We’ve read the reviews of “The Hunger Games.” We’ve analyzed the marketing hype leading up to it. We’ve acknowledged that bows and arrows are totally in now, thanks to Katniss Everdeen. And courtesy of Monica Hesse’s piece in today’s Post, we’ve compared Katniss to YA heroine Bella Swan of the “Twilight” series.
Clearly, there’s only one thing left to do: analyze the movie version of ”The Hunger Games” via gmail. Hesse, BlogPost maven Melissa Bell and I, accredited Celebritologist Jen Chaney, traded impressions via Google’s instant messenger service shortly after a “Hunger” press screening earlier this week. As we did with “Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 1” a few short months ago, we have shared the transcript of that conversation below.
Warning: it is very stream-of-conscious, contains a few spoilers here and there and, for reasons that remain unclear even to us, somehow led to Michael Jackson references.
Jen: Ladies and veterans of the “Breaking Dawn” gchat experience: Here we are again to discuss the movie version of a very different YA phenomenon, “The Hunger Games.” Unlike our last semi-instant analysis, I expect this one will veer further away from the ridiculous. Why? Because where “Breaking Dawn’s” talking CGI wolves and men with baby crushes invited our snarkery, “Hunger Games” is a bit harder to mock, because it’s actually a pretty good movie. Do you agree? Monica, I throw to you first.
Monica: I agree. I agreed more as the movie progressed. There were times in the beginning where I feared the filmmakers had broken “The Hunger Games,” but they regained my trust in the arena.
Which was good for me and bad for, you know, everyone else in the arena.
Melissa: Yes, I worried my geek fandom would just automatically tilt me toward unabashed love category. But I have to say my highbrow movie snob liked the movie too.
I contain multitudes.
Monica: You are Katniss, before and after her Lenny Kravitz makeover.
You are Peeta and Gale.
You are Rue and Prim.
Melissa: We are all District 12.
Monica: I feel that we should, toward the beginning of this chat, discuss the fire. As in, Fire, Girl On.
Melissa: Yes. Speaking of CGI effects, I have to say, “Twilight” and its dancing babies may have the edge on that fire.
Jen: Are you referring specifically to the prom dress with the ignitable skirt? Or just Katniss in general?
Monica: That fire reminded me of Sigourney Weaver in “Ghostbusters 2,” for reasons I cannot say.
Melissa: Don’t forget the Fire Cape.
Monica: Yes. Fire cape. It should have been floor-length, but was really just a capelet.
Jen: I was pro-the costume from the parade, the one that was all black leather. My main reason for being pro is related less to the costume and more to the fact that Katniss had Princess-Leia-Organa-from-“Return of the Jedi”-hair going on in that scene.
Monica: This is true. Her hair was less a braid than it was a braided skull cap of doom.
Melissa: The costume was good. I dug the leather and soldier shoulder flare. But the fire left me cold.
Jen: That braid was her brain helmet.
Monica: Still, yes. I agree with all Capitol- and arena-related costumes. The District 12 costumes ...
Apparently everyone had to go back to World War 2 and embrace black and white photography after the rebellion.
Which I was not aware of.
Jen: As you said when the first trailer came out, Melissa, the fire dress wasn’t quite as striking as it should have been. It was a bit ... Jessica McClintock.
Monica: “Katniss. For the reaping, you shall dress as a secretary from 1942.”
Jen: The District 12 outfits — and I apologize for saying this glibly — but they looked like they were ripped out of a Holocaust documentary. Perhaps that was even the intent.
Monica: You are absolutely correct on the prom dress. In fact, I expect we will see Katniss prom dresses beginning at 12:01 a.m. on Friday.
Melissa: Not glibly. That was what one of my scribbled notes was. I believe that was the intent.
Jen: The whole beginning of the movie, with the shots of District 12 poverty, was very “Winter’s Bone.” Hence, the presence of Jennifer Lawrence.
Melissa: And Monica, yes. However, I hope we never ever see the dress Katniss wore at the end. I’m sorry to jump ahead, but that was a disaster.
Monica: Side note: For Halloween next year, I will buy Katniss’s prom dress if one of you will buy Bella’s wedding dress. I haven’t figured out what the third of you will be, because “Ender’s Game” hasn’t come out yet.
Jen: Oh, I love that idea. Maybe I can don the dress Hermione wears in the “Harry Potter” prom.
Melissa: I think this is an appropriate time to share the link Monica kindly provided us with earlier.
Monica: It is appropriate. But we cannot get sucked back into “Breaking Dawn.” You know how long it took us to recover last time.
Jen: Bella, Edward, you can’t suck up all the attention all of the time. This is not your day.
Monica: Back to the Capitol. Elizabeth Banks gets top billing of “character I did not understand when cast, but completely approved of by the end.”
Jen: Agreed, even though at one point, I honestly thought for a brief second that she was Edward Scissorhands. Not her fault, it was because of the lipstick.
