After having seen The Hunger Games twice, there are some things I would like to see improved for the sequel, even though I thought the book wasn’t as good as the original. Here are my six points of call to improve on Games for the sequel.
(WARNING: If you haven’t read the books or seen the movie, stop reading now: MAJOR spoilers ahead)
#1: Stick closer to Katniss’ perspective
This was one thing that hadn’t occurred to me until a few days after I saw the movie the first time, and that was the Gamemakers were much less mysterious in comparison to book for one reason – there were so many scenes with them. For the Quarter Quell (or the 75th Games), there should be less Gamemakers scenes anyway due the shorter amount of time that the games last in the book. I’m not asking for her internal monologues, but simply for the element of surprise – there needs to be less Gamemakers scenes, especially when Wiress finds out that every hazard that comes in the arena happens in a clock-like pattern. You wouldn’t want to know that kind of information from the start.
#2: Don’t show the bombing of District 12
This ties to my last point quite closely, but it deserves its own paragraph due to the fact that it’s a different scenario. The big reason why it was so shocking when Gale says: “Katniss, there is no District 12″ was that we had no idea it had happened until Gale said so. Showing the bombing after Katniss and half of her team are rescued, by once-thought dead District 13 rebels (the other half are kidnapped and tortured by the Capitol) would ruin the element of surprise, making it less of a shock for the uninitiated who weren’t shocked by it in the book. The bombing of District 12 could make a great opening scene for Mockingjay (or Mockingjay: Pt 1 if it’s split in two, which would be slowest movie of the four) before cutting to Katniss and Gale looking at the aftermath, but to keep it interesting, it should not be shown in Catching Fire.
#3: Have better visual effects
This came to me as one of the movie’s biggest shortcomings because, Gary Ross seemed to be so proud of them during post-production. I’m not putting technique over storytelling here whatsoever, but many moments of grandeur fell flat on their face because of the poor visuals presenting them – such as the opening ceremony, where I couldn’t get past the fake-looking flames coming off Katniss and Peeta’s costumes. It should have been the film’s most inspiring moment. Another scene which the visuals spoiled was the scene where the District 12 train entered the Capitol, Katniss and Peeta were going “Wow” at the very site of the Capitol – I didn’t feel the same way. I’ve been more in awe of CG cities in the past, such as Asgard in Thor. Catching Fire will be even more CG heavy than Games, with several introduced mutt species, such as killer monkeys and Jabberjays, as well as a climax which will need epic CG and therefore more budget to pull them off.
#4: Introduce Madge
We were all peeved when we found out Madge had not even been written into the script, and that Katniss was going to give the famous Mockingjay pin to Prim before the reaping and she would give it back to Katniss after. Although Madge only had a few scenes in the original book, in Catching Fire, she became much more important. Madge is one of few friends Katniss makes apart from Gale. If it weren’t for her, Gale would have died – also, what about the back story of Maysilee Donner, Madge’s aunt – the original Mockingjay pin owner? She was too crucial to omit, even for Hunger Games, and there’ll be a big, gaping hole in the film’s narrative if Madge is left out. There’s a number of young actresses who could pin Madge down. Chloe Moretz is a strong example, who auditioned for Katniss but should have been offered Madge, like how Isabelle Furhmann auditioned for Katniss but was offered to play Clove.
#5: Up the ante on the violence, down on the shaky cam
As much as Games pushed the boundaries for M (PG-13), it can still be topped! Perhaps instead of shaking the camera in the bloodiest moments, we could briefly see the dying tributes and see the other tributes’ reactions then cut back to the tribute dying. The shaky cam got insanely over the top, especially when it was really only needed to raise tension during the Games – not in the first hour of the film! Not only will the movie will be even more terrifying than the original, it will make it easier for the viewer to watch whilst also giving it a visual difference to Games. An important lesson for the D.O.P of Catching Fire, keep the high tension handheld shots for the Games – without the shaking, and don’t afflict the camera with Parkinson’s when two people are having quiet conversations.
#6: Flesh out the relationships between characters
Many of the relationships between characters were explained, but not deeply enough in Games, yet it made it made a 2 hour, 24 minute movie. Due to Fire‘s place as a sequel, it has the luxury of being longer. That time should be spent on deep explanation of the character relationships – not until it gets drenched in cheese, but to the extent that we really understand and feel for the characters. An example of shallow relationship exploration was the cave scene, where they did a good job of avoiding Hollywood cheese and typical over sexing issues, but we didn’t get much of a sense that Katniss didn’t know what her feelings for Peeta truly were. It was though she did everything out of good nature rather than any real feelings for Peeta.
Now that Gary Ross has dropped out of directing, it will almost be a fight to the death for a new director – and that director will hopefully deliver the storytelling and filmmaking goods against a tight schedule. May the odds be ever in his or her favor.