It’s Okay To Wonder

Earlier this week, Gary Ross said in an interview that it would have taken him at least eight months to properly prep and film Catching Fire. At the same time, Fox announced that it did not have a finished script for X-Men: Days of Future Past (the title apparently refers to a time jumping subplot of the comics. Thanks, floralsandstripes!) and thus will delay filming until April. If Fox had realized that they weren’t adequately prepared earlier, Gary would have gotten his eight months.

Gary Ross Bartholomew Biddle and the Very Big Wind Hunger Games director

Over us so soon?


A whole world of shoulda, coulda, woulda just opened up beneath our feet! Don’t feel guilty for wondering! We ALL wonder, even those of us who are cautiously optimistic about Francis Lawrence.

But then I remember my fiance’s response to The Hunger Games movie…
Him: Yeah, it was pretty good.
Me: Pretty good?! PRETTY GOOD?! Don’t you mean spectacular?
Him: I’m not saying it was bad. It was good! I just feel like something was missing.
(Quick Note: My fiance is not the movie critic type. He doesn’t hate on much of anything.)

The non-THG fanatics in my life had similar positive-but-still-pretty-neutral reactions. We can see it, even though that will never stop us from watching the movie repeatedly.

At the time, we weren’t really aware of Gary Ross’ process, as described by the man himself in this quote:
“I wear two hats. I don’t wear one hat. When you write and you direct that’s a linear process, it’s not a simultaneous process. I would’ve had to have written a script and prepped the whole movie in four months and on the first movie that’s a process that took me eight months. And I thought [Catching Fire] was a more difficult adaptation, not an easier one. I didn’t really feel I had the time I needed to live up to my own standards. And I haven’t had a moment’s regret.”

Before you get all hasty: COOL IT, HOMIES! YOU’RE MAKIN’ A SCENE! This is not a Gary Ross hate post! We’ve noticed that it’s kind of hip to hate on Gary Ross now that he’s left the franchise, but that ain’t happening here. Gary Ross was always be Boss for kickstarting this fandom right, but maybe this quote proves that a change in the reins isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Francis Lawrence experience director collaboration The Hunger Games Lady Gaga Water for Elephants

F-Law: Used to collaborating with some interesting characters…

The script for Catching Fire was the work of two Oscar winners, Simon Beaufoy and (allegedly!) Michael Ardnt, which probably wouldn’t have happened with Gary Ross at the helm. He writes the final version of all his film scripts. He’s a talented writer, but other talented writers may have been cut out of the picture. Gary had a very heavy hand in everything, including deciding every camera angle before shooting ever began and designing sets based on his specific vision. He describes his “neurotic” involvement in the DVD extras. Again, these aren’t bad things, but there’s valuable input from others being cast aside in what seems to be the “If you want something done right, do it yourself” approach.

We agree with what Hunger Games Fireside Chat discussed about three weeks ago: The more co-operative approach that Francis Lawrence is taking could yield interesting results. There’s more risk! It could blow up in his face. The costume designer or set guy or lighting supervisor could suck and an angry mob of fans will storm the Lionsgate office in an attempt to be the Mockingjay and lead a rebellion against Francis! We imagine they’d poke him with Mockingjay pins. BUT there could also be more surprise and vigor. One thing about The Hunger Games is that it’s pretty monotone. You can sense the strict control over the production as you watch it. Maybe Lawrence allowing other crew members be more actively involved in the creative process will breathe new life into the series.

Plus, if Gary Ross has no regrets about backing away from the series, maybe we shouldn’t feel that way either. We’ll always wonder what HIS Catching Fire looked like, but we’re interested to see the new team’s version even more.

“I Think She Would Tell You It’s Okay to Wonder” (Name that book!),
The Girl With The Pearl



  1. You’re welcome! I never know if this thing will let me sign my name “Elizabeth” or default to my nonexistent blog’s title.

  2. See, that time it didn’t put “floralsandstripes.” Le sigh. I feel not even the slightest worry about Francis Lawrence’s take on this, especially since he’s bringing in a lot of collaborators. It’s good for the ego and good for the final production to have checks and balances. And homeboy knows he’s got a target on his back and has a lot of expectations to live up to.

  3. Jennifer said in her latest interview that Francis’ style is more “fantastical” compared to Gary’s. How this will look, or what exactly she means, we’ll see, but I think it sounds like a good change for CF and MJ movies – the realistic style worked great for THG, but the Quarter Quell is by its nature a lot more SciFi than the 74th Games, and a more surreal quality would work for the later movies, what with Katniss’ (and pretty much everyone’s) mental state being much less balanced as the story goes on.

