11:14 AM

    I honestly think the filmmakers/producers worried it would be confusing, since it's such an important memory for both Katniss and Peeta, and it's not a very long flashback (though it is repeated/extended).  Yes, I realize how silly that is, but having been in meetings where things like that are discussed I can give you 99.9% assurance that's why they didn't cast younger actors.

  41. Paul Tabachneck11:28 AM

    Adlai, after seeing Lord of the Rings (spoiler-free (the D&D kids in my town were dicks)) with my then-girlfriend and one of our closest, I said, "I don't know, guys -- they're fighting over a bauble.  If this ring has all the evil in it, then why not forge a bunch more of those rings and evenly distribute the evil?  Everyone could become just, you know, a little bit powerful, and maybe a little inconsiderate.  Middle Earth would be like New York City."

  42. It was okay. I LOVE the book, and I re-read it too close to seeing the movie, so I was a bit too hard on what they left out, I think.  My two biggest complaints:
    - Rue got short-shrifted. In the book, she and Katniss spend about a day together and Katinss gets to know her before she dies. In the movie, they had maybe one hour together. It really took away from the emotion of Rue's death for me. She wsa just a cute little girl who didn't deserve to die, as opposed to a girl who loved music, who lived in a much more dangerous district, who worked with her family in the orchards. But I did like how they showed District 11 returning Katinss' salute. That was what moved me.

    - The casting of Gale. Seemed like a pretty face, that was it. There was little sense of his connection to Katniss and the bond they'd formed over the years.

    I really liked Jennifer Lawrence as Katinss, and the views of the Gamemakers and what Haymitch is doing during the games. Also liked the addition of the notes in the arena parachutes. However, while Harrelson was great as Haymitch, he wasn't given a lot of time to sketch the drunkenness of the character before he had to sober up and help.

  43. Jessica11:48 AM

    I saw the movie Saturday night--unfortunately several rude crowd members were fairly distracting throughout.  I thought it was an excellent overall adaptation of the book.  Yes, it left some things out, but mostly those weren't missed too much.  I agree that there were some nuances that the movie would have benefited from...the tesserae, for instance, and a little more depth on how brutally the Capitol controls everything (including making everyone watch the Hunger Games).  

    However, I saw the movie with a friend who hadn't read the books, and she was definitely confused in certain points.  More importantly, the emotion and/or tension of many of the scenes didn't resonate with her.  Rue's death, the muttations (though they scared the crap out of her), how much Katniss is risking by hunting in the forest--none of that really registered for her.  My other friends who saw the movie without reading the book hated it and thought the movie was ridiculous.  So I definitely think that if you haven't read the book the movie is not nearly as excellent of an experience.

  44. It's Harrelson as Haymitch that has me tempted to see this at all.

  45. Samir Patel2:56 PM

    I thought it was a good movie overall.  The Rue scene in particular felt very real.  

    My only problem with it: they overdid the motion camera shots at the beginning.  The camera was shaking so much during the first fifteen minutes [best example: when Katniss/Prim are getting checked in for the Reaping] that it almost felt like there was an earthquake.

  46. kenedy jane9:05 PM

    Read all three books in the last couple of weeks and really enjoyed them.  I thought the movie did a really good job of picking appropriate things to drop and to tweak.  However, I agree that you would miss quite a bit if you had not read the book.

    Saw the movie at the Alamo and their pre-show is related videos.  This one got the best response from the crowd: