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The Myth of Katniss, a Catching Fire movie review (Spoilers)

There was this other big pop culture moment thing that happened this past weekend (yes, something besides Doctor Who), the Catching Fire movie was released and it apparently had the biggest November opening of any movie.  I took the Tween to see it and am going to talk about it after the jump.  There will be spoilers a plenty so proceed at your own risk.

SPOILERS – SPOILERS – SPOILERS

I like The Hunger Games books, but I am not an uber fan.  I read each book when they were released and I read them only once.  Out of the three books, Catching Fire was the one I liked the least.  To me, it had to much of a retread feel.  Yes, I know that important things happen and there are big developments, and some subtle ones, but I just hated having to go in and read through another version of the arena events.  I very much felt, “Been there, Done that.”

BUT.  I loved this movie.  Loved it. It was so well done.  The acting was much improved.  The stakes were raised.  And I thought it really highlighted some important things, making them much clearer to the audience – especially on the myth of Katniss.  I know some of you are already having a knee jerk reaction, so stick with me for a moment.

I love Katnss.  I think she is a very complex character, but I also think she has been elevated among many as this feminist icon and hero, which she kind of really isn’t and the movie really reminded me of this.  To me, being a feminist is about equality and free agency.  I want to see women have the same respect, rights and opportunities as men.  Actually, I want this for all people regardless of gender, race, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, etc.  And I want to see women have free agency, the rights and ability to determine their own path.  It is particularly in this second part where I see the myth of Katniss.  Let’s discuss.

Katniss is in many ways fierce.  When we first meet her we know that she has been taking care of her family, hunting and supplying them with food.  She is determined, strong willed, and possesses many admirable goals.  We also see her, at times throughout the books, as being selfish, bullheaded and half-cocked.  See, she is complex.  She has depth and flaws and is very realistic.  BUT, and this is a big but, she is not the revolutionary hero that many make her out to be.

She stumbled into herodom.  And in much of the books she is being used as a pawn, by both sides.  In a lot of The Hunger Games and Catching Fire Katniss does not have free agency, a fact that was highlighted all too well by the final scene in Catching Fire.  As we see Katniss being lifted out of the games – being saved by men who have conspired to save her so that they can use her as a token to inspire their revolution – we are reminded once again of how little free agency Katniss had in books one and two.  These people – these men in fact – are using her.  And because they don’t inform her of their plan, her self-agency is being denied her.  In fact we learn in Mockingjay that there is a lot that no one has bothered to tell Katniss. 

We also see, in that final gaze into the camera, the moment where she makes a decision to fully participate in the revolution.  It is in this moment that she begins to become the revolutionary hero that much of the media makes her out to be.  Before this, she is a pawn, a token, a symbol.  She has stumbled into something that she doesn’t fully understand or realize; events are being orchestrated around her, using her as a symbol without her full knowledge or consent.

That’s not to say she doesn’t display amazing character traits and tendencies, because she does.  We see it when she volunteers as tribute; we see it in the way she handles Rue’s death; and we see it when she stands up to and holds her own with President Snow.  I mean, this is a teenage girl being called to stand before the powerful, sociopathic president of Panem, and she looks him straight in the eye.  That’s pretty admirable. I do believe I would wet my pants. Don’t laugh, you probably would too.

There was another great scene that showed the push and pull of Katniss while her and Peeta were on tour.  Peeta agrees to speak when they pull into the first district stop, Rue’s district.  Peeta is going to be the man and step up and save her, because it is clear that Katniss does not want to speak.  And you see Katniss standing there, brimming with emotion but once again being controlled by the threats of President Snow, and then she steps forward and speaks from the heart.  It was a beautiful scene that illustrated the push and pull of influence inside (and out) Katniss.  Here, President Snow still has tremendous power over her and she is trying to play into his hand to save everyone, but she also knows what is right, what is truth.

That is part of what I love, actually, about The Hunger Games series.  I think it is a much more authentic portrait of a journey.  Katniss doesn’t wake up one day and decide to be a hero and then come in with all this swagger and save the day.  No, she takes some hesitant steps forward, the Capitol reasserts its authority, she wavers (see her reading the speeches on the cards after a man is shot before her).  It’s a dance, and she is not always sure of what the right moves are.  She sometimes stumbles, she sometimes missteps, but then she gets her footing back.

But that last scene, man it galls me.  Especially Haymitch, she trusted him.  Put her life in his hands.  And he doesn’t even do her the courtesy of letting her know what is happening.

