The Hunger Games: Two Movies, Two Directors

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Different directors bring a different style or emphasis to the film, even when cast with actors we know and love. The Hunger Games (2012 PG-13) was directed by Gary Ross and the sequel The Hunger Games:  Catching Fire (2013 PG-13) by Francis Lawrence.  Each stayed true to the young-adult novel the film is based upon, yet each director has a distinct style.

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Hunger Games director Gary Ross

Director Gary Ross, in the Hunger Games, took pains to paint the bleak living conditions the people endured, and the emotional price they pay for living in under an oppressive government.  This government, currently led by President Snow (Donald Sutherland), conducts elaborate annual games in which two children from each district are pitted against other children in a fight to the death in an artificial jungle arena, broadcast live for all the people to see.  Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), from District 12, are sent to kill or be killed.  But Peeta has secretly loved Katness for years.  Can his love save them both?

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Director Ross creates a dismal atmosphere, in which the Hunger Games celebration in the Capitol rings false and death lies behind every bush or bug in the Arena.  The film is intense, and there are so few light moments, that when Peeta makes a little joke while in the Arena, the audience is so battered that they don’t get to enjoy it.  It’s a tragic, oppressive movie about a tragic story set in an oppressive world, and the director doesn’t let you forget it.

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Catching Fire director Francis Lawrence

Director Francis Lawrence, in the Catching Fire sequel, can build on the audience’s memory of the Hunger Games setting, and doesn’t need to show the bleakness as much.  President Snow is not happy that both Katniss and Peeta survived, stirring rebellion in the districts, and plots to force them back in the Hunger Games along with other Hunger Games survivors from the past years.  Surely Katniss will be killed and the rebellion squashed.

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Director Lawrence brings a lighter touch to the second movie.  The living conditions in the Victors Village do look stark and cold, but comedic moments are added with the funny remote camera scene.  And Effie (Elizabeth Banks), who is in charge of preparing Katniss and Peeta for their many public events before fighting to the death, shows her emotions in this film for light comedic effect, while in the first we only get glimpses of her being disturbed by her job of preparing children for death.

You probably have noticed differences in movie series shot by different directors.  Think of the Harry Potter series (directed by Chris Columbus, Alfonso Cuaron, Mike Newell, and David Yates) or the Twilight movies (Catherine Hardwicke, Chris Weitz, David Slade, and Bill Condon).  Do you have a favorite?

4 Comments

Filed under Movies

4 responses to “The Hunger Games: Two Movies, Two Directors

  1. Great thoughts. I way preferred Catching Fire (movie) over the Hunger Games (movie). I would have to think about Harry Potter as I love that series so much and it is hard for me to choose as I loved some of the books more than others and not sure if that makes my movie choices bias or not 🙂

    • The ‘book bias’ certainly does effect our choice for favorite movies in a series, I think. Several friends didn’t like the third book in the Hunger Games series. I wonder if they will even see the movie when it comes out? Thanks for the comment, Sheila!

  2. Good review. Definitely more than just a movie about a romance involving two young adults. It’s become something rather larger and more tense now, and it’s something that has me look forward to what’s next to come.

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