25 November 2013

Now I Know How Joan of Arc Felt



Hunger Games was one of the few films that I went into almost completely blind as I hadn't really paid any attention to the trailers and I sure as fuck hadn't read the books.  As it turned out though I actually thought it was pretty fun...  If there's any kind of tween movie that might appeal to me then I suppose it'll be one set in a dystopian future where the penniless peasants are tormented by a ruling class of pantomime bastards. I also liked how it vaguely hinted towards being a satire of reality TV in which shitty, shite shows such as Big Brother and The Apprentice have been replaced by a Government ordered infanticide. Stealing the povvy kids and then throwing them into a gladiatorial arena to broadcast their brutal deaths might seem a bit extreme but now that Breaking Bad is over I guess we all have to watch something. I know these 'games' exist to keep the locals on their best behaviour but I'm too old to be picked, I hate children and I'm yet to produce any demented spawn of my own. If I lived in the world of this film, I'd be rounding up kids to fight like I was the fucking child-catcher for all the shits I could give about them. Still, as I say the first film was quite enjoyable and reminded me that it really has been too long since I last saw Battle Royale. I know the fans get really pissy when that Japanese Classic is mentioned but it's not insulting to highlight a comparison and they really are similar, so you know... sorry, but tough shit.

So I went into the first one blind and decided to do the same for The Hunger Games: Catching Fire too. At this point, Katniss is now just trying to get back on with her life after the horror she's been forced to endure. She's got a family to look after, is suffering badly from the trauma of her previous murders and only just has enough time to toy with the hearts and souls of the two men that she claims to be in love with. She's also being wheeled about on tour like the fucking elephant man where she's presented to the grubbier towns and forced to vomit out a speech load of bollocks. Because if you're a mourning parent, nothing makes you feel better than being buttered up by the bitch whose refusal to die is the direct cause of your own child’s horrendous death! Despite this though, Katniss has become quite the figure of hope since the last film with her climactic suicide attempt being seen as an inspirational message of “fuck you” to the twats in charge. To be fair if we have to have a face plastered on every T-shirt and adorning the walls of every clich├ęd students’ bedroom then Jennifer Lawrence does place moderately higher than Che Guevara in a round of 'rate the hotties'. Because of this apathy killing bullshit, Donald Sutherland's President Snow begins to ponder how best to get rid of Katniss before the ungratefully abused begin a tramps’ rebellion. Thankfully though, and just in the nick of time, Philip Seymour Hoffman arrives straight from the set of some other film to suggest that they simply sling Katniss back into the arena. Because it is conveniently the 75th year of slaughter-joy, it is announced that all surviving previous winners will be forced to play together in a kind of ex-kiddie-slayer/Avengers style cross over.

In case you've forgotten, the chap on the right is 'Boring Pete'.
Okay so let’s start with the obvious problem which is that tragically, this poor little thing has been struck down by a bad case of middle-film syndrome. I guess what I mean by this is that if you haven't seen the first one then you're going to be pretty fucked in terms of following everything here. It just kind of assumes that you'll know who the characters are and it doesn't really explain exactly what they've previously been through. There's one scene in which the little girl who was killed in the last film has had her image painted onto the floor to taunt Katniss. However if you'd forgotten or simply didn't know the importance of that character then it just looks like some poor unfortunate has suffered the flattening effects of a parachute failure. This didn't bother me personally because I'd seen the previous film and I really don't care about people who aren't me, however what did piss me off was the film’s end which was so noticeably absent it was like somebody had suffered a dicky fit and spontaneously decided to  kick us out of the cinema. I mean yes, some vaguely climactic fuckey-uppery had just gone down but nothing suggested that we were only seconds away from the credits. I understand that we now live in a world where the next film is more important than the current one but it would be nice if we were left with at least a small feeling of resolution… The Marvel films are obsessed with the idea of an ongoing story but every single one of their entries has still managed to both continue the overall narrative and remain admirably stand alone. Maybe this will be more forgivable once the The Hunger Games franchise has concluded and I can see everything in context but right now it was just a full-on pain in the tits.

