The Best Teases of 2013 – My favorite Movie Trailers for Films Released this past Year

As a movie lover/obsessor/collector, if there’s one thing that I love it’s those ten minutes before watching a movie in theaters where you’re tantalizingly teased about films that you’re highly anticipating to see. When I was a teenager, I remember that throughout 2008 I had most of the previews memorized and in what order they came in, with Iron Man, The Dark Knight, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Terminator Salvation, Star Trek, and Transformers : Revenge of the Fallen being the highlights. Studios spend millions of dollars on trailers to give viewers sneak peeks, and to entice those that aren’t ready to throw our money and firstborn to the producers. A well put together trailer can do wonders for a film, as you can either sit there and laugh/troll the trailer, or look to your friends and say “that looks good, let’s go see that”. For obvious reasons, the latter is the desired effect. So, I’ve decided to compile some of what I thought were the best trailers of the year with short descriptions based on my thoughts about the movie and trailer.

#5. Iron Man 3

If there’s one thing I despise, it’s deceiving trailers. I understand that Marvel and idiot director Shane Black didn’t want to spoil the plot twists in the movie, but boy did this trailer make the movie look awesome. The great line “I offer you a choice. Do you want an empty life, or a meaningful death?” wasn’t even uttered in the film because the “Mandarin” wasn’t even the “Mandarin”. I really just want to live in this trailer.

#4 The Hobbit : The Desolation of Smaug

This is another deceiving trailer. Jackson teased everybody beautifully with this, the fans of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, fans of An Unexpected Journey, and fans of the novel series. Then, he created his own egotistical tale and ran away laughing with everybody’s money. Jerk.

#3 The Wolf of Wall Street

I confess, I have not yet seen this movie. But, from what people have told me and from what I’ve read, this trailer is spot on. All the excess, partying, and ridiculousness that comes along with the Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, and Matthew McConaughey led movie is portrayed in a great fashion in this trailer. Also, as Thurston pointed out in his top 10 tracks of 2013, who doesn’t love Kanye West’s epic romp, Black Skinhead?

#2 Man of Steel Teaser Trailer

This trailer really divided people, because they felt like it was too short and didn’t really offer much insight into the film. But, Zack Snyder and his production team knew exactly what they were doing when they borrowed the music in the trailer. There are very few soundtrack pieces that are better than the latter part of The Fellowship of the Ring‘s track “The Bridge of Khazad-Dum”. The Gandalf the Grey death music is simply perfect.

#1 The Great Gatsby

I was a bit disappointed with this movie, as I thought it couldn’t make up its mind as to what it wanted to be. I still enjoyed it enough in theaters and later added it to my collection, but it wasn’t all that this trailer summed it up to be. Featuring Beyonce, Florence + The Machine, and revealing Lana Del Rey’s “Young and Beautiful”, this tease is a work of art, and beyond a doubt the best trailer for any movie that was released in the year past.

I’m Sorry Mr. Jackson, I am for Real – Your New ‘Hobbit’ Movie is a Total Disgrace

I had been looking forward to watching The Hobbit : The Desolation of Smaug all year-long. After how I lukewarmly received its predecessor in An Unexpected Journey, I hoped and read that director Peter Jackson would be back in form for the sequel. Before going to the midnight screening, I read a few reviews (spoilers didn’t matter as I have read the novel time and time again) which all said that the middle piece of the story was by far better than the first. I was excited. The trailer made it look awesome, and after the way that Jackson stuck to the book’s main plot points (although taking a few liberties, primarily in the main villain of Journey), I had little doubt that he would do stick to the storyline’s guns again.

The_Hobbit_-_The_Desolation_of_Smaug_theatrical_posterUntil, that is, I watched the review that my favorite critics gave the film. Ty Burr and Wesley Morris of The Boston Globe gave the movie a 3/4 star rating, but in their video review said there were several parts that may ruffle the feathers of fans of J.R.R. Tolkien’s original work, including a cross-species romance. All of a sudden, this pit developed in my stomach and I was much afraid.