So the other day I was thinking about the various YA dystopians that I have read and I was trying to remember: Are there any dystopian/post apocalyptic YA novels where the main female character is truly and fully aware of leading a group of people into revolution?  It seems, and trust me I haven’t read them all so I could be totally wrong, that the tendency is that the female meets a male who then brings her into the revolution (see also Tris and Four) and the female still has less agency than the male because she has less knowledge and experience about the truth of their society and the revolution, giving the male character a huge advantage and making them the de facto leader.  

Anyhow, loved the movie.  Thought it was very well done.  Took the Tween and she also loved it (she has not read the books). Entertainment Weekly has an article on 12 changes from the book to the movie if you are interested.

Previously on TLT:
Sunday Reflections: Be Your Own Katniss
May the Odds Be Ever in Your Favor
Feed Their Hunger for The Hunger Games
Why We Hunger for The Hunger Games

Reel Thoughts: Thor The Dark World (Spoilers)

Thor: Marvel
So, I’ve been thinking long about Thor: The Dark World. I went to see it twice- once with Karen and the Tween, and then again with That Guy and my teen volunteers. 
https://pbs.twimg.com/media/BYrHPgoCAAAfoTR.jpg 
 And both times I LOVED it, but the more I thought about it, the more I thought- it’s not THOR’S tale. It’s like how Ferris Bueller’s Day Off isn’t Ferris’ story, it’s CAMERON’S story- Cameron is the one who starts off all anxious and worried, but by the end of the movie, he’s confident in himself, and willing to take the hit for the car. 

Now There Be Spoilers

It’s the same with Thor: The Dark World. The story isn’t Thor’s- we had that in the first one where he went from giant kegger frat boy to actual justice warrior. It isn’t Jane’s story (although I’d actually like a nice Marvel One-Shot about Jane and Darcy and what they did in between the Thor movies, because Darcy rubbed of on Jane quite a bit from the first to the second movie).

It’s a cross between The Empire Strikes Back and LOKI’S story.

Stay with me for a bit.

When people think of Star Wars (and we’re not going to talk about the “prequel” mess), they either talk about A New Hope or Return of the Jedi because those were THE movies. A New Hope gave you ALL the characters and all the story, and wrapped everything up neatly, while Return of the Jedi gave you the the plot and the darkness and the background. No one says that their favorite was The Empire Strikes Back, because all of that movie was setting the bridge between A New Hope and Return of the Jedi.

That’s part of what Thor: A Dark World is doing. Think about it. They had to start telling the story of the Infinity Gems (what this Marvel Universe is calling them) because it’s going to be a HUGE point in Guardians of the Galaxy and possibly either Avengers 2 or Avengers 3. We KNOW it’s part of Guardians of the Galaxy because The Collector is listed in the cast.   His best known role in the Marvel pantheon is with the Infinity Gems, and geek upon geekiest, Marvel frakking smacks at it in Thor. So we’re BUILDING UP TO having the Infinity Gems. So, Empire Strikes Back.

BUT WAIT! THEY’RE NOT DONE YET!!!

Dark World is also LOKI’S story. Think about it. We end the first Thor with Loki learning the truth about his parentage, and dealing with the fact that Odin has always loved Thor better- and he basically suicides rather than live in Thor’s shadow. In The Avengers, he’s joined forced to use the Tesseract to take over Earth as his own planet, but is thrashed. 

 So in A Dark World, Loki comes back to his adoptive homeworld in chains, disgraced by his “brother” and his “father”, but still loved by his mother. She DIES after he fights with her, and HE is the cause of her destruction- and HE knows it. Yet he still blames Thor because he should have saved her somehow. Yet, Loki joins with Thor to get Jane out of Asgard, and fights with him against the Dark Elves. Why? TO FAKE HIS DEATH.


http://i7.photobucket.com/albums/y294/MiraxCorran/GIF%20Doctor%20Who/brilliant.gif
Doctor Who: BBC

 

WHY? To TAKE OVER ASGARD. That’s the last we see of Loki in the movie- sitting on the Throne, like he wanted, and King of Asgard because Thor has given up his claim. Is that the end of Loki? The end of his story? He ends up King and lives happy ever after? Does this smile give you that?
Depends on what Marvel has up their sleeves- but with such a character as Loki, and such a huge actor that they’ve made Tom Hiddleston, I sincerely doubt it. I don’t think he’ll come back in Avengers 2, but I can definitely see him in Avengers 3.
So really, Thor The Dark World isn’t about Thor at all. After all, he ends up on Earth a househusband (actually, I bet Avengers 2 happens pretty close after the ending of this movie- we already took away his alias in the first Thor, and he doesn’t have the medical knowledge that his alter character did in the comics). It’s about Loki, and setting things up for Guardians of the Galaxy and Avengers.
But oh, what a wonderful ride.