Monica: I know exactly the moment you speak of. Edward Scissorhands would have absolutely won the Hunger Games.
Jen: He would. Although he would have needed to pause and cry a lot, which might have weakened his chances. On the plus side, the shrubbery in the Capitol would have looked extraordinary.
Do we all agree that Jennifer Lawrence was a perfect Katniss and that all the fans who protested her casting should be forced to eat crow, or at least one of Katniss’s gross squirrels?
Melissa: Speaking of shrubbery, Donald Sutherland was a bit of a tease. He could have been such an evil villain. But he was regulated to rose trimming.
Monica: Let’s banish him to the suburbs with Edward Scissorhands for now and focus on Katniss. Who, Jen correctly states, was excellent.
Melissa: Yes! She is what my movie snob multitude loved the most.
Monica: Although I did keep waiting for her to wander into the swamp and cut off her dead father’s hands. An observation that will make more sense if you have seen “Winter’s Bone.”
Although could be appropriate in any movie, really.
Jen: She had to carry the emotional gravity of the movie and she did. I was with her from the minute she first comforted poor, sweet, wussy little Prim.
Monica: Prim is kind of wussy. Replacement sister Rue was far superior. No offense, bio-sister.
Melissa: The question for her next role (and I do look forward to her next role): Can she play something more than the stoic family-weight-bearing soul of the movie?
Monica: Perhaps she and Kristen Stewart can join for a light-hearted road trip romp.
Melissa: Monica, I cannot follow that up with anything more clever for the rest of the chat. Please, Hollywood, make that film. Speaking of wusses, shall we discuss the men in Katniss’s life?
Monica: Should we talk about the kissing next, or the fighting?
Jen: Fighting, fighting!
Monica: I wanted more fighting. While acknowledging that the movie was trying not to glorify war. It’s just that the fighting we got was really good.
Jen: The cuts were deliberately very quick, enough to imply vague brutality while avoiding anything more than a PG-13.
I am a huge fan of the tracker-jacker-as-weapon scene, even if the trackers jackers were transparently CGI.
Monica: Yes. Superb “wandering about in hallucinogenic daze” effects.
Melissa: Even knowing the whole point of the book is to kill the majority of characters, I was surprised by the violence.
Jen: Really? Did you think it was too much?
Melissa: No. I’m with the bloodthirsty Ms. Hesse on this one. The fighting WAS good. But would I want my 13-year-old cousin relishing in that sword-slashing, neck-breaking rumble?
Monica: Would you rather have your 13-year-old cousin watching “Breaking Dawn”?
Jen: Both were pretty bloody.
I think people will have a harder time with “Hunger Games” because the stakes seemed more real and intense than they did in “Twilight.” Also, these are pretty young kids getting killed. Again, we know that going in, but it’s still a little jarring to see.
And I apologize for using the word stakes in connection with “Twilight.” That sort of vampire humor is uncalled for.
Melissa: That question just made me realize I need to sign my 13-year-old cousin up for defense lessons. If she’s going to be doing anything, she’s going to learn to survive the upcoming zombie apocalypse.
Monica: I thought the violence was tasteful. And I thought that the movie made more of an effort to humanize even the “bad” kids. Witness: Cato’s impassioned speech on top of the Cornicopia-that-looked-like-a-Star-Trek-set-piece.
Jen: Let me ask this question. How did we feel about the relationship between Katniss and Peeta? Of my nitpicky issues re: this movie, that was my biggest sticking point.
When the announcement went out during the Games that winners could be declared as teams, it felt really strange and comical in the film in a way that it did not in the book.
Monica: I think we missed too much of the interior monologue present in the book to truly get the Katniss/Peeta relationship.
Jen: And Peeta was much sicker in the book. Also, the bond he and Katniss developed in the cave stretched out longer in the novel and therefore felt more natural. They had to condense it for the film, so it felt a bit rushed, at least to me.
Monica: Agreed. Then again, I thought that the relationship was weak sauce in the book, too.
Melissa: Agree. The strange flashbacks to the pig pen/bread exchange irked me.
Monica: This isn’t a romance with fighting — it’s fighting with kissing.And yes. If you had not read the book, you would just think that sometimes Peeta stood outside in the rain and threw bread at things. You would not understand the significance at all.
Melissa: I would think that for fans, the big loss is that there was NO tension with Gale.
Jen: If Bella is a lover and not a fighter, then Katniss is a fighter and not a lover. And that’s how you differentiate between two YA novels by quoting a Michael Jackson song.
Monica: One thing is clear. Bille Jean is nobody’s lover. Not Bella’s, and not Katniss’s, either.
Jen: Gale just stood around looking annoyed during the Games. He didn’t have much to do here.
Oh, and for the record: the kid is not my son. I cannot stress that enough.
Monica: Has our dissolution into MJ songs signaled some kind of winding down of the chat? Or are there places we have yet to go?