The movie starts out amicably enough, with a flashback straight from the book that I am glad was shown, when Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) meets Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen) at the Inn of the Prancing Pony in the town of Bree. There, Gandalf convinces Thorin to reclaim his ancestral kingdom of Erebor which was taken over by a dragon when his grandfather Thror was king. From there, Jackson throws the book out the window and hurries the movie along so he can get to the final destination of Erebor, the Lonely Mountain where Smaug the dragon sleeps on piles of dwarf gold.

It picks back up with the Company of dwarves, Bilbo, and Gandalf being chased by an orc-pack astride wargs (large, wild wolves) that are closing in. Gandalf knows one point of safety ahead, the home of Beorn the skin-changer, who at night takes the form of a bear-like creature that is rather dangerous. Gandalf warns the Company that Beorn has no love of dwarves (or unexpected guests), but he gambles that his hate of orcs and the evil that pursues them will be greater. It is this scene where we first see Jackson set fire to the novel. Instead of a good chapter of the book dedicated to the creation of a friendship with Beorn (including where Gandalf mentions that he slew the Great Goblin), our vaunted director creates an action sequence where the bear form of Beorn inexplicably attacks the dwarves, and after being repelled changes back into his human form as he grudgingly welcomes the dwarves with little or no explanation. Swedish actor Mikael Persbrandt nails the role of Beorn, but is only given a handful of lines and little screen time, as the film hurries along to Mirkwood, where Jackson continues his butchering of the book. Such crimes (with limited spoilers) consist of the following :

-Trimming and cutting Mirkwood down to one trippy sequence (which is actually accurate and done well), and one action scene involving Bilbo (Martin Freeman) and the spiders that capture the Company (minus Gandalf, who has gone on his own quest).

-Forcing Legolas (Orlando Bloom) into a starring role and making him seem like an entitled and uptight prick, which is nearly the polar opposite of his character in Lord of the Rings.

-Creating a major character and love interest for both Legolas AND Kili the dwarf (Aidan Turner) in Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly, from LOST) in a predictable and unconvincing romance.

-Commuting the timeline and sentence of the dwarves to the Elf-King Thranduil’s (Lee Pace, Lincoln) prison to one day instead of months.

-Changing the scene where Bilbo creates a stealthy escape for the dwarves from prison in shipping barrels into an absurd action scene that involves Bombur destroying orcs while in his barrel, Legolas and Tauriel engaging regiments of orcs with the ease of Peyton Manning in a pee-wee game (all the while swinging from tree to tree and running across the river like little monkeys), and the wounding of Kili by a poisoned arrow (which he does not know is poisoned), which predictably can only be healed by elf-magic that Tauriel possesses.

-The twisting of Bard the Bowman into an outlaw, where in the book he is in fact the defender and voice of Lake-town.

-The ruining of the arrival of the dwarves into Lake-town.

-Creating another action sequence in Lake-town where Legolas and Tauriel along with three dwarves that got left behind in Lake-town from the quest to the Mountain, engage orcs led by Bolg who are hunting Thorin Oakenshield.

-Having a poor end to the Dol Guldur – Gandalf storyline that is non-canonical.

-Making a middle sequence of a film series where nothing except rising action and exposition is created. Nobody major dies. Nobody major lives. Nothing major is resolved. Everything, literally everything, is left in limbo for the next movie.

-For this last point, lets review the major events of Jackson’s first middle movie The Two Towers with The Desolation of Smaug. Granted, The Two Towers is a novel where things are meant to be somewhat resolved, but Jackson could have easily incorporated any event into Smaug that creates some resolution. In fairness, we’ll let Towers have twice as many resolved events as Smaug simply because of the book length.

The Two Towers  

Eomer destroys the Uruk-Hai, is expelled from Rohan.

Merry and Pippin meet Treebeard, persuade him to attack Isengard.

Gandalf comes back to life, meets with Legolas, Gimli, and Aragorn.

Gandalf releases Saruman’s spell on Rohan King Theoden, Theoden rallies Rohan.

Saruman creates an army to pillage and destory Rohan.

Saruman’s forces meet Theoden’s at Helm’s Deep, Saruman gets defeated.

The Ents led by Treebeard attack Isengard and win a decisive victory.

Frodo and Sam capture Gollum who becomes their guide to Mordor.

The three reach the Black Gate, and turn aside at the advice of Gollum, who starts to progress as a character through Smeagol his alter-ego.

They are captured by Faramir, who takes them to Osgiliath.

