Friday, November 15, 2013

Why I Won't Watch The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Meme: Am I the Only One that Hates the Hunger Games?
I hated the first Hunger Games movie. Like, hated it. It was one of the worst movies I've ever seen. My husband walked out (well, walked out of our living room, where I'd paid $1 to Redbox it). I used the fast-forward button to get through the last 20-30 minutes of the movie because I couldn't take it anymore.  Hate me, flame me, put vitriolic in the comments, but I just don't see what the big deal is with this franchise.

Bear with me, because I'm trying to remember exactly why I disliked this movie so much based on a single viewing of almost a year ago. Here's the list, as best I can reconstruct it, in no particular order:

1. I expected more in the romance department. The Hunger Games is often touted as a superior alternative to Twilight, which is nothing but romance (creepy romance, supernatural romance, high school romance, call it what you will, but it's a romance). I failed to find a smidgen of comparable romance in this movie.  Was there any shadow of real human emotion between any of the three characters supposedly involved in this love triangle?  Can it even be called a triangle when one of the participants (played by Liam Hemsworth) was in the movie for all of five minutes?  That's not a triangle. It's a straight line with a wart on it.

That leaves us with Peeta and Katniss, a couple with the worst on-screen chemistry since Sarah Jessica Parker and Hugh Grant in that horrible witness protection program movie, or Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman in Australia.  He passes out in a cave, and she loves him?  Or pretends to love him for the cameras?  I'm not sure and I don't care.  The concept of someone faking a relationship for publicity's sake was beaten to death during Kim Kardashian's first marriage. Better actors don't improve the storyline for me. 

Peeta + Katniss = Peenis
2. The names. I'm not even going to talk about how ridiculous I feel typing the word "Peeta."  It's like "Pee," but it just keeps going.  Names are important.  I do not care for these. Give me Benjen Stark or Darth Maul or Gandalf the Grey. Peeta does not merit further discussion. Katniss sounds like tarted-up catnip. Everdeen is a line of non-stick cookware sold by Paula Deen.

3. I don't care about the main character.  Like, at all.  Katniss is more than flat--she's borderline dislikable for me.  Sure, she's meant to be introspective and self-reliant and brave, all admirable qualities, but also boring to watch. Most of the time, we're staring at J Law's blank face.  I hoped she'd get angry. Get upset. Reveal something. Do something interesting. I got bored by how capable she was at keeping her emotions under wraps. No one wants to watch Michelangelo paint an apartment wall white.  

For comparison's sake, I thought about a prickly-loner character that I did care about:  Rambo. Similar setup--a person alone, manipulated by governments and superiors into situations that risk life and limb. He doesn't talk much, doesn't like people, and yet I root for the guy. I want to watch him triumph.  I want him to get the pat on the back that no one else has ever given him.  He wants something good, and everything bad that he does is in service of his goal. I get that Katniss volunteered to save her sister. It was noble, and it should have had the same effect on me as Rambo's sacrifices, but it just didn't. I also hate kids.  

Another Stallone comparison springs to mind: his lone-wolf rock climber in Cliffhanger. Stallone is either much better than J-Law at using his face to reveal enough emotion to make you care, or his director gives him more leeway to do so. His features can fall, perk up, or reveal anger with no words written into the script.  Does he look cheesy doing so? Sure. But it's entertaining. If J-Law can do these things, the director needs to start asking her to.  She has an Oscar now. Forced heavy breathing and a blank-faced stare are no longer sufficient. 

If you say, "Sure, but Stallone is ridiculous and Jennifer Lawrence is an actress with a capital A," I say, "Stallone is ridiculous to the tune of $1,861,069,518 box office dollars and counting. Plus, he's Rocky." And don't tell me this movie is afraid of ridiculous. It has Woody Harrelson as a role model. 

4. The suspense was flat. Obviously, Katniss isn't going to die.  There are more books, which means there are more movies. Seeing her in a life-and-death situation is only going to end one way.  So what else am I supposed to give a crap about? I want to see her tested or changed or humbled.  None of those things happened.  She climbed some trees and shot some things.  Great.  Thanks for the memories.

5. Those stupid dog-like things chasing them at the end. The interwebs tell me they are called "muttations," which is another name that makes me want to listen to nails on a chalkboard. The interwebs also tell me that the creatures were used differently in the movie than in the book. The movie is my only reference here, and as far as the creepy-creature-chasing-the-hero concept goes, I've been there, done that...they're called hell-hounds, and they're in Supernatural. Want to see that stuff done right? Check out season 5, episode 10 ("Abandon All Hope...") where Jo and Ellen buy the farm to give Sam and Dean a snowball's chance of stopping Lucifer from launching the apocalypse.  I cry every time. More suspense, better tragedy, better character development, better everything.

6. I felt nothing while watching it. Except a profound longing for it to end. Yeah, it was sad when Rue died. But one tender moment didn't redeem the movie as a whole. I get the feeling I was supposed to be frightened, sad, horrified, excited, worried, and a whole bunch of other things that never crossed my mind. But everything was strangely antiseptic. I can't be worried for a character who is part of a trilogy. Everyone in the city is a dick. Half of the other kids in the games were dicks. I don't care about the downtrodden losers Katniss left behind. Want to see real suffering? Read about Russians during the first half of World War II. 

7. I did not like the world-building. I just didn't buy that part of the U.S. looks like an Andrew Wyeth painting circa 1940, while the other part looked like humans impersonating Muppets among the sets from Death Race. I couldn't believe that this is what happened to our country, that the world we live in now became the world I saw on that screen. And if I couldn't believe that, I couldn't believe anything else that happened, either.  Maybe more of this is explained in the book, which I have NOT read, but it was NOT explained in the film.  Let me attempt to summarize what I saw:  part of the U.S. rebelled against some future government, things went horribly awry, the place is now called Panem, and parts of it got sent back to the stone age.  What happened to electronics?  Where are things like power poles? And cars? And paved roads? Did every piece of technology invented after WWII just vanish from particular areas? Did fashion revert to the 1940s, too? I'm confused. 

8.  A dress that's on fire? You have to be kidding me.  The Golden Gate Bridge couldn't suspend my disbelief that far. Also, where are the jet packs and the holodeck? Why do they have flaming dresses but no jet packs? I'm confused.

I have never read the books.  I'm not planning on reading the books. The first movie made me want to run screaming in the other direction from the entire franchise. This is not meant to be a critique of the book(s), since it's entirely possible all my objections are addressed there. This is a critique of the film itself, for someone who came to it without the background (or the suspension of disbelief) provided by the books. It failed. These people think so, too:

#hungergames #catchingfire