Let the fandom ensue!

It’s only Monday, but WHAT A WEEK IT’S ALREADY BEEN! The Legend of Korra pilot episode was leaked online (amazing, by the way), the Hunger Games film comes out in two days at midnight (going to see it in IMAX, of course :-) ), and now the reviews are pouring in for the film! And they are extremely positive thusfar! I must be honest, I was pretty worried about the film. I just [still] don’t completely understand how the novels can be adapted successfully. However, I have finally let out a sigh of relief *sigh*. In fact, as of now on Rotten Tomatoes, the film has 100%! Granted, not all the reviews are in yet, but below you will find some snippets from reviews across the interwebz!

“The Hunger Games, a vision of human life in all its nasty, brutish brevity demands to be devoured… The Hunger Games is an essential science fiction film for our times; perhaps the essential science fiction film of our times. Whatever your age, it demands to be devoured.”
– Robbie Collin – Daily Telegraph

“the camera does mostly cling to Katniss, requiring a Herculean amount of heavy lifting from Lawrence. She bears the load. Stoical or heart-on-sleeve, afraid or defiant, the starlet hits the mark. Factor in archery skills to make Robin Hood soil his Lincoln greens and you have Katniss as Collins intended.”
Total Film

“The Hunger Games is enthralling from beginning to end, science fiction that has depth and intelligence to match its pulse-racing entertainment value.”
Digital Spy

Interestingly:

“Ross has done more than churn out a faithful adaptation of the book. His vision of the world of The Hunger Games is bigger, scarier, darker, and more political than the books ever dared to be.”
Den of Geek

I think we all know what scene this is:

“The most moving scene in the book becomes the moving scene in the film.”
Total Film

For those who compare it to Twilight:

“What’s remarkable is the lack of cheese. Tacky effects, corny dialogue and creaky performances are all shown the door. We repeat: not the new Twilight.”
Total Film



I will be with you all Thursday night — 11:59 PM SHARP — at theaters across the country, ready and giddy to experience The Hunger Games as we’ve been waiting to see it for what can only be textually described (in non-hyperbolic terms) as “an eternity!!”

May the odds be ever in your favor,
Sam.

Donald Sutherland’s Hunger Games Interview

AM I EXCITED FOR NEXT THURSDAY? I CANNOT EVEN BEGIN TO EXPLAIN HOW PSYCHED I AM FOR THE HUNGER GAMES PREMIERE!

The more videos I see from the film, the more excited I get. I already have my midnight IMAX tickets, and I hope you all go and buy your own before they’re sold out. I don’t even care that the closet IMAX is an hour away! 9:30 PM on Thursday, March 22 I am picking up my girlfriend and driving there. It’s kind-of hard to believe. As we get closer to the premiere, more tidbits, photos, and videos are revealed. I haven’t posted many of the videos, though. My reasoning: almost everything I’ve recently seen has been behind-the-scenes footage and spoilery items. Although… now that I write that, I realize I’ve already spoiled most everything about the series in previous posts. No matter!

I had to post this video. PopSugar recently did an interview with Donald Sutherland (President Snow) which was finally posted. You can view it below or here. I can honestly say this is the best interview I’ve seen from the film’s cast yet. Donald Sutherland is a immensly talented, classical-feeling actor. That is to say, he’s the type of actor that researches his role so much that he almost becomes the character. So, hearing him speak so highly of not only the source text but the film and Gary Ross’s vision is awe-some. Not only that, but he thinks this movie can “awaken a generation”.

The film will include two scenes not originally from the book involving President Snow. At least one of these scenes will take place in Snow’s rose garden. The scenes were apparently based on a letter Donald Sutherland wrote to Gary Ross regarding the psychology and internal reasoning for Snow’s actions. I know, right? How quaint, he wrote a letter! At least big actors are still supporting the USPS (look! I made a joke!). He makes some very good points regarding the challenges in bringing the book to film. Specifically how there are over 30 million mini-versions of the Hunger Games film already existing in every reader’s mind, and how Gary Ross had to bring all the imagery into one. By phrasing it in such a way, I am suddenly many times more excited and open to changes from how I envisioned the book. The best part? He simply brushes off the issue saying that “no one” will walk out of the theater disappointed.