Reel Thoughts: Ender’s Game


I went to see Ender’s Game Halloween Night with That Guy, a couple of friends who had read the book, and a couple of friends who had not read the book. We had to wait until the late late show because a) I had to work until 9, and b) it was Halloween and those of us in neighborhoods with kids had to wait until the trick-or-treaters were done circling the grounds for their candy fix.

Now, all of us that went are total geeks: gamer geeks, computer geeks, sci-fi geeks, so this type of movie should have been perfect for us. Space, aliens, crucial climax at the end that turns everything around- just wonderful (and the book does that, BTW). The movie, not so much. (Note: If you are a real lover of the book, definitely distance yourself from it before seeing the movie.)

THE AWESOME

The actors: really, the cast couldn’t have been better chosen. Ender (Asa Butterfield)  and the young crew whom the whole of Earth are depending on to save them from the horrible “bugs” are entirely into their parts, and you can feel their emotions. Colonel Graff (Harrison Ford) and Major Anderson (Viola Davis) are perfect foils for each other, battling diametric viewpoints of how to treat these soldiers. It is so not their fault that the movie fails them.

The visuals: the graphics are really intense, and really bring the scenes to life. When Ender’s Game was originally written in 1985 (short story in 1977) there is no way that they could have envisioned the technology that we have today- yet the book details the gaming scenarios that are brought to life beautifully through CGI technology. The tech is spot on, and that makes a difference when you are a geek- trust me, I live with one.

THE GOOD

The cleaning/changes: the movie radically different from the book in many ways, and one good change from that is that it takes out all of the slurs and racial profiling. The cast is diverse (in fact, of the three major adult actors, one is Caucasian, one is half
Gujrati Indian/ half British, and one is black), and none of the controversial language that was in the original or some of the updated copies of the book (about Bonzo, for example) are in the movie.


Would I see it again? No. It did not give me that movie buzz that I get from a good/great movie (see after the spoilers for the bad and the picky parts), and defintely not enough for me to go out and watch it or even buy it for my personal DVD collection. Will I purchase it for my library? Yes, because it’s a popular title, and it fits with what my community will want to watch. Will I show it for a program? No, not unless my teens specifically ask for it- there are better movies to tie into programming.

Rottentomatoes.com has Ender’s Game listed as 52% (rotten) by the Top Critics and 61% (fresh) by all critics.


SPOILER SPACE


 

Hello,

my name 
is Trevor..






THE BAD
The Pacing: I don’t know who decided that the time sequencing in the movie needed to be non-existent but it completely throws everything off. There’s no aging with Ender or anyone else, so you start and end with Ender at the same age, which means everything happens in less than a year. It throws off the relationships- why does Bean completely trust Ender, why does Petra immediately gravitate towards him? And there’s no building of the father-son relationship between Graff and Ender that there is in the book, either. There’s no building of trust, there’s no building of the relationships in the movie- just this headlong spike towards the battle, and after it’s over and it’s revealed that Ender has completely wiped out the “Bugs” home planet, his betrayal seems less that what it could be because of this.

The Story:  If you’re going to set up a dystopian futuristic movie, then you’re going to have to explain all of the dystopian aspects. You can’t just have Ender depressed because he’s a useless third without explaining beforehand that humans aren’t allowed to have more than two kids without permission. You really shouldn’t have a war-torn Earth with billions killed yet set everything on Earth in a nice suburban neighborhood. And you really shouldn’t set every female figure in the movie (Ender’s mother, Major Anderson, Petra, and Valentine) to be huge balls of emotion to try and play out a romance angle when there wasn’t one in the book. It doesn’t read well, and doesn’t come off well.

THE RANTY

Hold on, it’s going to get a bit bumpy.

First off, if you’re going to introduce Peter and Valentine, why cut out their entire story? I mean, really?!?!?! You have Peter for five seconds, Valentine (played by an ACADEMY AWARD NOMINATED ACTRESS) for maybe 5 minutes, and you’re not going to let them take over the EARTH?!?!?! What is WRONG with you people?!?! 

Second, if you’re going to introduce the Mind Game, use it completely. The game was twofold: first, he worked through his doubts and second, he was contacted by the “Bugs”. In the movie, he was destroyed by the snake (Peter) and then never conquered his fears- thereby missing the importance of compassion and sacrifice.