Jen: Oh, there are places we must go.
Let me take us to one now. Which character — Katniss, Peeta and Gale excepted — were you happiest to see realized onscreen?
I am going to vote for Woody Harrelson’s take on Haymitch, with an added note that I was sooooo happy to see Wes Bentley’s beautiful blue eyes back on a big screen again, even if they were accompanied by the curly-cue-iest beard in the history of cinema.
Melissa: Wes Bentley! I could not figure out that American Beauty for the life of me. He bugged me. I vote for Rue.
Jen: Sometimes there’s so much beauty in Wes Bentley’s eyes, I just ... I can’t take it. (Cue plastic bag floating meaningfully in the suburban sky.)
Monica: I have already declared my devotion to Effie Trinket, but other than Effie, yes: Woody. Especially his “Haymitch is Jeff Spicoli from Fast Times at Ridgemont High” take on the character in the early scenes.
Jen: New question: what piece of “Hunger Games” scenery or prop did not match up with the way you pictured it?
Monica: Truly, I was saddened by the cornucopia. I wanted it gold. I wanted it braided. I wanted it generally resembling the cornucopia from my first grade Thanksgiving pageant.
Jen: I vote for the cornucopia, too, which looked like part of the fuselage from “Lost” sitting in the middle of a field.
Clearly we are on the same page on this matter.
Monica: The correct page.
Jen: Melissa, what, if anything, irked you?
Melissa: Okay, SPOILER ALERT: the wolves. I hated them in the book.
Jen: That was the one part that actually did remind me a little of “Twilight.”
Monica: Melissa, yes! The wolves were not in the least wolf-like.
Melissa: But the fact that you couldn’t tell they were the revived bodies of the fallen tributes...
Monica: These “wolves” looked like leftover alien monsters from “John Carter.”
Melissa: Also, seriously, Katniss was impressive, but she can outrun wolves??
Jen: Oh, Lord. Please let’s not talk about “John Carter” right now.
The one thing that saved the wolves a little is that they were supposed to be computerized inventions. So they could get away with them looking a little fakey and silly.
Also, Wes Bentley approved them and I agree with all things he does. Okay, I don’t really because he does things that are terribly wrong. But ... did I mention he has nice eyes?
Monica: I did not mind them looking fake. I just wanted them to look like fake wolves. Not fake computer images crossbread with UFC fighters.
Melissa: Aside from dreamy Wes Bentley eyes, what were parts that tickled your fancy?
Jen: I liked the use of the mockingjay whistle. It was hopeful yet melancholy at the same time.
Monica: I liked that we got to see Wes Bentley plotting out the games as they happened. In the book, we’re with Katniss all the time, but I liked this perspective shift.
Jen: I liked the way Katniss got sucked up into the Games via a tube, as if she were a check being cashed at Capitol One.
Monica: Also, yes, Katniss’s pneumatic check-cashing tube
Meliss a: Or Willy Wonka, chocolate factory style.
Jen: Above all, I liked the focus on story without attempting to hit on every little detail in the book, as written. The first “Harry Potter” and “Twilight” got tripped up that way, and I think this is a better first adaptation in a franchise than both of those. Gary Ross did well.
Monica: Jen, I agree. I thought that this movie got the spirit of many things right. I was disappointed that some of the book scenes that had held the most emotional resonance for me were kind of blown past and not fully realized (The three-fingered greeting was just sort of haphazard and not fully explained)
But for the most part, they got it.
Melissa: Jen, totally agree.
Jen: Is anyone going to see it again, despite having just seen it a few days ago?
Monica: See it again, you mean, besides the tickets I already have for Friday? See it again after that?
Jen: Yes. I mean you have to buy tickets. The Internet’s been telling us to for months!
Monica: Yes. I have purchased tickets for Friday.
I thought that was a given. Obviously.
If for no other reason, than that the preview on Friday — which we didn’t get in the press screening — is “Breaking Dawn Part 2.”
Jen: The Internet gave us 14 seconds of that already. And I’m not sure that’s the best reason to forfeit $11...
Melissa: Yes, I would see it again. The movie successfully made me feel. It was suspenseful, despite knowing the plot. There were moments of gasping. I got into it. It was an experience.
Jen: Then again, we do have to start preparing now for our “Breaking Dawn Part 2: Electric Renesmee-a-loo” gchat conversation.
Monica: It is true. We only have, what, six months?
Jen: Eight. We have until November. So we’re already three months behind.
Monica: Darn it. Maybe we can find another movie to dissect in the meantime. You know. As warm-up.
Melissa: We must.
Jen: It is our duty. So until that time comes ... happy “Hunger Games” everyone?
Melissa: Gold eyeliner all around!
Monica: May the odds, and the odd, be ever in our favor.
Melissa: Once again, it is an honor and a privilege to call this my job.
Jen: Wait, we’re doing this for work?
Monica: -end scene-