Despite being tempted, Faramir lets the trio go after Frodo nearly gives up, Gollum becomes fully evil and bent on waylaying the ring bearer after a perceived betrayal and capture at the hands of men.

The Desolation of Smaug

Bilbo and the Dwarves are attacked by spiders in Mirkwood, then are captured by the wood elves.

They escape imprisonment by the elves.

The 13 and one Hobbit meet Bard and are  smuggled into Lake-town.

The Company makes for the Lonely Mountain, they reach it, and Bilbo attempts to find the Arkenstone as requested by Thorin.

The Company awakens and engages Smaug.

Gandalf infiltrates Dol Guldur.

The Two Towers totals 10 events. The Desolation of Smaug totals 6, of which two are still unresolved, bringing the total to 4 actual happenings. To wrap this section up, that simply means that a lot of nothing happens in this movie. It is a bad second installment. Jackson rushes past major events and makes them minor ones, and instead hurries up all for the big finish in the end, which never actually happens. It’s like running a 5K race as fast as you can, only to realize once you hit the 5K mark, that it’s actually a 10K race. You’re exhausted and deceived, but you are only halfway there.

And then there’s the romantic story between the Elf and the Dwarf, which is just complete rubbish. It hogs so much screen time and so little viewer investment, that it robs time from the main character of Bilbo (you know, the hobbit that the movie is named after) who is so wonderfully played by Martin Freeman. Jackson decides to sit there and go through the motions of a baseless romance instead of continually developing his main character.

My other main critique of the movie (on a strictly film basis) is that just like the predecessor, Peter Jackson relies on the overuse of CGI in action sequences. He cannot make up his mind if he wants to make a movie for kids or a darker movie for adults ; as the action scenes are comical in nature, and with the computer generated goblins, creates a sillier and less scary atmosphere than in Lord of the Rings. He populates Desolation of Smaug with video gamey fight numbers, and then juxtaposes it to a room full of rotting corpses that best demonstrates his inability to decide who exactly his target audience is. I have had people ask me if there is a fundamental (novel based) difference between goblins and orcs in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings because of how different they appear in nature. It is decidedly for a turn of the worse.

As much bad as there is in this movie, there is just as much good. The cast is wonderful. From the Master of Lake-town (Stephen Fry) to Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch), almost every role is extremely well acted and perfectly cast (with the exception of Tauriel, who shouldn’t have had a role to cast for in the first place). Smaug is beautifully animated and voiced, and all scenes with him in it are worth the weight of a gold-plated Dragon (yet another Jacksonian “twist”). Bard the Bowman (Luke Evans) isn’t given nearly enough screen time, as too much instead goes to the Master’s assistant in Lake-town, in a horrible and forgettable role played by Mark Mitchinson. His disgusting, unibrowed character is the largest casting and character creation mistake outside of Tauriel ; with those two characters omitted and the stick removed from the behind of Legolas, this cast would be perfect.

The plotline with Gandalf infiltrating Dol Guldur is very interesting, and although somewhat ruined by how it concludes, is very dark and mysterious as well. Jackson also well demonstrates how Bilbo is being consumed by the ring in just his short possession of it. Although at times a bit preposterous, the action scenes can be quite comical and have some really cool shots, despite the dramatic loss of realism.

Without reading the book, the movie is good, but not great. Several plot adjustments and character omissions could give his film a significantly higher grade, but unfortunately it turns out to go no where, and fails to be a sum of all its parts. This is Jackson’s worst film set in Middle-Earth yet, despite all of the potential it had. 6/10

But if you read the book, here’s your review.    

The film is an utter betrayal of the novel for the following reasons.

1. Beorn did not attack the Company as in the film, and expounded his character to a rough friendship with the dwarves, and a true one with Gandalf. When he skin changes into a bear, in the book he is still able to control himself. He intentionally kills goblins and wargs, and nails their skins to his property to ward off intruders. It works.

