The following post contains spoilers for the first Hunger Games film.
The Hunger Games was a monster hit back in March 2012 both commercially (over $400 million domestic) and critically (84% on Rotten Tomatoes), and although I liked it a good deal when it came out, a recent revisit of the film revealed that some of the issues I had the first time around were even more glaring now. With the sequel, Catching Fire, right around the corner, I thought I’d talk a bit about those issues and how the new film might improve on them:
5. The Effects – The first Hunger Games was budgeted at a surprisingly low $78 million, which is crazy for a movie that made $408 million domestically. Problem was, that budget really showed, especially when it came to the CG effects. The big swooping shots of the capitol looked like video game cutscenes and the bigger effects in the arena, particularly the burning forest and the “muttations,” looked even worse. Luckily with the budget of the sequel being upped to a whopping $130 million, we can probably expect some higher-quality spectacle (or maybe even more thought put into what the budget can accomplish).
4. The World Building – In many ways The Hunger Games had excellent world building. There’s a lot going on that has to be established and the film manages not to rely too heavily on scenes of pure exposition the way films like Inception or Enders Game do. But at the same time, there are many elements the film never really explains that show up late and take you by surprise. In the arena, we learn that the Gamemaker somehow has the power to randomly conjure up trees, fire, and the aforementioned genetically mutated dogs, all out of thin air. The film has many small elements of technology that aren’t really explained or even acknowledged as different. You see this reflected in the extreme fashion senses of the capitol members as well. With luck, the sequel will find that all that needed setting up has been done and we won’t be plagued with new terms or technology this time around.
3. The Shaky-Cam – Director Gary Ross decided not to continue with the franchise, so Lionsgate went with Constantine and I Am Legend helmer Francis Lawrence, who was eventually signed on for not just the sequel but the entire series. Ross did a decent job, but the main complaint lobed at his direction was the reliance on shaky cam, particularly in the action scenes. The Hunger Games certainly isn’t the only film to bear this offense, but it is one of the more egregious examples of it. In an interview with New York Magazine Lawrence said that there will be “no shaky cam. I think a lot of people will be happy to hear that.” The fact that he’s paying attention to complaints about the last bodes well for the film and the next point in particular.
2. Peeta – It’s hard to have a love triangle when one point of the triangle is so damn boring. Peeta is modestly charming and very talented at making himself look like rocks and trees but has so far been a surface level character that just comes off as bland. It doesn’t help that Josh Hutcherson and Jennifer Lawrence seem to have no chemistry whatsoever, although she and the third point on the triangle, played by Liam Hemsworth, don’t have much going on either. It’s hard to be “Team Peeta” or “Team Gale” when neither give you much to work with.
1. Not Repeating the Past – Every franchise faces this and The Hunger Games is sure to struggle with it. It’s hard to satisfy both on the level of following the first film and bringing something new to the table, and so as a result, sequels can get repetitive. Having not read the book I’m not sure what to expect from this sequel aside from what I’ve seen in the trailers, and there I’ve noticed one key thing: another round of the games. The stakes have been upped, which is a good sign, but there’s still a chance that the film could end up being somewhat repetitive (and the third book being split into two movies suggests they could end up very poorly paced and dragged out).
What are your thoughts on how to make Catching Fire better than the original? Will you be seeing this weekend?
Article by Wesley Emblidge