The other problem I think is that despite not explaining the last film too well for any newcomers it does kind of go on to just replay it beat for beat. The first hour is spent explaining why Katniss is going to be taking part in the games and the second half shows her attempt at surviving them. In terms of a broad arc, these two films are about as different as chalk and cheese... if the cheese was also made out of chalk, which is kind of a shame really because I actually think that this second film is better than the first in almost every single way. Previously the focus was on the happy slashing of children however this time there is a lot more emphasis on simply enduring the experience. The gang of misfits that form together to survive are, I think, actually a lot stronger this time around with some even daring to adventure further than the land of archetypes and almost into the crazy world of being proper characters. There's a little old lady that turns up, for example, who shows more emotion in her crusty Grandma Death eyes than some tween films even achieve in their entire franchise. I don't know if the biddy was an actual actress or not but by the way in which she gets Yoda-style piggy backs everywhere I'm pretty sure she must have been created within the Jim Henson Workshop.

Having said that, when it comes to the games in Catching Fire, there are two very distinct groups of people... There are the 'almost characters' that I've just mentioned and then there are the 'very much not characters', who unsurprisingly don't do so well. Take it for granted that every-time the canon is fired and an image of a newly deceased is shown, you'll almost definitely wonder who the fuck they were. In fact it's almost like a short term memory test in which they flash up a photo of some random extra and then you have to try and remember which scene they were probably in. I suppose there's also a kind of minor third group too who are the, 'very much not characters but who are also very obviously cunts'. These are the shit stained, arse holes with sharpened teeth and bollocks for faces that are hyped up before the games begin and who are presumably meant to be this films lethal gang of killer twats. However once everything kicks off, we almost never see them again as Katniss instead finds danger simply from the environment. Not that this isn't thrilling in itself but it just seems odd to do so much setting up only to ultimately go and fuck it off. Instead, the majority of the excitement instead comes from destructive tsunamis, mental monkeys and a fog that causes such bad acne that anybody to get caught by it simply drops dead from shame.

I've always been a fan of subtle films...
In terms of huge improvements, I think that this film really did a great job of helping the colourful Oz-like world of The Capital mesh with the poorer district's depressing plot of dirt. For me, one of the biggest faults previously was the way in which the two contrasting looks didn't blend at all. It was like watching a character travelling from the grit of Deadwood towards the camp glitz of an Elton John stage show where he's frumping about in full Dame mode. I can't say for sure how they've fixed this but I imagine it's probably in a slight shift of the colour pallet so that the leap from misery to money isn't quite such a wanking-hand slap to the face. I also thought the special effects in general were a lot better here with pretty much everything on screen seeming perfectly real to me. Well, I mean Stanley Tucci's teeth didn't look real as they were so blindingly white that they required the use of a pinhole viewer to see, however these were obviously exaggerated to prove a point. It seems like the effects budget of the first film was spunked onto maintaining Wes Bentley's demented beard. Now that he's gone I guess they had the money left over to ensure that the effects were now more effective than shoving some bubble-gum under your eyelids and then face planting some clip art.

I suppose I'll conclude now by just mentioning what it actually is that makes Catching Fire so great and explain the reason for the blog title. The one thing that alone justifies the price of the ticket is simply Jennifer Lawrence. There are so many things that are great about her that I'm pretty sure that the only logical way that I can truly express my appreciation is to now just use my cock to type out the word LOVE. We live in a sexist world in which most big films only really cater to fourteen year old boys who would probably much prefer to ironically download it illegally having recently discovered -and prioritised- masturbation. As such, Katniss is a really important character considering that she's not only a strong non-man but she's also a non-man that has her priorities right. There are two slightly dull guys trying to love-hump her and although she kind of messes them about a bit, she knows that above everything surviving is the number one goal. Whereas most females on film only exist to validate the masculinity of the main character through the use of some downstairs gushiness, Katniss is both completely independent and also a rabble rousing hero to the smelly old down-and-outs. Obviously the most famous female revolutionary in our history is probably Joan of Arc who is clearly an inspiration here with one clue being Katniss's burnt-at-the-stake style of dress. I therefore decided to call the blog, “I know how Joan of Arc Felt”, because despite being male I was still able to relate to the lead character. I felt that this title might highlight the fact that it's about time that filmmakers realised that our species actually consists of two genders and that it might be about time to start representing both a little more equally. Perhaps even more importantly than that though, the title is also lyrics from a song by The Smiths of whom I'm a huge fan. If you already knew the reference then we can be friends. If you didn't then I really do hope you enjoyed the film but as far as 'me and you' are concerned it would simply never work. Sorry.. and see you next blog.


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