2. Tauriel does not exist, nor do any events involving her.

3. The Master of Lake-town’s crony does not exist.

4. Legolas and Azog are not present in The Hobbit book. Azog is actually dead at this point in time.

5. The Dol Guldur storyline is wrong for many reasons. Gandalf does in fact infilitrate the fortress (twice), but here’s a side note. In Lord of the Rings lore, Gandalf and Sauron are the same race, being angelic creatures who have descended upon the mortal to guide (in the case of Gandalf) or corrupt (in the case of Sauron). Sauron is more powerful than Gandalf and Gandalf fears him, but they have the same basis at the least. When he sneaks into Dol Guldur (the second time), Sauron (once under the guise of the Necromancer) flees to Mordor, fearing being discovered by Gandalf before he can openly present himself as the Dark Lord. There, the Grey Wizard finds Thorin’s father who has gone mad in prison, and obtains the Lonely Mountain map and key to give to Thorin. Gandalf barely escapes, but escape he does. The movie gets it all wrong with Gandalf losing a ridiculous “battle” with Sauron’s spirit, and ending up imprisoned in a cage. In the novel universe, not only would the Grey Pilgrim never risk a battle with the spirit of Sauron, but he wouldn’t allow himself to get utterly embarrassed and jailed. There’s a reason this guy once snuck through Moria and into Dol Guldur twice, he’s kind of a boss. He also wouldn’t fear a stupid orc like Azog, as this is a guy that went toe-to-toe with a Balrog.

6. The timeline is skewed. The Company spends months wandering in Mirkwood and in the cells of the Elvenking. There were also assaults on the Woodland Elf realms by orcs, but none happened when the dwarves where there. In fact, one of such attacks happened and coincidentally freed Gollum, who was being held captive by the Wood Elves, as Gollum then pursued the Fellowship into Moria. Everything is commuted to one continuous happening instead of events being spread across time.

7. Mirkwood is wrong. Much MUCH more happens in the forest than in the movie, as the dwarves wander lost and practically starved to death before being captured by the Spiders, where Bilbo uses Sting and the Ring to free them. Besides spiders, there are also flies that Mr. Baggins has to fight off.

8. Barrels out of Bond. Bilbo had worn the Ring consistently throughout having snuck into the halls of the Elvenking. It took him some time to find out where the dwarves were being held, how to reach them, who had the keys, and how to get them out. When he finally formulated a plan, he stuffed the dwarves physically in each barrel to sneak out under the noses of the elves in complete stealth. There was no escape fight, as the elves did not realize that their prisoners were missing until they surfaced in Lake-town.

9. Lake-town is wrong. Although the setting and Master are correct, Bard was not an outlaw or imprisoned, in fact he was known as the defender of the town. Seeing as the dwarves were smuggled in, their arrival is greeted with surprise and hope, as the citizens hope that the Mountain King will restore the Kingdom under the Mountain again and bring everybody wealth. No dwarf gets left behind in Lake-town either, and Bard shoots the Black Arrow from a bow, not some type of lance caster.

10. The discovery of the side door is also incorrect. This is how Thorin escaped from the Mountain when attacked by Smaug in the first place. Although he forgets the exact location of the door, he knows it exists and that it is in moon runes. In perhaps the dumbest scene of the movie, the dwarves “give up” when told that the door will be illuminated by the “last light of Durin’s Day”. It occurs to none of them (even though it occurs to every audience member) that the last light isn’t daylight, but instead moon light, as dwarf runes (as evidenced in Moria) are often written in moon script to hide the entrance.

11. The dwarves never engage Smaug. Bilbo steals a golden cup from the horde, which after much riddling and flattering talk with the dragon (which did happen), Smaug furiously erupts realizing part of his treasure is missing. He then goes off to wreak havoc on Lake-town, where he meets his demise. The entire sequence of the dwarves plotting and creating devices to attempt to off the dragon are all out of Jackson’s mind of meddle.

11. There is no fight in Lake-town. No invading wolves or orcs, no Bolg, no Legolas, no Kili, no love story, nothing. The only fight that occurs in Lake-town involves a very large dragon.

All these facts leave me completely puzzled. The first movie was criticized for sticking too close to the book (for the most part), as critics felt that the story took too long to develop. Here, Jackson throws the book into the trash and creates a movie that is “inspired by” the novel instead of “based upon” it. It seems that he does not know how to correctly incorporate events into a movie to make it whole, instead drawing one out and rushing the other. It also confounds me that he could shoot one movie at the same time as another, and yet have two completely different variations come out. One was well grounded in the source material, whereas the other takes monstrous liberties on it.

