Tuesday, March 27, 2012

May the Odds Be Ever in Your Favor: A Conversation

This past Friday at 12:01 am, Nathan Ilten and Robyn Gee attended a screening of The Hunger Games in a theater packed with crazed bow-and-arrow-toting fans who had camped out for hours just to get prime seats. After getting some much needed sleep, they discussed the experience the day after.
Nathan: What did you think of the experience of seeing the film at a midnight screening?
Robyn: I definitely liked it. It's like the flashback films [at the United Artists Cinema in Berkeley]. There is so much camaraderie in the audience, which is great as long as you don't get annoyed by that kind of thing.
Nathan:  I really enjoyed the experience too -- there was such a high level of enthusiasm. Even the theater went all-out with their "Welcome to Panem" signs and a Capitol emblem.
Robyn:  Yeah, that was definitely excellent.
Nathan:  I thought it was neat how you could tell that everyone was really just waiting to see what each one of the characters looked like. For example, when Peeta first appeared on-screen, everyone was very excited.
Robyn:  That is very true, no big name actors, all surprises.
Nathan:  The most excitement of course was for Rue.
Robyn:  She was perfect, so adorable.
Nathan:  It's a shame she won't be in the subsequent films.

Robyn: Did you see the movie actually kind of got poor reviews? I just saw headlines, which said something like "lackluster."
Nathan:  No, I didn't read any--what was the criticism?
Robyn:  The main character did a good job, but the film was a poor adaptation of the book.
Nathan:  I think that our criticism was almost the opposite, right? At least I was fairly impressed by the cinematography.
Robyn:  Yes, that's true -- but dialogue-wise they could have adapted the script better.
Nathan:  Maybe so -- but good actors should be able to sell any kind of dialogue.

Nathan:  Let me just list what I really liked about the film: 1)The very unvarnished appearance of District 12.  2)The effective replacement of Katniss' stream-of-consciousness narration with dialogue by the television commentators. 3)The portrayal of the ridiculous nature of the citizens of Capitol.
Robyn:  I appreciated the details that the producers invented like the Hunger Game drawing board behind the scenes, and the canisters the sponsor balloons arrived in. I thought the Capitol citizens were going to be more outrageous -- in one of the books, someone made themselves into half cat half woman. In the movie, they seemed kind of like Oz people to me -- just colorful.
Nathan:  I found the drawing board scenes very reminiscent of the Truman Show.

Nathan:  If you had made the movie, what would you have done differently?
Robyn:  I would have gone deeper into Katniss and Gale's relationship maybe... Also, when the tributes first step off of the launch pads, something like 8 of them die -- but you can barely see it because it's portrayed in choppy fast motion. But I think that's what everyone who read the book was wondering about... How are they going to show so many kids brutally murdering other kids? It doesn't happen very often in movies. Some people even reacted to the book like that: whoa, so violent, kid on kid, you know. So I think I would have made more of that scene -- not have Katniss be so desensitized already to killing and death.
Nathan:  I know that you couldn't see that much in the movie, but neither could Katniss, I think. My feeling was that most of the time, the cameras were trying to give us Katniss' perspective. Since a lot of things were sort of a blur for her, they were for us as well.
Robyn:  That's true, but in the book, you can read what is happening as facts, and digest them while still reading that things are a blur... I think I would have made a bigger deal of the first killing she saw at least, and then gone to blurry.
Nathan:  Oh, that could have been good: one thing in full detail, super gory, and then followed by a blur.

Nathan:  Speaking of the launch pads, I think I might have started the movie with that scene: with the clock counting down to zero. As the violence starts, I would have then added in flashbacks, narrated by Katniss, describing how she got there.
Robyn:  That would have been cool.
Nathan:  I think that the filmmakers could have gone further in distancing themselves from the book: make a movie that isn't just an on-screen adaptation, but truly create their own work of art which is inspired by the book.
Robyn:  I agree, I think that might have been what the newspapers were saying.
Nathan:  This might upset purists, but would make a better movie
Robyn:  The author was one of the producers and screenwriters, though! She might have objected.
Nathan:  Yeah, that's a problem then, although it doesn't have to be. If I ever wrote a book and it became a movie, I would want the movie to be a very different sort of beast.

Have you seen The Hunger Games movie?  Let us know what you think in the comments!


  1. I really like the point about movies being works of art in their own right. That was one of the reasons that I thought the 3rd Harry Potter movie (Prisoner of Azkaban) was so much better than the first two--rather than being so faithful to the first book (which it really couldn't be, because of length), it started making artistic choices about what to include that made it its own thing, rather than just a copy of the book.

  2. One movie which I think does this marvelously (although I can't be certain, since I haven't actually read the book) is "The Prestige", one of my favorite movies. Apparently the plot of the book differs considerably.