May the odds be ever in your favor,
Sam.

Disney Theme Park Attractions as Adaptions

There has always been a connection between theme parks and films. Rides and live shows at theme parks around the world try to emulate the action in movies and television shows, and films often try to recreate the excitement and wonder in roller coasters and live shows. For instance, the mine cart chase in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is a clear reference to roller coasters. In fact, sound designer Ben Burtt even recorded roller coasters at Disneyland for the sound in the scene. The link between theme parks and film is even more uncanny. When a film is exciting or has you on the edge of your seat, reviewers often call it a “thrill ride.” How these films are adapted to attractions and vice versa leads us to see that certain concessions or additions are needed to make the change. Certain things are okay in live shows and rides that are not acceptable on the silver screen, and certain film tropes are impossible to pull off live.

One of the many limitations in adapting a film to a live show is the action. When building a live show, you want to bring the same emotion and suspense of the silver screen to an audience without special camera angles and close-ups. The way the audience interacts with actors fundamentally changed with the rising popularity of films. Due to the controlled environment where they are created, movies can depict more dangerous situations that live shows can only dream of trying to convey on stage. The rise of animated films with Disney allowed for even more imaginative situations than even live films could convey. They challenge for many attraction designers — in this case the Disney Company — was in making thrill rides and readapting these films back to live shows to market them efficiently. Often these shows would include a very basic story related to the source material with some music and dancing. For instance, a smaller Disneyland show on Aladdin might include actors reenacting a pre-recorded show of Aladdin saving Jasmine from some palace guards with a dance number or two. The audio would probably be pre-recorded by the Scott Weinger (the original Aladdin voice actor) and the rest of the original cast and the actors would “lip sync” the performance.

Recreating the classic airplane fist-fight scene from "Raiders"

Recreating the classic fist-fight scene from "Raiders"

Taking the Indiana Jones example, the series is connected with theme parks in many more ways than just sound effects. In response to the series’ massive success, Disney announced in 1989 the then-named Disney-MGM Studios in Florida would open the “Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular!” in collaboration with George Lucas. Lucas has already worked with Disney earlier to open the famous “Star Tours” simulation ride, so another collaboration for another popular series was only natural. In “Star Tours,” the task was to recreate the thrills of the Star Wars space travel scenes as realistically as possible for the audience to experience themselves. This new project presented a whole new task.

With Indiana Jones, the challenge was how to bring the excitement of what has been called “the ne plus ultra of blockbuster filmmaking” to an audience in a way that could be performed multiple times a day. Never one to be deterred by perceived limitations of any given medium, Lucas and the Imagineers concocted a live show with the intent of wow-ing the audience with dangerous stunts. The show includes a reenactment of several scenes from Raiders of the Lost Ark, including a temple-raiding segment, a fight in Cairo, and a fist fight with accompanying explosions. Rather than take the show as a serious narrative, the Indiana Jones actor is actually squished by the rolling boulder in the first scene. The music stops and a “crew” come on set and begin rolling the boulder back up it’s track as if it’s light as a feather. This makes way for a “director” character who walks out and addresses the crowd, explaining how all the action and danger in Indiana Jones is actually just an illusion. At first this might seem illogical for a director (George Lucas) to admit. Especially one so intent on making their films exciting. This highlights an important difference in action films and action drama. Indiana Jones isn’t a serious drama, it’s a light-hearted action movie less interested in violence and more in adventure. The Disney Imagineers also faced the issue of George Lucas’s plan to include multiple scenes from the film. Changing scenes as big as planned takes time. Stunt shows are also often akin to magic shows, where the majority of the show isn’t the trick itself, but rather the lead-up to it. Combining all this, the show was designed to initially highlight the actors are safe, so that the audience can simply enjoy the rest of the show and even laugh about it without worrying.