It also upsets me that Peter Jackson felt like he could do this to J.R.R. Tolkien’s novel. In essence, he is saying that the story he has and wants to tell is better than the story that Tolkien told, which is 110% incorrect. There’s a reason that Tolkien’s novels did so well, and became so legendary and famous that Jackson could make such a profitous franchise out of it. PJ’s ego is basically saying that he is more intelligent and creative than J.R.R. This assertion is so hilariously false, as one of these men directed Meet the Feebles and Braindead, whereas the other created an entire language, universe, and novel series all out of his own imagination.

If you are a fan of the novel like I am, you are going to find this movie offensive. This is the worst amount of liberties that Peter Jackson has taken in any LOTR based film yet, and it shows. It’s the same old story of Hollywood basing movies off good source material. If something is good, you do not change it and mess with it, especially with its core events. If it can be visibly improved (such as The Hunger Games : Catching Fire), go ahead and take those liberties. But for something that is such a work of art as Tolkien’s, this movie is a sad moment, and a betrayal of Jackson’s responsibility to guard the franchise that we the fans love. As a fan of the novel, the Lord of the Rings universe and its details, this movie merits a 2/10 as corresponds to a film adaptation of a beloved book.

My Year at the Movies (ranks in order of best to worst of movies I have seen that have been released this year)

1. Rush

2. Star Trek Into Darkness

3. Man of Steel

4. Catching Fire

5. Pacific Rim

6. This Is  The End

7. Despicable Me 2

8. Monsters University

9. The Great Gatsby

10. Oblivion

11. Elysium

12. World War Z

13. The Hobbit : The Desolation of Smaug

14. Oz the Great and Powerful

15. Fast and Furious 6

16. Iron Man 3

17. Hangover Part 3

18. Thor : The Dark World

19. A Good Day To Die Hard

Why I Love the ‘Christmas Season’

It’s simply bound to happen. You know exactly what I am talking about. There’s going to be someone in your group of friends or family that is going to hate Christmas. They’re going to spew on and on about how it has simply become a season of rampant capitalistic commercialism that has turned whatever base it used to stand on into a season of greed and madness surrounding the accumulation of stuff. Then there are the people who hate on the religious founding of the holiday, and then argue about how it was founded by the Pope to counter a pagan holiday, and that Christ wasn’t even born during December. Furthermore, you will also have those that insist there should not be a set aside day or “season” that promotes generosity because well, people should always be generous not just at Christmastime.

I’m here to say that I do not care what those people have to say. It simply doesn’t matter to me. Call me selfish, simple-minded, or traditional.

I don’t care.

Normally, I’m a rather complex person with tastes that stray away from the category of simple. Sure, sometimes the small things in life, like a cool summer breeze or watching a sun set while driving across an open expense, I enjoy and will point out. But for the most part, I like chaos. I’m a fan of a busy life with many intricacies, I like things with a compounded meaning and deep creativity, and can at the very least pretend to appreciate it on all levels.

But when it comes to Christmas, I don’t over think it and do not nitpick it. Those people who naysay the Christmas Season are honestly probably not wrong in what they have to say. Sure, it’s overwrought with commercialism and probably isn’t the exact time of year when Jesus Christ was born, but as I said earlier, I don’t care. To me, the Christmas season is something to be enjoyed rather than critiqued. It’s like the music of my favorite band, Oasis. Sure, half of Noel Gallagher’s lyrics are total nonsense. Even he will admit that he hasn’t the faintest idea what “slowly walking down the hall, faster than a cannonball” means in Champagne Supernova. But as he later explains, it doesn’t matter what he think it means, because when 60,000 people are all singing it together all with different meanings for each one, the original nonsensical intent ceases to matter.

