Visualizing Panem Post-Movies

Now that the entire Hunger Games series has been adapted to film, I’ve been taking stock in how these movies have impacted how I think about the book series. I’ll come right out with it and say it – while I LOVE SO MUCH about the movies, they will never top the books for me. There are some creative choices in the movies that I will adamantly reject forever and try to forget (mainly some parts of The Hunger Games movie and some scenes from the last 25 minutes of Mockingjay Part 2). Hmm, that sounds like fodder for a post, but for a later date.

On the other hand, there are some parts of these movies where everything fell into place and just was so RIGHT that it’s taken over how I visualize certain characters or scenes when I now re-read the books.

Right from the Start: Snow and Coin

SnowCoin

From first casting announcements of both Donald Sutherland and Julianne Moore, I felt really good about how these characters would translate to screen. They look the part and inhabit those roles in a way that fits so well with how I’ve imagined the characters. Donald Sutherland owns Snow so much for me now that I get chills when hearing his voiceover work on orange juice or airline commercials. President Snow wants me to drink orange juice. Yes, sir! I remember being surprised how sympathetic Coin was in Mockingjay Part 1, but it seemed very right for the progression of the character, and how she would have been without the framing of Katniss’s “unreliable narrator” perspective.

Oh. My. Finnick

Finnick cfFor those around the fandom in Catching Fire casting days, you remember what a BIG FREAKING DEAL this was. Lots of names thrown around to play Finnick. Lots of fan favorites. And Sam Claflin, a relative unknown (outside of roles in Snow White & the Huntsman and a Pirates of the Caribbean movie) was chosen. We had time to “get to know him” pre-CF. He was delightful on Twitter. Set photos leaked that were very promising. There was that Capitol Portrait with the pirate look. And then we saw him in the movie and YAY, IT WORKED.  He was Finnick. He is how I see Finnick now. Bravo.

Awesome Surprises From Smaller Roles: Paylor and Jackson

paylor jackson

One of the great, wonderful surprises of the Mockingjay movies was the development of these two characters, who I honestly never paid much attention to, at least during my first reading of the books. So Patina Miller and Michelle Forbes had the benefit of a cleaner slate to build these characters. And build them they did. They project authentic power and leadership so well that you don’t question the news that Paylor will be president, or Jackson’s role in Squad 451 in the slightest. When I re-read Mockingjay, I see those actresses in full costume. They ARE those characters now for me, and it’s enriched the reading experience.

An Interesting Mix: Effie and Haymitch

effie haymitch

The overly bright, colorful world of the Capitol in Suzanne Collins books is intentional. You have to admit though, that the Candy-Land-on-acid-type buildings would have been too distracting to deal with on screen so the “Capitol color” is restricted mostly to the people, not buildings. But with the costume, makeup, and hair styling of Effie, the team really nailed it, and Elizabeth Banks surely took charge of making that character her own. I think the decision to add Effie to District 13 was a good decision for Mockingjay Part 1, but still think Book!Effie follows a more realistic path for that character. I love how Elizabeth Banks gave the character more heart, but I don’t see Effie really changing that dramatically so quickly. In terms of how I visualize the character though, it’s all Elizabeth Banks in her full Capitol glory. Kudos to her and the design team for the creativity and transformation.

Then we come to Haymitch, who I always though of as more “Seam” in looks with darker hair and complexion, more damaged, more dirty, more foul, and much more drunk than we see in the movies. Regrettably, the movies give us a PG-version of Haymitch. Sure, you see him drinking, and his mockery and wit is there, but he’s nowhere near the abrasive drunk he is in the books.  I would have loved to see Woody Harrelson given full reign to make the character more rough. All of that being said, when I read the books, my mind sees Woody Harrelson and that blond wig. Somehow, he’s convinced my brain. He is Haymitch. The mind does what it wants. It’s interesting that this happened, considering this next part.

