Wednesday, 2 May 2012

The Hunger Games.. Passing of the Torch

Everybody has to start somewhere. In the case of Jennifer Lawrence, that's exactly what she did before landing in one of the most talked about films this year. Currently known as the girl who played Katniss Everdeen (also up for a nominee at this years 2012 MTV Movie Awards), she really isn't all that new to the big screen. She played roles on hit tv shows such as Cold Case, Medium, and Munk moving eventually into movies such as Winters Bone and X- Men . Yes, she has done quite a bit of work - but nobody really would have notice, until now.

So I am going to assume that if you are reading this blog, you have actually gone to see the movie/ at least read the book. I was recently reading an article posted last friday titled The Hunger Games: five challenges facing the sequel's new director.   New director? I don't really know if I feel excited or very nervous - that is some big shoes to fill.  Upon reading the article further, here are some 5 challenges facing the birth of the Hunger Games sequel:

1. Time
"As a writer and a director, I simply don't have the time I need to write and prep the movie I would have wanted to make because of the fixed and tight production schedule," said Hunger Games's Gary Ross earlier this month after walking away from its sequel. Lionsgate got a huge stock market boost from the spectacular box office success of the first film which requires it to get the followup into production pronto. Coupled with star Jennifer Lawrence's commitment to a second X Men: First Class film, that means a pretty preposterous August start date for the Catching Fire shoot, requiring Francis Lawrence to hone a completed screenplay by Slumdog Millionaire's Simon Beaufoy in just a few months. This is a far cry from the kind of room for manoeuvre which directors such as Christopher Nolan and JJ Abrams have been handed with regard to the latest Batman and Star Trek films, and provides a very different environment to that experienced by Ross for The Hunger Games. The latter approached (and says he was allowed to approach) the film from an auteurish standpoint, taking on both directing and writing duties (alongside Collins) to ensure that the final product emerged as a unified vision. The new director will not have the same luxury, but at least a lot of the prep work has already been done and a screenplay, cast, and many of the locations are already in place (or can be recycled) from the first film.

2. Maintain the pace
The Hunger Games throws the audience almost straight into the action as Katniss Everdeen is forced to volunteer for the lethal tournament in place of her younger sister within just a few pages. Catching Fire takes rather longer to get going as it deals with the aftermath of Everdeen's joint victory with Peeta Mellark. Much of the slack before we return to the action is taken up with fairly vital background on the emerging anti-Capitol movement in various districts, and Francis Lawrence won't be able to excise it because it has ramifications for the rest of the series. The second Hunger Games novel is no longer just about the tournament itself: there are wider intrigues taking place, but the new director will have to find a way of showing this without departing from the blitzkrieg-paced tournament scenes for too long.

3. Create room for Gale
The Hunger Games was flagged as the new Twilight prior to its release partly because of the love triangle at its centre. Yet one corner of that triangle was barely present in the first book and is almost as absent in part two. Gale, Everdeen's hunting partner and best friend, finds himself sent off to the District 12 mines in Catching Fire, and while the pair do have the odd romantic moment they are not exactly joined at the hip. Audiences will be expecting to see more of a character upon whom the entire series' dynamic depends, but Gale is a little thinly drawn in the books and may need some help from the screenwriters. Fortunately Liam Hemsworth did such a good job in the first film that it wasn't hard to see why our heroine might be drawn to him.

4. Keep away from the Twilight
Speaking of Twilight Collins never sinks to the lovelorn level of Stephenie Meyers' sickly sweet vampire romance series, with its protagonist Bella Swan, in Catching Fire. Yet the novel, which once again is told in the first person from Everdeen's standpoint, does feature its fair share of teenage angst. Ross and Jennifer Lawrence did such a fabulous job of presenting Everdeen as a tough, independent young woman that it would be a pity to see her transformed into a swooning little flower in the sequel. Fortunately, Collins makes it clear that her heroine is fairly interested in romance but really rather more bothered about staying alive and keeping her family from being throttled by the powers that be. There's no need for Catching Fire to doff its cap to the Twilight crowd, and we must hope the new director realises he has a more wholesome proposition on his hands.

5. Find the political satire within
While The Hunger Games showed us a society of haves and have-nots in which all are transfixed by the riotously entertaining (and compulsory) tournament of death at its apex, much of the political commentary was insipid to say the least and was outshone by Katniss' personal struggle for survival. Catching Fire offers us a wider glimpse of Panem society, its cruelty and its overconfidence. In the decade of the Arab spring and the ongoing protests in Russia, here is a film with a real opportunity to reflect our changing global political arena. There are far worse things than The Hunger Games going on in parts of our world: a brave director would find a way to shine a spotlight on them via a movie which will probably be shown in many authoritarian countries, or will at least become widely available on illegal DVD. It might sound a little over-ambitious to expect a blockbuster Hollywood movie to act as a Trojan horse for anti-authoritarian polemic, but a Catching Fire without a few satirical nods to real-life events would be an opportunity sorely missed.

Alot of the above just makes me wonder as a viewer, will there be a huge difference with a new director? There certainly are some interesting challenges that lie ahead between now and when Catching Fire is released. No Pressure.

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