One of the best parts of the end of the year is that the film industry pulls out all the plugs to bring some really diverse films. So to give you a taste of just how diverse I am in my film taste, I thought I’d write a sort of film review mash up and discuss all 3 things in one post! Caution: this is full of spoilers and raw opinions!
1. THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE
It’s been just long enough since the first film for Jennifer Lawrence to transform from a relatively unknown talent to a superstar with an Oscar win. Still, the role of Katniss Everdeen fits her like a glove in the first film and now again sequel.
As a fan of the books, I was surprised that even while adding to the plot, Francis Lawrance and the team have really captured the tone and intensity of the novel. This film was visually more engaging than I could have imagined. It has been a while since I first read the book, so I admittedly didn’t remember all the plot points, but the way I imagined the arena was pretty much just a vision if what they put on film. That rarely ever happens! To top it off, the two crucial new characters of Finnick and Joanna were just as well-suited as the rest of the cast. Jena Malone shines despite her character’s rough edges. And Sam Claflin running through the trees looking for Annie was almost too much. Spot on.
The noticable change in style between this film and its predecessor mostly has to do with the decrease in handheld shaky cameras and in jump cuts. I think the fact that the film was also partially in IMAX also adds to the new visual scope. In addition, the costumes were each a character, as they ought to be when juxtaposing the glitz and plastic culture of the Capitol with the reality of more senseless killing. Why did this film end? At least it captured the same cliffhanger as the book.
2. THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG
This film received a lot of backlash up front just because of the fact that audiences and Tolkien fans knew that this installment would naturally include less of the book that the first film. But despite myself, I thought that the diversions from the book were appropriately cinematic. The book is made up of episodes which pile up into an eventual climax, not really great for structuring one film, much less 3 of them! In that sense, I see why the film makers felt the need to separate the dwarves along their journey and to dramatize thE events still to come.
And also, Tauriel is not in the book. I didn’t mind! (I think this is the part where I should tell you that I have a huge HUGE obsession with THE LORD OF THE RINGS. However, that has grown and developed with me over the years. Tolkien is to my writing what Jackson is to my love of films; I am a writer and a cinephile because of their work!) Even though I’m mildly creeped out by the idea that Legolas and Kili needed a love interest in anyone’s mind, I really value the decision that Jackson, Walsh, and Boyens made to include a prominent female character in this film. An elf was totally the way to go, too, because we need the tension between elves and dwarves to carry into the final act of the story.
As far as some of the other stuff added, like Gandalf being captured at Dol Guldur, get back to me next year after I’ve seen the last film. I will reserve the ultimate judgment until then.
The other stand out is the dragon SMAUG who is every bit as menacing in the film as he is in the book. I am very pleased that he will carry into the last film. His presence and weight simply reinforce how awesome the character of Bilbo is! I mean, who would be brave enough to attack giant spiders with a little blade like Sting? And then try to talk your way out of being burned alive by a dragon? For real.
Like with CATCHING FIRE, I wasn’t finished when the movie ended!
3. SAVING MR. BANKS
This film has been on my radar for months because of Emma Thompson and Tom Hanks. For real, could you have asked for a better odd couple than these two seasoned actors? I also really like the whole meta idea that Thompson is a writer, although it’s difficult to imagine anyone as surly and difficult to please as P.L. Travers, so the comparison between her and her character ends there.
The cinematography and the interplay of Travers’s childhood in Australia with the present action are genius. I think the casting of Colin Farrell as Travers Goff, the author’s father, was also inspired. His combination of childish abandon and heart-breaking pain greatly informs how the audience experiences the author’s fierce protection of her creative property in the main story. Also, he had great chemistry with the young actress who plays Helen Goff as a child.
Hanks and Thompson are phenomenal, but I must say that the scenes between Thompson and Paul Giamatti, who plays her driver, are the most outstanding. I can’t even properly summarize their relationship without belittling the subtlety. There is almost warmth in how she berates and abuses him for the first half of the film just because of Giamatti’s simple optimism in the face of it.
I think this film is on its way to becoming just as much of a classic as MARY POPPINS herself. I also hope for a few awards to go the way of this film, despite some stiff competition.