Third, you can’t just end the movie with LALALA, they’re not going to let me go home, so I’m going off on a grand adventure (and I stole the last “Bug” egg). It DOESN’T WORK. You have to give REASONS, people. There were REASONS he couldn’t go back home- everyone on his team were wanted by their home countries, but EVERYONE wanted Ender, so he would cause RIOTS. It was a long and thought out decision, not just spur of the moment. And it was also determined because one of his team couldn’t handle what they had done and suicided, and Ender was on the brink of going mad. So he had to save himself AND the egg.

Finally, I am actually really upset with the way they used the female characters in this movie. Major Anderson was a strong character, but she gets emotional she gets fired. Petra has an immediate friendship with Ender in the movie, and that turns into something more by the end- otherwise why would she be sitting by his bedside? And poor Valentine- her intelligence is completely chucked out the window, and all that remains is a ball of mush. She runs to get her parents when Peter is choking Ender, she bawls when she’s getting Ender back to space… no where is the cunning or anything else resembling the strong character in the book. She’s even characterized that way in the beginning: Valentine was taken out of the program because she was too emotional.  AHHH! So not a things I want to be teaching kids- that emotions are bad things and we need to be mushing them into submission.

Reel Thoughts: The Mortal Instruments- City of Bones

I was completely excited for this movie- I really like the books (I am in love with Magnus and Alec, and Simon and Isabella). I admit, I went to opening night. Wednesday night after work, IMAX. And the theater was DEAD. According to the ticket taker it was 8% full. That Guy was with me, and had him repeat it because we weren’t sure we heard right- surely he meant 80% from all the buzz (spots on MTV, hype everywhere, clothing lines through Hot Topic, music videos) but no, it was 8%. We scored seats in the middle of the row in the middle of the theater, got our movie theater dinner, and settled in to watch. And I picked up some interesting differences between the movie and the book, things which threw me for a loop and out of the fantasy. Did you catch them? Follow the break below, but if you haven’t seen the movie, or haven’t read The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, be warned, there are spoilers….




WHERE IS YOUR FAMILY?!?!?
Movie: Jace, Alex, and Isabella live in the Institute with Hodge.
Book: Jace, Alex, and Isabella live in the Institute with Hodge, their parents Maryse Lightwood and Robert Lightwood and their other son Max.
Commentary: It’s a huge thing that Maryse and Robert are in charge of the New York Institute while Hodge is cursed to the inside- they were also in league with Valentine, yet their punishment was not nearly as severe. It also sets up a huge family that was caring for Jace and it’s much more crushing in the late books. Max bonds with Clary in the first book, and his destiny is heartbreaking.

DONDE ESTA SU GATO?
Movie: no cat
Book: Church the cat is ever present in the Institute, and seems to be able to understand the Shadowhunters.
Commentary: I was looking forward to Church, and disappointed that he didn’t make the theatrical cut. If you read both series (The Mortal Instruments and The Infernal Devices) he’s even more important.

WHERE FOR ART THO RAPHAEL?

Movie: There’s “The Vampire Leader” but not named
Book: Raphael Santiago, de facto head of the vampires in New York in the absence of the true leader
Commentary: Raphael plays a huge part in the sequels, especially City of Ashes. Why is he just “The Vampire Leader”?

DROPPED BITES
Movie: Simon gains perfect eyesight and starts showing symptoms of being turned into a vampire (including bites), yet nothing is ever mentioned or talked about it in the rest of the movie
Book: Simon was turned into a *rat* at the party, then bitten, but wasn’t showing symptoms or turning until City of Ashes
Commentary: Why show things and then drop them? And why add them in this movie when it’s not going to be followed through?

 
WHO KILLED WHAT?!?!
Movie: Jace kills the dog demon after Clary in her apartment, and the demon that takes the place of Dorthea after they first find the Mortal Cup
Book: CLARY kills the demon in her apartment, and SIMON kills the Dorthea demon
Commentary: WHY does Jace need to do all the killing? I mean, seriously? Clary killing the demon showed that she did have Shadowhunter blood, and Simon killing Dorthea got him on Isabella’s radar and made him more believable about staying in this world. It wouldn’t have hurt to have them stay true to the book.

What did you see that was different/changed from the book/movie? Or what did you think of the movie? Share in the comments!

Reel Thoughts: The Wolverine (movie review by Christie G.)

