I liked “The Hunger Games” more than I thought I would. Normally I don’t go to franchise movies based on young-adult fiction empires; I still haven’t seen more than a couple minutes of any Harry Potter flick, and the first “Twilight” bored both Kate and me so much we never went back for the rest. (For a girl in love, Bella Swan wears a look on her face throughout that suggests nothing so much as constipation.)
But honestly, after “Winter’s Bone,” I’d follow that nice Jenny Lawrence pretty much anywhere, and what I knew of the story made it sound like an action-movie version of that indie darling. A tough girl from a poor neighborhood kicks ass by way of saving her little sister from doom? Same log line!
So I went in more or less unspoiled, having not read the books or the pregame chat or the fan fiction. And even though I think young adults need to read about fewer dystopian worlds where all the grownups are cruel fops, I give Suzanne Collins, the author of this particular one, a lot of credit. She did what all these great bestselling authors do, i.e., take something familiar and make it unfamiliar enough we still want to read about it. The dystopian nation of Panem is a cartoon of cruelty and foppery, almost preposterously so, but it’s an entertaining one. Stanley Tucci lives there; how bad can it be?
Ultimately, though, I have to agree with David Edelstein: The film’s major flaw is that it didn’t go far enough. Of course, the violence is toned down for the PG-13 rating, but what I wanted more of were the creepy parts that reminded me of my own dystopian world — more of the reality show (hosted by Tucci) that broadcasts the games to the rest of the nation, mostly. The event where the girls and boys are chosen from the nation’s 12 impoverished districts to be warriors is kicked off with a short film telling everyone why this is happening, and it’s such a perfect piece of propaganda, it could have been made by Roger Ailes. The thuggish soldiers who enforce the grinding bootheel of oppression are referred to as “peacekeepers.” A brief riot back home is shot almost entirely in shakycam closeup and medium shots, so you don’t get a sense of the odds everyone is facing.
I wanted to know more about the districts, and I understand that may come in the sequel. I hope it’s not downplayed in favor of the Young Love storyline, which drove me nuts. The main character has a boyfriend back home who pouts because she’s playacting attraction for another player in the arena; doesn’t he know she’s fighting for her life here?
Well, that’s what the script called for.
But, all things considered, not a bad action flick for the whole family. As long as you don’t mind 23 kids dying along the way. But you get Stanley Tucci, so it evens out.
For a much funnier movie review, here’s Lindy West on the new, 3D-ified “Titanic.”
And to make this an all-movie blog post, I spent this evening at the Mitten Movie Project. One of the shorts was about this place, the Goat Yard, a famous riverside boat club here in Detroit. I’m not sure if this was an extended cut from a larger feature or not, but it was the story of the goat that gave the place its name. He was a large billy named Nemo, and there was a story about him jumping up and down on a Porsche.
I want a goat.
And I want a happy Wednesday for you.
Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on April 4, 2012 at 6:53 am
Lindy’s point about Cameron actually being a 15 year old girl — the more you think about it, the better the proposition holds up. And hearing him on NPR talk about his vanity dive to the Challenger Deep: yeah, Lindy may have pegged him. (Apologies to any 15 year old girl readers.)
“The Hunger Games” was awesome, said my 13 year old son, though it was his commentary about fellow 8th grader reactions bothered my wife more than events in the movie (“Rue stew!”). He has astutely figured something out: “Dad, I’ll bet they don’t make just two sequels, but they’ll probably turn ‘Mockingjay’ into parts 1 and 2, don’t you think?”
Yes, I do think. Just like Potter & Twilight, and I also understand “The Hobbit” will be two-partified. Meh.
beb said on April 4, 2012 at 8:28 am
23 kids died in the making of Hunger Game? I think that’s a higher bodycount than “Die Hard!”
Lindy West’s review of Titanic, like the movie itself runs on too long. But I loved her comment about Cameron being a 15 year old girl. I think John Hughes was, too, which is why he did so many awesome movies about teen-age girls. Then one day he turned 16 and was no longer hip.
I think it best when going to see a movie based on a book to not have read the book before hand, or at least not recently. The movie is always going to change things. For one thing one minute of movie time is about one page of prose. So a 500 page novel becomes an 8 hour marathon, if done correctly. So everything is edited, condensed and at some point stops resembling the book very much.
jcburns said on April 4, 2012 at 8:31 am
Hey, I have a complaint. Wasn’t this supposed to be posted on…oh, uh, never mind.
