Monday, November 25, 2013

Cinematic Book Clone: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

I have read all three books in The Hunger Games series, and I enjoyed them, although Collins could have easily combined all three books into a fast-paced one-off novel that would have been a much more satisfying reading experience. But, as money-making strategies would have it, trilogies – even stories that don’t warrant a trilogy – are the thing these days in the struggling publishing industry. Unfortunately, the book-movie trilogy, with the final book divided, oh horrors, into two movies is also a thing in the movie industry. Profits and the fans demand the cinematic clones the books they love with a passion, in this case, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. Indeed, those fans are passionate, flocking to opening night and chuntering over any omissions from the story. Consequently, what you get is a bland, visually uninteresting, crippled story, performed by stilted or unrestrained performers, that plays like a TV episode.

There is nothing touching, compelling, gripping, or remarkable about Catching Fire. In every scene, Jennifer Lawrence as the girl-empowering character Katniss Everdene looks as puffy, uncomfortable, and gaudily costumed as Elizabeth Taylor in the epic bomb Cleopatra. Josh Hutcherson as Peeta, the baker boy who really has no talent when it comes to gladiatorial combat, looks like he belongs in a surfer movie or a movie about a preppie college grad trying to make it on Wall Street. In supporting roles, Stanley Tucci as the game show host overacts so much he has trouble keeping his feet, and Philip Seymour Hoffman as the game-master, looking like he's not even wearing a costume, delivering his lines tonelessly, is nearly invisible. The bland sets look hastily fabricated. One shot of chariots parading around a vast CGI race track, reminiscent of Ben-Hur, is briefly thrilling. The final gladiatorial combat is brief, gimmicky, and unexciting. In a lapse of sanity, the writers include the gimmick of the arena sections rotating like a clock, but then they do nothing dramatic with the infernal gimmick.

Whose fault is cloning books as movies? Was it Peter Jackson who kowtowed to Tolkien fans to make three endlessly faithful installments out of Lord of the Rings? Was it that Twilight thing? Or can we blame it all on Harry Potter? Why do we need movies that are essentially clones of the book? I don't understand. Perhaps books like Twilight and The Hunger Games are not substantial enough to be lastingly satisfying in themselves. Reading a book like that, you get the feeling of wanting more because there just isn’t enough there. Not getting enough in the book, fans yearn for more in the book-movie clone, one of the many genre mutations, along with sequels, TV show adaptations, and superhero episodes that seem to make up the majority of movies released during the year.


Steve's Blog said...

Greetings from across the globe. I enjoyed your Catching Fire review as I share your disappointment and frustration watching such a lifeless film with the budget to be visually memorable. Philip Seymour Hoffman definitely looks as if picking up a paycheck. I will understand if he has another film like The Master coming soon.

I think the thrill for fans of these pop culture novels is simply in finding recognition in fragments of the story-telling and discussing the casting of popular actors in iconic (however immediate) roles; see 50 Shades of Grey hype. But these serve only to undermine the value the books may have had. I notice this a lot with Stephen King adaptations. The more successful ones deviate and find life through a director s personal lens, i.e. Shining, Carrie.

Anyway, I will look for your reviews regularly from here, but will likely not have seen as much as I used to for a while.

Hokahey said...

A comment from the other side of the world! Thanks! I hope you are adjusting well. Hope the flight was not too much of a torture.

I miss you! But, the Internet is amazing! You can post comments in Japan just as easily as on Cape Cod.

My 8th graders have talked about how great Catching Fire was, and they have been disillusioned by my book clone tirades. To them - that's the point. They've read the beloved book. Now they want to see it on the screen exactly how they visualized it. And even though this movie stumbles stiffly through its steps in an attempt to be faithful, my 8th grade fans still express disappointment that the filmmakers left this or that out of the movie. Yikes! Looks like the movie-book clone thing is here to stay!

Enjoy yourself out there. I'm sure it's a whirlwind now and a lot of work, but find moments to get away and escape into a movie. Will see The Book Thief this weekend - though the reviews are not great.

Ehy Hey said...

they really base it on the book which is very good. hope to see mockingjay next year