Monday, November 25, 2013

"The Hunger Games: Catching Fire": it's the stuff of dreams (and other movies)

I actually dreamed, at least vague, about my expectations for “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire”. The tributes were to go through two stages of initiation in the dream, with the second stage testing “worthiness”.  It was a Spartan exercise, one of “taking one for the team”.  I had forgotten enough of the first film to dismiss the idea that the tributes have to form temporary alliances (or teams) to survive temporarily, only to turn on one another so that there is only one last person standing.  My own setting, in one of my screenplay drafts, expresses the idea that the “captive” gets to decide which of his “captors” are really angels and will live forever.  There can be more than one.


That’s not Suzanne Collin’s premise, though.  I thought that the film was somewhat a retread of the furst one, with some more ideas.  The bullet train seems like the only transportation going, and it rather resembles Dagney Taggart’s creation in “Atlas Shrugged”.  With the districts ground down by so  much fascism, there are few “roadside attractions”.  The 75th anniversary games, celebrating the control of the state, pits all the previous winners against one another. Only one can survive.
The film has some good ideas, borrowed from other films.  There is the “Dome”, which gets blown open (I don’t know if that happens in Stephen King’s novel), and there are “The Birds”.  But all the monsters (including the orangutans) and “will of the wisp”, and the boils they create – all of these are holograms.  Of, a bridal gown translates into a “Black Swan” outfit. So are the fires that gladiators wear on their armor.  There are no burns, no scarring.
  
In an early scene, President Snow (Donald Sutherland) explains to Katriss (Jennifer Lawrence) how appearances of power and heroism have to be maintained to manipulate the proletariat, lest it rebel.  Katriss asks, doesn’t your fear of rebellion show that you are weak?  Authoritarian leaders don’t see things that way.
  
There’s also a lot of talk about family members sacrificing themselves, and of the candidates having to “protect” their families and elders.
  
Josh Hutcherson, as Peeta, is likable and sincere as a “husband”, but looks underwhelming for the role. Liam Hemsworth is more robust as Gale, and Sam Clafkin is appropriately foppish as Odair.  It’s a treat to see both Toby Jones and Philip Seymour Hoffman in the same film (it’s easy to confuse them), and Woody Harrelson, as Abernathy, comes right out of the world of Oliver Stone. Stanley Tucci comes across as a caricature of Bert Parks.
    
The film was released in “4-D”, with odors and quakes, in a few theaters. Does that include 3-D?

Directed by Francis Lawrence, this film is the second in Lionsgate’s biggest franchise ever (or set of biggest films ever). Nobody calls this simply "The Hunger Games II" (except me).  


The official site is here.
  
I saw this on a Monday night before a 2/3 full large auditorium at the Angelika Mosaic in Merrifield VA. When I arrived the elevator didn’t work and the escalator went the wrong way.  It’s about thirty steps.
   

 Yes, the pictures are mine (not from the film).  Guess where I took them.  

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