Commercially speaking, Christmas is a time when the best movies are released. I have great memories of Lord of the Rings, (up to five December installments as of tomorrow), The Chronicles of Narnia, Night at the Museum, I Am Legend, Seven Pounds, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Avatar, True Grit, and Sherlock Holmes. It’s also when Egg Nog comes into season, Troeg’s releases their Mad Elf Ale, McDonalds has their holiday pies, and all coffee and donut outlets have festive themes with their peppermint and gingerbread coffees. Stores, and especially malls, are decorated in Christmas fashion. Everyone is playing Christmas music, and since I no longer work in retail it doesn’t earn my temperamental scorn. Especially here in the Northeast, it usually snows a few times which adds to the ‘Winter Wonderland’ theme. There just seems to be some sort of feeling in the cold air during the month of December that vanishes in January. In December, the snow and chill seems almost magical. It’s like it belongs there, and is fun to interact with. When the Christmas Season dissipates, the cold instantly feels dank and dreary. There’s no Christmas to look forward to, no froofy holiday coffee flavors to warm you up. Instead it is a cold dark emptiness, with your black coffee that tastes like stale cigarettes in lukewarm water.

That holiday spirit obviously isn’t completely made by the things you can buy to stimulate the economy and promote greed, as I’m told. It’s the time where family and friends aren’t pressed into service at Work or School, and the busy schedule and hectic pace of life slows down to the tempo where I can schedule things that I want to do, instead of things that I must do. There is time to see beloved family members whom I haven’t seen in too long, or friends who are off at school or have graduated that finally have some time off back home. I am not forced to go into work on Christmas or Christmas Eve, instead I know those days I can set aside for catching up on some of the people that matter most in my life. I can finally schedule a 16 player Halo 2 LAN Party, because I know that I’ll have at least sixteen friends free on a Friday night for once.

Sure, we can delve, dissect, and debate Christmas and its applications all day long. But you won’t change how I love the ‘Season’ surrounding it.

It’s a magical world out there right now. Gather your friends and family, and go explore it!

The Hunger Games : How and Why the Book and Movie Should Have Been Better

I know I’m rather behind in this scene, but I just finished reading “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins, and watching its film adaptation. The book was an enjoyable if not a transcendent read, while the movie was a complete disappointment.  I’m writing this “review” to compare and contrast (and criticize) both versions, already assuming that you have either read the book or seen the movie, or are merely interested in what I have to say. Which means, there WILL be spoilers. So, if you, like I was, are planning to read or watch the movie, bookmark this post and see if you agree or disagree with my words afterward. That also means that instead of summarizing the plot, I’m going to jump right into the action and talk about the events and characters of the medium again assuming that you know what I”m talking about.

First off, I’ll start with the book. It’s very fast paced, interesting, and has a fantastic concept that I picked up on and almost fell in love with in the first chapter. Basically, it’s a futuristic Rome and Gladiator Games contest, with the Tributes representing the Gladiators, where winners are showered in gifts, and losers systemically killed. It’s a bloodthirsty and cold-hearted tradition, but it works for the government in the Capitol (curious how it’s an “o” not an “a”) to keep control of their realm. And, choosing children as the Gladiators is utterly horrifying yet fascinating, it’s a tactic that shows the heartlessness of the Panem government to pit those aged 12-18 against each other in a Battle Royale. The characters are relateable and three dimensional, if not somewhat predictable. The action and violence is realistic, if even at some points it’s rather graphic. And, Collins kills off a loveable main character, which is something that all good novelists need to do to accurately convey realism and portray danger. Rue was an adorable character that the reader truly cared about, and when she took one for the team it was right up there with Dobby dying in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows as far as emotionalism. It’s a good book, but not a great one.

And that’s because of the romance between the main characters, the two tributes from District 12 in Katniss and Peeta. It’s really boring. For the first part of their relationship in the book, you can feel the tension, but you don’t know how it will turn out with them supposed to be pretending to be in love during the games. You can predict that it’s going to turn out badly for one of them, as one might fall for the other in the midst of pretending, but it doesn’t pan out that way. Instead, Collins draaaaaaaags out the pretending part of their relationship,  muddling it and drastically overplaying it. And then to make matters worse, she doesn’t even resolve their true feelings in the end, OBVIOUSLY bating the reader for a sequel in which there will be more kissy-kissy overplayed, clear as mud teenage romance. Blech.

Secondly, there’s how she writes the book. It is written in present-progressive first person tense, which makes NO sense, but improves the pacing of the book. For example, a normal first person narrative is told like this.

“I ran through the woods, seeking my prey out amongst the evergreens, attempting to follow the blood trail as it became faint on the pines and needles.”