Mark P said on April 4, 2012 at 8:55 am
beb, you’re right. There’s no way to translate a novel into a movie and capture everything. I have read the books but won’t see the movie until it reaches TV, so I can’t comment directly on the movie. There is action in the books, but there is also exposition and internal dialogue that would be hard to film in any circumstances. It’s not surprising that some of it is missing in the movie. In general, I think a movie has to stand on its own.
Connie said on April 4, 2012 at 10:21 am
Connecting to a comment from yesterday: You can see the 3D Titanic in IMAX format at the Henry Ford Museum.
Jen said on April 4, 2012 at 10:26 am
I read “The Hunger Games” and saw the movie, and it was one of the best book-to-movie interpretations I’ve seen in a really long time. The folks behind “Harry Potter” finally figured out the way to interpret a book into a movie at about movie 4 or 5, and even then it wasn’t as good as “Hunger Games” as far as the translation went. The first couple “Potter” movies are almost unwatchable, because the filmmakers wanted to show every detail from the books. It ended up being 3 hours of, “Hey! Look! It’s this teacher! Hey! Look! It’s that room! Remember!? From the book!? Oh yeah, and Harry is doing some other stuff. But look! Hogwarts!”
I love reading the reactions of people who have seen “The Hunger Games.” I had one coworker tell me that she thought the violence was unnecessary – of course, she took her elementary-aged daughter to the movie, and the daughter was probably a little young to be watching it. Any less violence and I don’t think it would have had any bite at all. The books, for what it’s worth, are more descriptive about the violence, though they’re not over-the-top by any means.
Watching most book-to-movie adaptations makes me realize that George R.R. Martin and HBO had the right idea when they turned “Game of Thrones” into a show. It would have been an epic failure as a movie, but there is a lot more freedom in a serialized format like a TV show or a miniseries. They still left quite a bit out of the first season (and they’re going to have to leave even more out of season 2 if they want to follow the book), but at least they are able to get the bulk of the story in.
Laura Lippman said on April 4, 2012 at 10:48 am
I just read The Hunger Games over the weekend. (Nothing like a little racist controversy to grab my interest.) I was meh about Harry Potter and had zero interest in Twilight, but I thought this was a wonderful book. And the book is told completely from Katniss’s point-of-view, so the stuff about the boyfriend back home is very understated. (Heck, she’s not even sure he’s a boyfriend.)
I do have a cavil but I think I’ll sit on it until I read the rest of the books because I suspect the situation might change.
Bitter Scribe said on April 4, 2012 at 11:18 am
I want a goat.
So do I. They’re delicious.
(Just kidding. Never eaten one. But I’m Greek, so it’s in my DNA.)
jcburns said on April 4, 2012 at 11:26 am
Reasons Lindy West isn’t that funny:
Prospero said on April 4, 2012 at 11:27 am
The worst case I can think of a of a movie leaving out a crucial part of a book is ignoring The World According to Bensenhaver in making Garp. Still an excellent movie, but an animated Bensenhaver in the style of Chester Gould would have made it great.
The Potter movies got better when Alfonso Cuaron was hired to direct Prisoner of Azkaban, the best of the movies.
vanity dive to the Challenger Deep
C’mon Jeff, you wouldn’t make that dive if you had the resources? I’d be down there now had I won that Powerball cash. And I’d be in line for any ride in space that did not include that quintessential asshole Ashton Kutcher on the passenger manifest.
Icarus said on April 4, 2012 at 11:44 am
I enjoyed Hunger Games too and like Nancy, went in “unspoiled, having not read the books or the pregame chat or the fan fiction” though I’m looking forward to reading the books now.
funny that many people I follow are linking to that Lindsy West piece
del said on April 4, 2012 at 12:11 pm
My 12 year old daughter read The Hunger Games. She asked my wife to take her to see the movie the day it came out. On the way to the theater though she changed her mind as her nervousness devolved into fear. When the subject came up the next day (in front of her older brother) she grew embarrassed and then teary-eyed. Poor girl, she feels like she should want to see it. From what I’ve heard the movie may be too dark for kids.
beb said on April 4, 2012 at 12:25 pm
JCBurns @9: Those numbers points in your comments are hard for tired old eyes to see. They need more contrast.
adrianne said on April 4, 2012 at 12:31 pm
My teenage sons and I liked the “Hunger Games” very much. We’ve read the books, too, and I thought it was a good translation.