A hallmark of the Indiana Jones series is also its comedy. In order to appeal to this, part of the show also involves selecting audience members to be “extras” in the Cairo scene. However, one of the members selected is actually a “planted” stunt actor. Later in the show, this actor performs a death-defying stunt and the audience gasps, thinking an audience member inadvertently was in the line of fire. The actor jumps up and admits he was a stunt actor all along, one again declaring to the audience that it’s all just a performance. This is a way to once again grab the audience’s attention in a way that emulates Indiana Jones’ many near-death stunts.

The popularity of the Indiana Jones franchise only continued to grow after Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade was released. Indiana Jones attractions were eerily absent at Disneyland Anaheim. Thus, George Lucas again teamed up with Disney (and this time over 400 Imagineers) to produce “Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Forbidden Eye” (TheRaider.NET). This ride was truly a breakthrough in adaptation and storytelling. The thrill ride itself takes place in a specially-patened military-hummer-themed “motion vehicle” as you zoome through chambers, moving up and down past flying darts, snakes, over bridges, and past rolling boulders (Baxter et al.). However, that’s only half the ride. An entire backstory was created for the ride. The ride is “set in the Lost Delta of India, circa 1935″ (TheRaider.NET). This backstory is told through over a dozen letters scattered through the ride’s line. The “line” is a half mile long full-scale temple with 11 separate “chambers” you must navigate. The chambers branch and tell different parts of the story, the last room containing an optical illusion which makes it look like it is three separate rooms. The line itself is the first half of the story. Along with the letters, some news reels, and telegraphs, the chambers include moving spikes, skulls, animatronic snakes, hanging skeletons, claustrophobic walkways, and more. The point of this was to make the audience feel like Indiana Jones raiding a temple. The audience themselves explore a temple during the first half, then must escape during the second half via “modified military transport vehicles” (TheRaider.NET).

Blueprints for the special vehicles Disney used for the ride

This all begs the question why there is such a connection between films and theme parks. The Walt Disney Company is the most profitable media conglomerate in the world (Siklos). Walt Disney Parks and Resorts is the most visited theme park company in the world. Though not initially intended as such, the Disney film and Disney theme park businesses were destined to be eternally intertwined. The Disneyland park was created as a place for fans – young and old – of Disney’s vision to come and have fun and experience dreams come true. Disneyland and the later parks were originally dreamed up as “societies” with both residential and commercial areas. EPCOT was marketed by Disney as an actual city. These plans were scrapped after Walt Disney died and the Disney Company decided they did not want to run an entire city. Instead, they would focus on “experience” in their parks. Their famous Imagineers focus on bringing the imagination to life in their rides and shows.

Many films have been turned into rides. Not always successfully, either. Most theme park adaptions incorporate the original story into the ride’s vehicle-design specifically. “The Adventures of Winnie the Pooh” (based on the movie) involves vehicles shaped like honey pots. Alice In Wonderland has been adapted numerous times into different Disney attractions. For this ride, Disney took the classic “teacup ride” design and applied an Alice skin to it. Right next to the “Mad Tea Party” in the park is another ride entitled “Alice In Wonderland.” The ride vehicle here is a magic caterpillar which goes down the rabbit hole. Interestingly, Alice is only seen hidden behind a leaf in one small portion of this ride. The point of both these attractions is to make the visitor feel like Alice, either at the tea party or perusing through Wonderland. Interestingly, the “Alice In Wonderland” ride is one of the only rides Walt Disney regretted making because he said it “lacked a connection to the audience’s hearts” (Disney Wiki).

It’s fair to say that in general, films and theme park attractions have had tropes which can be hard to adapt between the two and keep the same feeling or spirit. However, the line between what’s possible and not in an attraction are constantly being blurred. How theme park adaptations will look ten years from now we can only imagine.

