Film review

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Catching Fire vs The Desolation of Smaug

Published January 29, 2014 by electricbluegaloo

When it comes to film adaptations there is often a chicken/egg debate over which is superior, but in Catching Fire, the second instalment of the Hunger Games Trilogy,  we see the perfect example of where the book is complimented by the beautifully envisioned film. While there were a couple of scenes that were far more effective on the page (“it begins at 12” and Peeta’s demonstration to the game makers for example) there were others that were made for the big screen (Finnick, Katniss’s demonstration and wedding dress twirl).
Obviously the emphasis on the fashion,  style and glamour of The Capitol in contrast to the dreary drudgery of the outer districts lends itself to an imaginative costume and sets design team but as in the first film and book this aspect cannot be overrated.  It is to Suzanne Collins’ credit that she has created The Hunger Games this way.  I just can’t wait to pour over a photo book of the film.  Either that or repeatedly pressing pause on the DVD to admire as many of the costumes as I can.  In the meantime, I can drool my eyes over this article:–catching-fire-tex-saverio

Particularly if you have read Mocking Jay you will realise that there are flaws in Suzanne Collins’ storytelling (a convenient coma, me thinks) but Panam itself is a very solidly imagined world and in many ways this is the foundation of the entire series.  I am waiting with heightened anticipation for the film of Mocking Jay (perhaps an opportunity to take artistic licence and tidy up the Prim issue), and best of all a Hunger Games marathon.  But wait, the final film is to be one of those 2 part dealies.  Oh well.  The first two have been brilliantly paced so let’s hope the next two live up to this standard.

The Hobbit films (An Unexpected Journey and The Desolation of Smaug) on the other hand are an example of where more is just too much.  To be honest I was pretty much over Middle Earth about 20 minutes before the end of The Return of the King, or 20 minutes into it even.  I know Peter Jackson thinks he’s a hobbit having a human experience but talk about a different interpretation – I totally did not agree with comical relationship between Legolas and Gimli in The Two Towers, and to me the interpretation of Faramir was all wrong.  I have read The Hobbit, and to the chagrin of my Tolkien loving family I pretty much dismissed it as a “boy-book” and went back to trying to be as awesome as Claudia in the Babysitter books.  I was glad that I read The Hobbit because I knew  what the hippy kids were talking about when they referred to their spot in the play ground as “Mirkwood”, and there was something very exciting about having a grand adventure thrust upon one.  But is that any excuse for making the first two Hobbit movies we have seen?  I haven’t read The Silmarillion which is apparently where some of the additional characters, storylines and general backstory comes from, but I totally agree with my now 16 year old cousin who described The Desolation of Smaug as “padded”.  It would have been fine to adapt The Hobbit into one or even 2 films, but three seems a bit excessive (two of the three cousins who saw the movie over Christmas had a power-nap while it was on).  Rather than likening The Desolation of Smaug to Catching Fire, I could have easily compared it to Spielberg’s 2005 War of the Worlds, which I came across on a JAL flight and watched for about 45 minutes before realising I was on the Japanese language channel:  not a lot of dialogue, just a lot of CGI and long sweeping shots of explosions and stuff.

I have to agree with Christopher Tolkien, the son of J.R.R. Tolkien, who made the following statement about the LoTR adaptations in July 2012:

“They gutted the book, making an action movie for 15-25 year olds. And it seems that The Hobbit will be of the same ilk. Tolkien became…devoured by his popularity and absorbed by the absurdity of the time. The gap widened between the beauty, the seriousness of the work, and what it has become is beyond me. This level of marketing reduces to nothing the aesthetic and philosophical significance of this work.”


So in conclusion I reflect on the style and pace of the YA novel that I #amwriting.  It is neither post apocalyptic dystopian or high fantasy, or even a film, so what does this comparison have to do with my semi-autobiographical social realist artfully arranged words?  After languishing in the bottom draw of my writing desk I have pulled out and dusted off the manuscript and am now pondering the pace and the padding.  Fantasy is my genre of choice and series such as Harry Potter, The Ranger’s Apprentice and the Witches of Eilenan highlight how effective a strong back story can be.  However, the balancing act is to consider which darlings will live and which will be reincarnated as eggs in future baskets.  I shall have to nut it out over coffee and just hope that if anyone ever adapts my book to film they’ll do it justice, and maybe even prove that a good book is complimented by turning it into a good film.

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