Agree with others about “Harry Potter” movies getting better as they went along. They got better directors, for one, but also stopped being gobsmacked at the fantasy world that is Hogwarts. And I think the actors really developed their characters along the way. My fave, of course, is Snape, the tragic hero.
Connie said on April 4, 2012 at 12:37 pm
That’s OK Del. My daughter was in sixth grade when she chose not to see Titanic. It was all the dead people floating in the water she didn’t want to see.
Dorothy said on April 4, 2012 at 12:38 pm
SPOILER ALERT if you haven’t read the books or seen the movie – so stop reading now if you don’t want one detail revealed.
I thought only 22 kids died – 2 teenagers from each of the 12 districts, but two survive the Game. (I did not see the movie but read the first book.) I know it’s splitting hairs but still ….
Scout said on April 4, 2012 at 1:13 pm
I read the Hunger Games trilogy and was sucked in to the story despite my sense of horror at the whole concept of kids being forced to kill or be killed just for sport. I saw the movie last weekend and thought it was an excellent translation of book to screen. I thought the writers got as much in as they could without getting too bogged down trying to include characters from the book that were not necessarily crucial to the plot line. I thought the casting was perfect, especially Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss.
Dave said on April 4, 2012 at 1:14 pm
Beb, highlight them, they’re much easier to read. I think he’s messing with us old folks, probably a one-man subliminal protest of our hostess’ delay of her “Hunger Games” review.
Prospero said on April 4, 2012 at 1:18 pm
JC: Wonderbread white people deploying “hella” is a painfully obnoxious affectation. Though I’m anxiously anticipating Willard M (for malaprop) RMoney giving it a try. Of course, from here on out, Mitt can’t possibly sink lower than calling the President an atheist, (the only relationship with God judged more harshly by American voters than Islam and Moronism):
And just what are those nebulous “reports” Ratboy is privy to, about Obama “establishing” a “secular religion”. What’s his source? Breitbart or Drudge?
Scummy putz. In a just world, that would mean Romney Dangerfield was fair game for magic underwear, Joe Smith as conman/murderer, and Mormon racism questions. Still Willard is guaranteed to resort to Reverend Wright references at some point. He can’t help himself, he was born in Mexico.
I have never seen Titanic, and have never had any interest in seeing the movie. I have seen A Night to Remember many times, and presume it to be a better movie.
Finished “The Rum Diary” at 4:30 this morning. Worth a read for sure, and not just for Dr. Thompson fans. Imagine if Jack Kerouac had an inner editor and some sort of Kaopectate or Immodium for his verbal diarrhea. Tight, though slight, plot, and a tumultuous, chaotic, and satisfying ending, with full-blown Hunter Thompson characters. Superior to some of his Journzo, I think. Trying to choose now between 1Q84 and Infinite Jest, both of which represent long term commitment. Also considering rereading Gravity’s Rainbow or V.
Julie Robinson said on April 4, 2012 at 1:22 pm
Most of my criticisms of the movie were splitting hairs, too. They got all the big stuff right, and as for not showing enough violence, they wanted a rating that would allow the book’s original YA audience to see the movie. You knew when characters had died; personally I don’t want to see all the gory details.
What I’m less comfortable with is the marketing juggernaut and the Team Peeta postings I’m already seeing. The books have such wonderful subversive qualities, and those have been marketed away.
Did anyone else catch the mockingjay’s song? It’s the same four notes as the opening of A Time for Us, from the 1968 Romeo & Juliet, beloved by the young girls of my generation and sung by every girls chorus in every junior high, or so it seemed.
Sue said on April 4, 2012 at 1:48 pm
Waukesha strikes again:
Bowditch said on April 4, 2012 at 2:13 pm
I haven’t said anything for months, but have lurked while recovering (I now have after-market parts).
