May the Odds Be Ever in Our Favor

A SYTYCB Entry

Ok, readers, I have a confession to make:

I am OBSESSED with The Hunger Games.  And by that, I don’t mean that I really really like The Hunger Games.  I mean obsessed.  I read the book in a day and saw the movie four times in theaters.  I’ve spent hours watching interviews with star Jennifer Lawrence.  And I regularly thrust out my hand and scream “I VOLUNTEER!!”  in response to simple questions (this did not go over well with the Applebees waitress, by the way).

So when the DVD was released last weekend, I was easily swindled into buying the special edition ($22.95) so that I could get extra features and a BOSS collector’s mockingjay pendant (pictured below).

photo.JPGFor those unaware, The Hunger Games is about a dystopian future America, which has been split into twelve districts united under the ruthless Capitol.  Each year, as penance for their previous rebellion, each district is required to send two children to compete in a televised fight-to-the-death called the “Hunger Games.”  Katniss Everdeen, our heroine, volunteers to take the place of her sister when her name is called in District 12’s lottery.

Plenty has already been written about what a complex, realistic, feminist, and, let’s be frank, badass character Katniss is, so I’ll defer on that topic (see here, and here).  Yet, after watching 4+ hours of interviews and the behind-the-scenes DVD footage, I am especially aware of just how well the movie stayed true to her character.

But this could all change for the filming of the next book in the series, Catching Fire, for  a few key reasons:

1.) New Direction

Katniss remains in The Hunger Games film, as in the books, a holistic person who defies, bends, and blends traditional gender boundaries.  She is a skilled hunter, who, while often temperamental and distrusting, is also a self-sacrificing caretaker for her mother and sister. The movie does not sexualize her, nor does it waste time over-analyzing her relationships with her two male leads, which is refreshing for a Hollywood film with a female lead.

This consistent depiction of Katniss is due to the efforts of director, Gary Ross, who also wrote the screenplay (which received heavy input from author Suzanne Collins) and played an important role in editing, as part of the 1.5 year journey to create the film.

But it was recently revealed that Ross will not be directing the next installment of the series, and, instead, Francis Lawrence will take on the role.

I know very little about Lawrence, except that he has directed I Am Legend, Constantine, and a bazillion music videos.  I do get the impression, however, that he was picked because of his availability, given Ross’ abrupt departure from the project and the movie’s strict November 2013 release date.  This doesn’t exactly inspire confidence.

2.) Pressure of Success

The Hunger Games, which cost a mere $90 million to produce, has earned $684.7 million since its March release. Now that its high-earning potential has been realized, the studios could take a much heavier hand in the direction of the second film.  This usually results in choices made to put butts in the seat, rather than create a good and cohesive film.  Cue extraneous sex, purposeless violence, gloss, etc.

3.) The Subject Matter of Catching Fire

**Warning: Mild spoilers**

One of the biggest themes in The Hunger Games series is the importance of finding and staying true to your authentic self, even amidst chaos and oppression.  In the first book, this unfolds as Katniss and Peeta strive to maintain their integrity as they are forced to literally fight for their survival in the arena.

In Catching Fire, this theme is further explored through the love triangle between Katniss, childhood best friend, Gale, and partner in the arena, Peeta.  Katniss grapples with how her time in the arena has changed her, and struggles to distinguish her authentic self from the performative self she displays for the Capitol.  This inner turmoil is often brought to the surface by her interactions with Gale– who represents her home and past– and Peeta– a source of stability that guides her through her present.

In the book, the romantic relationships are tastefully handled and delicately intertwined with the themes and plot of the book, contributing to the story without dominating it.   In other directorial hands, I worry that Katniss will become another Bella Swan in a Nicholas-Sparks-inspired, saccharine love story.

***

The Hunger Games could have been a thousand different movies– a glossy action film, a souped-up sci-fi thriller, a coming-of-age romance.  None of these, however, would be consistent with the original book’s psychological, feminist, and political themes.  With any luck, Catching Fire will remain true to this vision and Katniss’ inspiring character.

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