  4. As I said in my reply to the “Studio Games” post, I get a feeling that even if Gary got those 8 months and stayed on for Catching Fire, he may very well have decided to walk after that and NOT stay on for the MJ films. It seems that MJ, while released in two parts, will be produced/filmed as one long movie. Which means that Gary would have had to write a script that is twice as long, and likely taken twice as much time to write. Especially since the MJ movies will probably wind up having a lot of extra material that didn’t appear in the book, such as scenes outside Katniss’s POV, and perhaps more detail about what happened after the war. Pretty challenging.

    So, even if the Studio Games had given Gary the 8 months he wanted for CF, it seems that he would have needed even more time between CF and MJ than between THG and CF; and that just wouldn’t have worked out. Note that it seems Danny Strong is ALREADY working on the MJ script as we spea- – er, type. That kind of multitasking is possible with an ensemble writing/directing/micromanaging group, but not for a guy like GR who works in a “linear” manner.

    It just seems that GR’s directing style was never really suited for a franchise series with a tight production schedule like this one. I think the man himself realized that. And if this split was inevitable, I think it was much better for it to come after THG than after CF. Because tying CF and MJ together is much more important. Note that the original book MJ itself got flak from many readers for being too dissonant compared to the first two. Many readers complained, for example, that Katniss, Peeta, Gale, and others came across as completely different characters, even accounting for the traumatic events that affect them. So, having SOME kind of continuity would be important.

  5. @Satsuma: I don’t think that they came across as different characters at all. I think that’s called character development. And contrary to how many people see that word, character development doesn’t just mean people becoming more wonderful as time goes on, it also means people going off the rails under traumatic conditions. This reminds me of the complaints of people who hated Buffy in later seasons because she was “dour” and “not fun” after all the losses she had suffered and all she went through and after having the weight of the world on her shoulders for so long. Basically, I think that many people are only willing to account for traumatic events if their portrayal amounts to a character having a few scenes of grief and suffering in a beautiful way for a while but remaining pretty much the same person from start to finish. The idea that traumatized people may be a bit unpleasant to be around, and that PTSD, depression and mental illness of any kind isn’t pretty to watch, seems like something that people would prefer the fiction to ignore.

    There’s nothing about Katniss, Peeta, Gale or others in Mockingjay that doesn’t stem from their characterizations in the earlier books – it’s just that what they are like doesn’t match with some people’s idea of what they were like. Gale, in particular, doesn’t change at all, just shows some of his character traits that never were obvious before since he wasn’t in that situation. There’s foreshadowing even early in the first book, when he tells Katniss that hunting animals and hunting people is the same thing. Or, for instance, Katniss having children: Katniss was always a family-oriented person (it’s just that it was “Prim and mom” at the beginning, and it’s “Peeta and the children” at the end) and her “I’m never having children” stance never came from any sort of feminist rejection of heteronormative values or whatever some readers wanted to read into her, but from a combination of her fear of the reaping and the general awful conditions in Panem, her fear of losing loved ones that she’s had since her father’s death, and, I think, also somewhat from her insecurities about her own ability to be a good mother (e.g. in CF she believed that Peeta would be a great parent, but didn’t think the same about herself). And the very fact she was insisting so much on not having children, rather than ignoring the issue, sounded very “doth protest too much”.

    And yeah, I know you’re just reporting what others have said, not necessarily agreeing with it. I’ve read some of your posts about hijacked!Peeta, and you seem to be one of the few people who see him the same way I do. I was surprised to see that so many people treat it as if Peeta was possessed or suddenly became another character.

  6. Over all, I think Gary did an amazing job on THG. But I agree that there are some drawbacks to his “linear” process. He said that he doesn’t know how to do it any differently.

    I don’t know enough about FLaw to know whether this collaborative process for Catching Fire is out of necessity or how he normally works, but I agree that – though more risky – it also provides an opportunity for a more dynamic and powerful movie. I just had a similar thing happen personally with one of my writing projects: the other people involved brought it to a whole different level of excellence because they had gifts that I don’t have. But I agree that part of the risk with having several cooks in the kitchen is that the director needs to make sure the end result is cohesive overall.

  7. I won’t lie, I am a bit biased against FLaw because I *hated* what he did with I am Legend. I know most of the blame should go to the script writer for butchering the ending, but FLaw also made some very unfortunate directing choices. I hope he proves me wrong with CF, because I am not that fond of him.

    I think Gary is a much better screenwriter than director. I wish he could’ve stayed on as a screenwriter because I think he really understands the material.

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