 

Works Cited:

 

“Alice in Wonderland (Disneyland Attraction).” Disney Wiki. Web. 17 Feb. 2012.

Baxter, Anthony W. et al. “United States Patent: 5623878 – Dynamic Ride Vehicle.” 29 Apr. 1997. Web. 17 Feb. 2012.

Siklos, Richard. “Why Disney Wants DreamWorks – Feb. 9, 2009.” CNN Money. Web. 17 Feb. 2012.

“TheRaider.net – Indiana Jones Attractions.” TheRaider.NET. Web. 17 Feb. 2012.

Trailer 2 dissection – the characters part 1

Let the discussion begin! Discussion of what? Of the Hunger Games trailer, of course! Sure, we got the posters a while back showcasing what some of the characters would look like, but now we have them in action! So let’s make like the true voyeurs we are and stare! And discuss!

Here’s Gale looking at Katniss during one of their wilderness excursions. While the trailer does indicate the film will follow the book very closely, they have to trim or change some things to fit the time. We just have to accept it. The book lists and mentions several of their excursions outside the fence which introduce important story elements. I’d bet Lionsgate combines some of the excursions into one, or else introduces plot points in other areas of the story. My worry about Gale is the fact Liam Hemsworth is playing him. He did a Miley Cyrus movie before this, for crying out loud. I hope he can actually act worth Read the rest of this entry »

Hunger Games trailer only first half of film

Another interesting tidbit of information has been revealed by Lionsgate about the trailer released last week. If you haven’t seen it yet, see it here or check it out below:

As any good reader of the book series can tell you, the trailer didn’t show any of the games themselves. Personally, I found that to be pretty cool. The trailer ended with the countdown to the games starting and the tributes sprinting towards the cornucopia. EPIC ending. However, there was a reasoning behind this! In a statement released by Lionsgate last week, they said:

“SANTA MONICA, CA (November 14, 2011) – The full trailer for the highly anticipated upcoming film THE HUNGER GAMES…. only shows footage from the first half of the film, chronicling events leading up to but not including the Games themselves.”
This was apparently done “In an attempt to preserve the anticipation and mystery that fans are relishing”.

Veh-hy interesting! Expect a two-part dissection of the trailer coming later this week.

May the odds be ever in your favor,
Sam.

Trailer 2 reaction

It’s out. It’s finally out. It’s hard to believe the full Hunger Games trailer is finally out. I have tranquilized my pure excitement enough to post my thoughts about what was seen.

My thoughts are, and I quote, “HOLY-MOLY-ME-OH-MAH GIMME MOAR” end-quote. It looks fantastic. Really. What I was most surprised about was how faithful to the story it looks like the film will be. Too often do we get annoying summary films of books that leave out so much that you end up walking out of the theater making excuses to your illiterate friends like “I swear, the original is wayy better than this was! Really!” *cough* The Last Airbender *cough* *cough* Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire – no, seriously. That book was the longest of the first four, and the shortest movie. I hadn’t read the fourth book at the time I saw it. It made no sense. It was awful. I was confused. End of example. *cough* The Hunger Games, however, looks like it will really stick to the original book.

One worrisome thing is the rating. The trailer was rated PG. In Canada it was rated G. That worries me. Thankfully, the rating only applies to the trailer, not the film itself. After all, the film is still in post-production, there’s no way it has a rating yet. So why did Lionsgate try for the “G” rating? Down With the Capitol says what they think the reasoning for this is:

The ‘G’ Rating only applies to the film’s trailer– probably a move on Lionsgate’s part to ensure that it can run before as many films as possible (trailers rated above a G are limited as to which kinds of movies they can run with).

So I really don’t think we have much to worry about on this front. But this does bring me to the point of ratings. Anyone who read the book would (or should) say that the film clearly deserves an “R” rating. This isn’t Harry Potter at school. This isn’t some teenage vampire drama. This is a film about children dying of hunger and murdering each other, usually in rather gruesome ways. However, the film will get a PG-13. We can be pretty sure of that. Lionsgate is laying everything on the line with this movie. If Hunger Games does poorly, it’s questionable whether they will be around to make movies for our kids to see (to put it nicely). They need to get the young-adult audience Harry Potter and Twilight captured.