Present-progressive is told like this :

“I run through the woods, as I seek my prey in the evergreen forest, following the blood trail as it is becoming faint on the pines and needles.”

It’s very very confusing, because when a story is being told in first person, it’s usually the main character relating facts to you, the reader, told as a story. But instead, in present-progressive first person, it’s like she’s telling you what is going on as it’s happening, and you’re there with her. Which makes no sense, because diaries aren’t even written in present-progressive. Basically, the reader is a split personality of Katniss who she is relating what is going on to. Uh, okay? It improves the pacing, because it feels like the events are currently happening, but it makes for a bit of confusion.

The book doesn’t play to its strength of the concept, failing to expand the universe as much as it should, and wasting too much time on a romance that doesn’t even become terribly clear. Still, it’s a good book. The point of adapting a book into a film, however, is to reach a wider audience while staying faithful to the source material. However, a film adaptation can play to the strengths of the novel, and focus less on the weaknesses because it is actually an adaptation. So, in order to make a successful film, the filmmakers could do one of two things. 1) Create a teenage-romance film, and pander to that audience only OR 2) Create a heartfelt and realistically (for a fantasy) gritty film, AKA the later Harry Potters, that plays to the universe of the book. Sadly, the producers stuck with option number one, banking on the Twilight audience to bring in the box office receipts.

Here’s my problems with the movie, listed in no particular order.

1. The Film Score.

Unmemorable. All good novel adaptations should have a fantastic score, like The Lord of the Rings series. It emphasizes all the right moments in the movie and impacts the audience drastically. Which means, you need to hire a good composer, just like Peter Jackson did in LOTR (Howard Shore) or the Harry Potter producers did in John Williams. James Newton Howard is an accomplished composer, but you gotta pair him with someone like Hans Zimmer to get something truly memorable.

2. The Non-Linear Storytelling

If you’re not Quentin Tarantino or Zack Snyder, don’t tell a story non-linearly. We get these awkward flashbacks of Katniss’ father being killed in the mine explosion, and of Peeta throwing Katniss bread in the rain. We have no background or emotion tied with either scene, it just feels so utterly disjointed and awkward that we’re not sure what exactly to make of the scenes. Here’s how I would have incorporated those events into the film.

START out the film with the Everdeen’s father being the main character (like in Star Trek with Kirk’s father), with a young family in a dirt poor mining community. Show his relationship with Katniss and how he passes down his skills to her, and show what a caring parent he truly was. Then, in an emotional and tragic death scene, with piano music such as this playing……(skip to 13:10)

….show the death of their father in the mining accident, and the grief and spiraling depression that it sends the girls mother into. Then, altering the book a little bit, show Katniss running away from home in her emotion, and THERE have her encounter with Peeta as she is starving and hurt in the rain. Have her return home, and then in a voice-over by Jennifer Lawrence, have her say something like “My Name is Katniss Everdeen, and this is my story.” She can then narrate the history of Panem as the audience returns to the present events starting with the reaping. The part with Peeta has to be downplayed enough however, that when he gets chosen to be a tribute, the audience is thinking to themselves “oh my God that’s the kid that saved her in the rain!”

3. Casting and Character Changes

I don’t understand why Donald Sutherland plays  President Snow in this movie. The President isn’t featured in the first book, and Donald Sutherland isn’t a politician or intimidating. And, take the creative liberty to ax the term “President”. Make the ruler of Panem have a sweet title like “Augustus” or something Roman that implies dictatorship. If you insist on having an older guy be “President”, cast Christopher Lee while he is still alive, PLEASE. Or, if you want a truly intimidating two faced politician, Kevin Spacey should get the role.

The rest of the cast is actually very well done, they’re honestly just given bad lines. Someone please kill the writer for this movie, it’s another Michael Bay-esque film where they decide to explain entire things by throwing in a line of script instead of actually showing something. It’s a book, your movie is allowed to be 2 hours and 45 minutes.

Also, WHO IS THE VILLAIN OF THIS MOVIE?? You think it’s President Snow but he isn’t even in the book and is in about three scenes. You might think it’s the Careers (District 1 and 2 tributes), but you don’t hate them at all and they’re left totally undeveloped. I think the villain is the director, who butchered this movie completely.