Being likewise unresponsive to young adult film hype, I haven’t seen any Harry Potter or Twilight spectacles. We did just catch Salmon Fishing in the Yemen recently, which was amusing but required too much suspension of disbelief to really resonate. On that basis alone, I’m not inclined to read the book, and other reviews reinforce that tendency.
Can anyone cite an example of a film outstripping a serious work of written fiction in richness and reward? I don’t think it’s possible, but I’m willing to entertain suggestions.
And, as I’m sure Mr. C. Dad would confirm, goats are not lightly to be entertained as household companions, especially of the male variety. Kids may be cute, but grown ups, not so much.
Mark P said on April 4, 2012 at 2:33 pm
Scout, I have a small quibble about calling the Hunger Games killing “for sport”. The residents of the capital might consider it sport, but the real reason for the games was far more sinister. The games were intended to punish the regions of Panem that revolted and to remind them of the capital’s absolute power over them. The games reinforced the idea that the residents of the other parts of the country were essentially property that the capital could do with as they pleased. Their deaths were so meaningless that they became mere amusements.
Prospero said on April 4, 2012 at 2:44 pm
If Phillip K. Dick can be said to have written serious fiction (absolutely, in my opinion), Blade Runner is far greater than Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep.
Obviously, it’s more usual for films from books to disappoint. That’s why I’m uncomfortable reading about an upcoming movie based on Mark Helprin’s brilliant Winter’s Tale. I know they will screw that up.
Scout said on April 4, 2012 at 2:46 pm
Mark P., point taken. However, as I read it, the residents of Panem were pretty far removed from the actual reason for the Games. To them it just became an annual spectacle, and the participants not quite human. After all, the people from the Districts looked nothing like them. But yes, the powers-that-be were definitely visiting revenge upon the Districts and displaying their absolute power.
Dorothy said on April 4, 2012 at 3:36 pm
The games had been going on for 75 years, correct? So that is probably why the citizens viewed it as entertainment now. Except for the parents who had to give up one of their children if their name was drawn in the lottery.
Scout said on April 4, 2012 at 3:46 pm
Dorothy, one of things that was not explained in the movie is that the people in the Districts were forced to watch. The Games were projected into their homes whether they wanted to view them or not. I remember at one point the film tried to show the difference between the solemn faced District viewers and the festive party atmosphere of the Capital viewers, but it probably didn’t come across if you hadn’t read the book.
Julie Robinson said on April 4, 2012 at 3:47 pm
I’m with Mark that the games weren’t mindless entertainment for those in the Districts. In the books it’s quite clear that they are mandatory viewing. Who knows why that was changed in the movie.
Edit: never mind, Scout explained it well.
John (not McCain) said on April 4, 2012 at 4:00 pm
“Can anyone cite an example of a film outstripping a serious work of written fiction in richness and reward? I don’t think it’s possible, but I’m willing to entertain suggestions.”
I don’t know if I’d go so far as to use the word “outstripping”, but the film version of the book Father of Frankenstein (changed to Gods and Monsters for the movie) captures the feel of the book so well I didn’t even notice the details that were altered.
Prospero said on April 4, 2012 at 4:35 pm
Neither read nor seen Hunger Games, but the name Panem can’t be coincidental. I figured it was a reference to bread and circuse.
I’ve read the Rings Trilogy seven or eight times since I waas 12. Peter Jackson made lots of departures from the books to move his movies along, like the Elven archers at Helm’s Deep, leaving out Tom Bombadil (too bad, would have been very entertaining) but I don’t think he damaged the fabric of the work as a whole.
Deborah said on April 4, 2012 at 4:39 pm
I had been a Dune fan and was greatly looking forward to the David Lynch film of it. It turned out to be pure Lynch, but I was disappointed in its lack of adherence. This was a long, long time ago. I think I’m the only person in the world who saw that film.
DellaDash said on April 4, 2012 at 4:51 pm
If I could get a reproduction of that graphic for ‘The Goat Yard’ (using Nance’s Kickback Lounge?), I’d frame it and hang it on an empty spot of wall where some color would lively up the place.
Been around a few yards where goats were kept. In Topanga, neo-hippies I knew livin the vida alternative could never manage to keep em tethered and out of trouble. They smelled rank, shit pellets, and never failed to take a strong, stinky piss when antagonized. (Comes to mind every time I get ‘pissed off’.)