Another thought occurred to me last night: did this trailer make the least bit of sense to anyone who didn’t read the book? I don’t know a single person who saw the trailer who didn’t like it, but did it make any sense. I know for myself, if I randomly saw that trailer at a theater my first reaction would be “what the heck is going on here??” I asked my dad, who saw the trailer and didn’t read the books: he said he thought it looked great, but had to have some parts explained by my mom and sis. All-in-all, I think we can say the trailer was clearly made as fan-service.

If you HAVEN’T seen the trailer yet, what the &*@# is wrong with you?? watch it here!

According to Mockingjay.net, it’s been confirmed that the Hunger Games trailer is going to run at the beginning of Breaking Dawn (you know, that mushy mess of sparkling vampires movie?). Not that you should go see that movie. I fully expect it will be bad. It would be very cool, however, to see this amazing trailer on the big screen!

May the odds be ever in your favor,
Sam.

Hunger Games Trailer 2 finally released!

In case you missed the epic reveal on GMA this morning, here’s the second official trailer for The Hunger Games movie. I need more time to take this all in, I may or may not be hypervenhilating right now….


*Phew* Okay, my heart rate is slowing again. I’ll put up more detailed thoughts tomorrow, once I take some time to look through the whole thing in detail. In the meantime:

May the odds be ever in your favor,
Sam.

Hello, slow news!

This has been a week full of a lack of anything worth noting in terms of what would be news but isn’t because it doesn’t exist. Therefor we have some random stories all piled into one!

First up, Vanity Fair recently did a photo shoot with the cast of The Hunger Games film. You can see the main image of the entire cast below. You can check out the rest of the photos over at Vanity Fair. The photos are very well done, even if they’re the same scenery as most Vanity fair photo shoots I’ve seen… though I must admit I don’t know what on earth they have to do with The Hunger Games at all. I realize these are just promo photos of the cast in general, not necessarily related to the film. However, these types of shoots always seem pretty pointless. Honestly I’d like some more pictures of the cast looking grimy and bloody and in the environment the characters will actually be in. The photos remind me of Twilight for some reason, and everyone knows how I feel about that series.

Next up is some Peeta information. As you all should know, Josh Hutcherson is Read the rest of this entry »

Hunger Games posters – all in one place!!

You thought I was going to miss this, didn’t you? The sudden release of SEVEN new Hunger Games posters by Lionsgate featuring some of the main characters of the series? Yeah. Those. Lionsgate brought on some top-level marketing staff from around the industry to help promote the Hunger Games film, and this looks like their big push out the gate. The seven posters were released strategically to seven of the biggest internet outlets on the web. These include Yahoo!, MTV, Moviefone, MSN, IGN, EW, and Teen. No doubt there was probably some bidding Read the rest of this entry »

South Park Games

The new South Park season has started. The Hunger Games film is drawing closer. What better way to celebrate these two clearly related events than by combining the two? That’s just what one fan has done. Utilizing some of the internet’s many “South Park character generators,” Hunger Games fans have made South Park avatars for the book’s characters. I’ve included a few of my favorites here. You can view the lot of them over at Hunger Games Examiner. Can you tell which characters are which? I think comparing Gale’s rough-n-tough appearance and Peeta’s clean-n-artsy appearance is pretty funny.

You might notice on the Hunger Games Examiner site a lack of captions denoting which character is which. I find it fascinating that, even without captions, one can clearly tell which avatars represent which characters. Even the more vague ones without backgrounds like Haymitch. It’s a testament to the character writing in the series. Either that, or the representational power of the South Park art style. Given the choices, however, I’d have to say mostly the first.

"The Girl On Fire" (duh... Katniss Everdeen)


Read the rest of this entry »