I don’t work in Hollywood. I doubt I ever could because I don’t deal well with the reality of compromising your “artistic vision” or having to cater to the lowest common denominator as a trade to make your bones to get the project you really want. I do get that it’s a money game first and foremost and more and more the big revenue market is overseas.
I watched The Hunger Games a few nights ago. I haven’t read the books but a friend whose a fan of them and saw it at the theater said it met his expectations. This friend and I have since learned we’re kinda at opposite ends of the spectrum on expectations. His may be far more realistic… but here we go anyway! 🙂
I repeat, I haven’t read the book but I knew vaguely what it was about and was expecting the controversial kid-on-kid violence. I find rape scenes (try Irreversible) a lot tougher to handle then human-on-human fight-violence. In any case it’s fictional. From a clean moviegoer perspective here’s the first wrong turn… one hour of buildup to the actual start of The Hunger Games. One F’ng hour. Fortunately I was home and had a crossword book handy. Yes, I did crosswords while the director didn’t even try to build any sense of tension or emotional attachment to any of the characters. AT ALL. The only thing worse was that my crossword was way harder than the word “Easy” in the title suggested. Like WAY hard! Don’t get me wrong, I loved Jennifer Lawrence in Winter’s Bone (it’s film-noir set in the Ozarks and the IMDB description doesn’t do it justice), and I like Sci-Fi generally especially the near-future variety that asks, “What If?” and runs away with the idea. Screenplay by Gary Ross (who also directed), Suzann Collins, (the novel author), and Bill Ray (who seems to be a working man’s writer). Three story tellers who apparently think we need to pay a 1 hour boredom tax.
In the era of any number of great action movies with some thinky-think conscience… ok, The Bourne Trilogy, Chris Nolan’s Batman to name some… you can still start with some action. ACTION! I had this same problem with Dragon Tattoo – actually I had a lot of character logic problems with Dragon Tattoo – for some reason the director/producers feel compelled to stick with the linear flow of the book like it’s a classic by Jane Austen. It’s freaking popular fiction and it’s, apparently, an action story according to the posters and trailers so make with the action! This movie could’ve begun with the 24 kids rising out of the earth, the clock ticking down, and then mayhem. The whole wasted first hour could’ve been told in flashback after that point and it would’ve been great. Cut back to the action (Katniss sitting in a tree) more back story with Woody Harrelson (they never explained what was so great about his character and what about the other 70 winners?) and some other city folks, whatever. They did that a little bit but not nearly enough. It’s a MOVIE not a heavily diluted book being shown page by page on a big white rectangle.
Second wrong turn. The effects were godawful. Like Syfy channel series at 1am awful. Of the $78 million for a movie shot largely out in the woods I think they spent 90% of it on author royalties and movie posters. Nothing they did looked remotely real AND they committed the cheap CGI cheat of cheats – when there were actual CGI creatures they were shown as really teeny-tiny or only seen at night. You can reduce the budget of your CGI by not having to show the realistic shading and textures that day lighting requires. And don’t get me started on the clothes on fire!
Or the false look of the chariots scene:
And does the future really look this douchey?!?
Now go back to the top and look at all these again. Do it!
Now look at this city, it’s from Fritz Lang’s Metropolis:
And this one:
Even with the color, sky, and mountains in the second one they’re about equally as real looking. And in The Hunger Games we only see long views of the city like this twice. From the same train view point. In Metropolis the city is part of the story and as rinky dink looking as it seems now we get to see it from many different angles and with a variety of interiors. What’s my point? I like Metropolis. It was ahead of it’s time. The CGI in Hunger Games was last put to good use in Myst:
which was a PC game released in 2002.
I’d have preferred to be getting my hoochy-coochy on with the creepy robotic Brigitte Helm in gritty ol’ Metropolis circa 1927 then watch what passed for effects in The Hunger Games. But I digress.
I could go on, I really could, but this is bringing me down. As far as the movie trilogy goes I suspect the fans will happily buy tickets to have Hollywood shovel them what they already expect at some minimum level of movie quality and that Katniss will topple the oppressive regime. Like this lady here:
The next Hunger Games movie (“Catching Fire”) has a different director and two new writers. If they’re talented and get a clear road it won’t be hard to improve the experience for the rest of us.