I think I’ve already described this here…but what the hella (whatever that means):
…a darling brindle kid staked out and fattened for three days in the middle ‘a me yahrd’ inna Jamaica…braying sweetly as we passed it to and fro…Blazer (pronounced ‘blaze-ah’), dressed in his hired-butcher-chic, coming with his dull machete to string the bleating young’n upsidedown by its hind legs from a lime tree, and taking too many swipes to get the throat cut…the taking over by my stickler of a husband, with his well-sharpened cutlery, to precisely flay back the hide from the meat…the gentle, almost reverential, laying out of testicles and brain upon fresh green banana leaves…the carrying of entrails in bright plastic pails to the river for cleansing…the singeing of hoofs and head over an open fire, then the scraping off of charred hair…the bubbling of cannibal-sized industrial-strength aluminum pots filled with white rice; goathead soup (also called mannish water – pronounced ‘wah-tah’ – for the bolstering of the menfolk’s virility); and curried goat so aromatic and tender it’ll make you swoon…the locally famed rent-a-deejays with their towers of speakers, booming heavy on the bass, blaring an invitation to all spanglers in our seaside town, at the foot of the Blue Mountains, to cris’ up themselves and come join our birthday bashment…
del said on April 4, 2012 at 4:54 pm
Bowditch, how about the Godfather as a movie that outstripped the novel? The movie eliminated the vaginal rejuvenation surgery for Sonny’s squeeze, a development that presumably enhanced the storyline as noted, I believe, by the proprietress.
Jeff Borden said on April 4, 2012 at 5:02 pm
The film version of “M*A*S*H” is far superior to the novel on which it is based, just as “Catch-22” is a horrible shell of a movie compared to the book.
I have to start toning down my political junkie habits. When I saw Nancita’s mention of “The Mitten Movie Project,” I thought it might be related to Willard the Windsock.
Off-topic, but where are all the people who claim to be so fucking patriotic about the ol’ red, white and blue now that SCOTUS has decided that any kind of law enforcement yahoo can strip search you for any kind of podunk infraction? The guy who brought the suit our ever so enlightened court heard was driving with his family and was pulled over for a warrant issued for unpaid parking tickets — which he had paid, but the system had yet to register. He was strip searched and incarcerated for fucking parking tickets, folks.
Let the rightwingers yammer on all they want about how the oooga boooga black Muslim socialist from Kenya is out to grab your precious freedoms. They’re being confiscated one by one by conservatives and no one is saying a word.
Sue said on April 4, 2012 at 5:15 pm
Jeff Borden, they’re not out to grab my precious freedoms. They’re out to grab freedoms from people who don’t deserve them! Silly Jeff. I mean, SCOTUS assumes that no reasonable law enforcement official will abuse this new power, because they’re the good guys, ya know?
Really, it boils down to: if you don’t want to be strip-searched, don’t do anything to be strip-searched for. Quite reasonable, really.
Icarus said on April 4, 2012 at 5:20 pm
oh meant to post this earlier
Jeff Borden said on April 4, 2012 at 5:36 pm
I’ll give you good odds that the numbers of black and Hispanics strip searched dwarf those of Caucasians.
I wish we could see the rat bastards Alito and Scalia strip searched, though the idea of glimpsing those shitheels in the buff could render me unable to eat for weeks.
Hattie said on April 4, 2012 at 5:53 pm
Nancy: If you lived in my neighborhood, you could HAVE a goat.
brian stouder said on April 4, 2012 at 6:08 pm
Odds and ends:
1. I think Nancy’s ability to remark within others’ remarks is very cool. Maybe this is not new, and I’m simply not very observant, but it looks like a new thing to me. It could be a sly Hunger Games thing, wherein she pops in like the masters of the Games; in any case, it’s strikes me as akin to the star of the show coming up into the cheap seats for a quick exchange with the audience.
2. Hunger Games was very well done, and right in the middle of it something got in my eyes and made them water (to Shelby’s very great amusement). A favorite scene: When Donald Sutherland admonishes the head Games guy about ‘rooting for the underdog’ – wherein he asks if he’s seen underdogs? And does he realize how many underdogs there are? and concludes with something like “don’t ever root for the underdog!”. That was the most politically incisive “top dog”/Dick Cheney/Limbaugh-lip-flapper/I-got-Mine moment in the whole movie – very well done.