The Big Three: Love You Guys SO MUCH, but…

What about Katniss, Peeta and Gale? Jennifer Lawrence did a phenomenal job with Katniss. She grabbed hold of that character and owned the performance throughout the four movies. So much so that her voice is very much Katniss’s voice to me. I feel the same way about Josh Hutcherson, and Liam Hemsworth (well at least 90% for Liam, but he got better as the movies went along). For all the wonderful ways they inhabited these roles, my mind still can’t (or won’t) adapt. The way I perceive these three in my mind’s eye when reading the books is much different. The cast is perhaps too physically beautiful, too Hollywood, and for Katniss and Gale, yes, too much of northwestern European ancestry to cancel out how I’ve always imagined the three. It’s nothing against the actors, because those are things they can’t change and these were movies with certain expectations of super-Hollywood-esque attractiveness from the leads.  Katniss and Peeta especially remain murky visual concepts in my head, and I’m fine with that. It’s probably better that way for the two characters who I love the most.

Movies – they mess with your head in unexpected ways.

JJ

 

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One comment

  1. Mm, this was a very interesting topic.

    I love both the books and films, of course; both offer so much that I can’t separate them. To me, they must be taken together. Neither form is perfect, but as a whole this story/franchise is truly great.
    (And yes, why have I suddenly begun feeling such a compulsion to buy Simply Orange juice?? President Snow demands it…o_o)

    The way I picture everyone…is something like 60-90% the actors’ portrayals, merged with some of the best fanart I’ve seen that left lasting impressions on me. For most of them. I read the books after having seen the first two films once each and browsed the fanart, which is why I didn’t have preconceived images of my own. Most of the actors approximate their appearances as closely as possible, I think; of course you won’t find ones who look 100% spot-on exact, but this cast and crew underwent absolutely remarkable transformations into these roles. Outstanding.
    As for the trio–naturally, I adore their performances, but can understand still picturing them a little less “Hollywood”-looking. I kind of mentally project shading onto Katniss and Gale (or try to remember to do so), so that I can see their Seamy “olive” skin tones.

    Woody’s got me pretty well convinced, too–that’s Haymitch! His hair lightened with age (thanks to some “town” heritage?) and he dropped the paunch, okay? ;-p The films could’ve perhaps stood to show his darker side more. Woody & the rest of the filmmakers with any input on his look wanted him not to be the stereotypically filthy-looking, stain-covered drunkard, but rather for there to be just a little bit of a ‘fop’ or ‘dandy’ about him–in his own Haymitchy sort of way, naturally. I personally thought he was underused in CF & MJ1, which is something I’d alter if I could make adjustments to the films.

    Putting Effie into the first half of Mockingjay was definitely the right thing; makes me want to insert pages in the book to cover her presence, and edit the few scenes that were tweaked. But my understanding of her is very different from that of many people. Right from her introduction, I got the impression of someone who was putting on an act, playing a part–grinning and prancing and hopping about just like the submissive, fearful dog she is (or was, before being sparked up a bit by Katniss’ and Peeta’s actions.) She can’t change the way things are; all she can do is her stressful, hard-as-hell job to the very best of her ability, and focus on trying her damndest to help give the tributes the nearest possible thing to a ‘fair’ shot at survival. For all the frivolity and apparent ridiculousness, she is still real with them. I saw someone whose frustrating sense of powerless helplessness led to a seemingly control-freaky, compulsive/neurotic, type-A personality. Someone who doesn’t *want* violence of any kind and is often struggling to prevent ‘forbidden’ personal truths from bleeding through the mask. Who’s high-strung, tense, uptight, uncomfortable, anxious, uneasy, repressed, restrained, restricted, conflicted, trapped, paranoid, watchful on everyone’s behalf. Who speaks more honestly when the potential risk is only to herself. Who’s almost overcompensated in the effort to fit into her culture, but ultimately doesn’t. Who had to get used to pretending, yet often plays her part as if still trying to convince herself as much as anyone else. Who’s struggled to become “perfect,” and to fit the mold of something she’s expected but not really meant to be. Who’s grown up thinking that the compassion she feels must be weakness and foolishness, but who ultimately decides that she doesn’t owe the Capitol anything at its expense. Who loves and supports Katniss & Peeta so intensely not simply because they’re “winners,” or because of some underlying agenda, but because of who they are, how they’ve handled their situation, and what they represent. That’s just the essence of what I got from her.

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