I am a comic book geek, and I am addicted to movie adaptations (for good or ill) of comic book series. I have seen the good (X-Men: First Class, Marvel’s Adventures) and the bad (Green Lantern, X-Men Origins: Wolverine), and even though I was a little nervous about taking my teens to go see The Wolverine, I figured that if it was as bad as the previous one, at least we could mock it…
 


To my great surprise it was actually really good. It’s placed timeline-wise after X-Men: The Last Stand (2006) when Logan (Wovervine) has destroyed Jean/ Phoenix, and is struggling with both her death and what his life has become. He is found in the Canadian outback by Yukio, an assistant to a Japanese soldier Logan saved from a nuclear blast during World War II.  Now the soldier wants to return the favor:  to save Logan’s life by taking his immortality.

Anyone who’s watched the Wolverine animated series on G4 (soon to be the Esquire channel), or read the 1982 limited comic series written by Chris Claremont and Frank Miller, will be familiar with the story line and how most of the movie goes. The violence is similar to other X-Men movies, but to me didn’t seem nearly as realistic or jarring as the terrorism scenes in Iron Man 3. 

My teens and I really enjoyed it.  It’s definitely one that I will add to our library collection and would love to show at the library, if Disney ever gets the rights back from Fox for the X-Men properties.

For weird/awesome things that can possibly spoil the movie, follow the break!


STAY THROUGH THE CREDITS

DC hasn’t done this for some of their movies, and sometimes Fox hasn’t done it for their comic creations either, but this time they are taking a page from the rest of their Marvel brethren and adding in a teaser for where the franchise is going. On the bright side, it’s only one, not the three different endings that came out during the end of X-Men Origins: Wolverine; but on the semi-negative side where it’s placed depends on what *type* of movie you see. We saw it in 3-D so it was pretty close after the listing of the cast (at the transition from the 3-D credits to the 2-D credits), but I’ve seen online that if you see the movie in 2-D that it’s shown after *all* of the credits.

It’s not any surprise to anyone who has paid attention to the news that came out from Comic Con, but it’s fun to see anyway, and gets you excited for what’s coming next. I’m interested to see how they’re going to mesh everything together in X-Men: Days of Future Past with the “old” and “new” cast, and I am super excited about the Sentinels


EDITING FLAWS

There were some flaws in editing that we noticed that shouldn’t have happened in a film this size- it’s like getting a misprinted book. If you haven’t seen it yet and are interested, go take a look and see if you catch it.

Taking things off twice


There’s a scene with Viper/the doctor in which she’s taking off her gloves, and they cut it weirdly- she ends up taking her gloves off twice…

Chopsticks


There’s a scene with Logan and Mariko (the granddaughter) where they are eating and discussing important plot points. (Here’s where action people are all like, NOOOOOOOOOOOO, discussion?!?!  Need more fighting!!!!) Near the beginning of the scene she takes his upright chopsticks out of his food and sets them to the side; at the end of the scene she again takes the upright chopsticks out of the food and sets them to the side. Now, Logan might have put them back in the food as a rebellion move, but you (the viewer) never see him to it…

CHARACTER ISSUES

I really like to know *where* characters come from, and their back story. I want it in my books, and I want it in my movies. Marvel has won me over with what they’ve been doing with the Avengers and the whole series surrounding all of it because of how they’re building that world. The newest Batman movies build that world and sold me, too. I’m not so sure about some of the characters in The Wolverine; my teens were fine during the movie with the characters just appearing out of nowhere, but as we were driving back were asking me or using their phones to search for more information.

Viper- The good doctor really doesn’t follow any of the established storylines. Depending on which one you follow, she’s either part of Hydra, or a master assassin, or something else entirely. The problem is, she’s not really established in the movie. The immunity to poisons is cool, and the biotech smarts is awesome (yea girls with science) but the shedding skin thing at the end just didn’t work quite right.  What’s with the blonde hair then going bald but with perfect makeup?  That’s totally inconsistent with all the variations.

Silver Samurai– They have this huge, awesome silver samurai suit, and this huge, wonderful backstory. The movie publicists build up an epic battle with Wolverine and Silver Samurai- and there is, because this is what everything has been building up to (even though two of my teens guessed who was in the suit) and the whole point of the movie. Yet, it’s really like the Batwing from the original Batman with Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson:  tons of money, and a one-off.

Still Really Good

None of this detracts from this being a really good movie. It definitely made my inner comic geek happy, and it gave my teens a really good buzz. I adored the soundtrack music, and they fact that they really kept it in the Japanese flavors. I would love to do a marathon before the release of Days of Future Past but as of right now none of the movies are covered by our public performance license. I shall have to geek out at my house beforehand.