3. I wanna know why yesterday’s thread says there are 60 comments, and I can only see 58 of them.
Edit: Actually, I can only see 56 of them! (Maybe District 69 – Fort Wayne – has been singled out for corrective measures, eh?)
jcburns said on April 4, 2012 at 11:32 pm
Well, maybe I can add this so it’ll give people something to freak out about, like the gravatars.
beb said on April 4, 2012 at 6:10 pm
Surrealism as a way of Life:
Apparently the mayor of Tampa, where the Republicans will be holding their convention, wants to ban all sorts of things from around the convention, including masks, six longer than 6 inches and… water pistols. They were going to ban guns as well but Florida state law prohibits cities from that. So protesters at the convention can march with real guns but not fake guns…
I’mm not taking enough drugs for any of this to make sense any more…
Connie said on April 4, 2012 at 6:24 pm
Brian I can only see 56 plus there are four pink comment with comments by Nancy.
Jolene said on April 4, 2012 at 7:37 pm
To Kill a Mockingbird is an example of a book-to-film translation that was unusually well done. Both had a big impact when they were released and continue to be respected.
I just watched a PBS documentary re Harper Lee (reviewed by Hank), the book, and the movie, which reminded me of how powerful the book and movie were on first encounter. The PBS film is very much worth watching, and you can catch it online. Lots of interesting detail re Lee, how the book came to be, and the influence it had.
Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on April 4, 2012 at 8:03 pm
Agree with Jeff Borden on M*A*S*H, and listen to Jolene – you want to watch “Hey, Boo”, the PBS documentary that was aired on American Masters either Monday or Tuesday in most areas. “To Kill a Mockingbird” didn’t surpass the novel, but matching it was an achievement of note. I’d credit “Nobody’s Fool” in that same category, a Richard Russo novel that was stunningly brought to the screen by Paul Newman and Robert Benton. “Empire Falls” by Russo was nicely done as a mini-series on (I think) HBO, with Newman playing what I believe was his last role.
But exceeding? Can’t think of any. Donald Pleasance in “The Warden” by Anthony Trollope came close. And just to be totally weird on the subject, I liked “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” for what it was, but I’d love to see someone actually try to make a movie of the Ian Fleming original (yes, really). Or while we’re talking about Fleming, a movie of the novel “The Spy Who Loved Me” would be fascinating. Bond shows up about two-thirds of the way through.
del said on April 4, 2012 at 8:38 pm
Ruminating on Jeff Borden’s righteous indignation about injustice in the courts and references to To Kill A Mockingbird. Maybe Atticus Finch is our most admired fictional lawyer precisely because he conspired with the sheriff to conceal a homicide by Boo Radley at the end of the story.
Deborah said on April 4, 2012 at 8:45 pm
Oh yes, yes, yes to the To Kill a Mockingbird film adaptation. Excellent.
Jolene said on April 4, 2012 at 9:02 pm
The Mad Men costume designer explains it all for you.
Bill said on April 4, 2012 at 9:33 pm
Movie that met and possibly exceeded the book: Deliverance by James Dickey. Dueling banjos! Yeah!
alex said on April 4, 2012 at 9:45 pm
Really, it boils down to: if you don’t want to be strip-searched, don’t do anything to be strip-searched for. Quite reasonable, really.
Yeah, just don’t get caught driving while black. Or for that matter blonde.
velvet goldmine said on April 4, 2012 at 11:21 pm
Our family of four went to see Hunger Games last weekend. We were: One person who had never read the books, two who sneered at the poor quality but had finished at least the first one, and one squealing fangirl. The last one was me, unfortunately. The first was my husband.
Anyway, we all loved the movie. It’s a real achievement, both for the fans of the book and for people new to the story. The Panem scenes were gorgeous, especially the opening ceremony (or whatever it was called.) The parallels to the Olympics was something that never struck me until I saw the chariots roll in with the costumed team members. My husband admitted to being torn up by the Rue sequence, including the riot — a definite advantage that the movie had, in showing us things that Katniss wouldn’t know about.
In fact, the ability to intercut Katniss’ point of view with those of the people actually staging and commenting on the games made the whole thing that much more sinister.
I can’t see Nancy’s pink comments today either.