Which brings me to the part of Rue. Her death in the book was very emotional, and she was a great developed supporting character. However, she isn’t developed AT ALL in the movie, and when she dies you just think to yourself, “oh, well she’s gone even though I don’t really know how because the filmmakers are afraid to show violence in an inherently violent movie.” HERE’S how you do an emotional impalementish death scene.

At this point in the movie, YOU DON’T EVEN LIKE BOROMIR. But, wow. This death scene is just unreal, as he comes to terms with everything. The music, the slow-mo, the dialogue is just off the chain. Which is how it should have been in the movie.

My final gripe as far as characters go is with the Peacekeepers. Supposed to be the policing force, they’re totally lame and not intimidating. You want intimidating and memorable? Go with something like this.

http://www.starwars.com/watch/encyclo_tear_this_ship_apart.html

Or, if you want to stick with the Roman theme, go with a Centurion design. That works too.

4. The Setting

The Capitol is described as being in the middle of the Rocky Mountains with mountains surrounding it on all sides. In other words, it’s Denver. But, we get no real notion or idea where it is, for all we know it’s in DC. They also describe District 12 as being in Appalachia, in other words, West Virginia. But again, the audience isn’t informed about this, and we can’t connect with the setting at all.

Furthermore, there should have been way more Roman architecture to go with the theme. Steal a page from the book of Gladiator and have more white stone paved streets, arches, and pillared structures. Yet, maintain the futuristic feel by incorporating more technology into the vast courtyards and plantation styled houses.

5. The Little Things The Movie Has To Do

-Create a convincing romance between the main characters. This is foremost and premier (and is hardly a little thing_, this drives the movie. It’s boring and unconvincing, and it’s what the producers tried to make a movie about. Thus, the movie failed.

-Create an “Evil Empire” feel for the Capitol and the Government. This means NOT omitting the fact from the novel that the Muttations are given life from the corpses of the rest of the killed tributes.  Show their atrocities and their reign, create empathy for the rebellion and hatred for the Capitol.

-Be much more faithful to the book’s portrayal of Haymitch and Katniss’ relationship. They have an understanding but not a like of each other, which the movie doesn’t show at all. Woody Harrelson does a great job as Haymitch, his part simply isn’t written well at all. It’s like the director wanted to dumb down their relationship just so simplify the movie. Collins creates a unique dynamic between the characters, showcase it as best possible.

-Expand and enhance the scene where Thresh spares Katniss’ life. This is about a 40 second scene in the movie, where it’s several pages and is very dramatic and the book. Make the audience feel the pressure and the emotion of having to owe somebody for a kindness

-Show the REAL way that Katniss obtained the Mockingjay pin. In the movie, she gives it to Prim “for luck”. Apparently, it’s not lucky at all because Prim gets selected as Tribute. And still, Prim gives Katniss the pin as Katniss volunteers to take her sisters place, “for luck”. Uhhhhh……..why? It was just proven that that pin is not lucky what-so-ever.

-Include Cato’s Body Armor from the book. At “The Feast” where Katniss receives the medicine for her and Peeta. It’s integral to the plot, and the fact where in the movie she puts Cato out of his misery while being devoured by the Muttations. The body armor came without a facemask, which would amplify this further.

-Don’t skimp on the exposition of the movie. The audience needs to understand the disparity between not just the Capitol and Districts, but between the Districts themselves. Explain the universe as best possible.

-Don’t be afraid to push the limits of a PG-13 movie. I feel like this could have easily been up for a PG rating, whereas the book can get rather graphic and definitely merits a PG-13 rating with its brutality. You shouldn’t go overboard, it being a teen novel for the most part, but portray more of the violence more realistically, make the audience feel the pain and the sorrow in having children kill each other.

Despite all the negatives I’ve listed, the movie is very well cast (other than Sutherland) and the last 20 minutes are done particularly well. However, if you really like the book and have half a brain, you shouldn’t love the movie. I only enjoyed the book and I still hated the film. I did just purchase the second book which I’m told is an improvement, but there’s no way you could drag me to see the second movie after this chop job. My advice? If you want a good read, buy it cheaply (I did for $6) or borrow it from the library. It’s a good read and great concept that you won’t regret, but it without a doubt pales in comparison to Lord of the Rings or even Harry Potter. The book gets a 8/10 whereas the movie 5/10.