The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and thoughts on being entertained

November 25, 2013

Another “Squee!” movie for me.  I like the books a whole lot and this was a good adaptation.  Just as nerve wracking as it needed to be, good off-the-rails science fiction fun.  My terrible confession:  I actually feel a little bit sorry for Effie Trinket.  She’s trying so hard.  She’s so trapped in the system.  She’s got a role, and even when she suspects it’s terribly wrong she can’t at all consider stepping outside that role.  I think her clothes get fluffier the more awful she’s feeling.

So, two “Squee!” movies in a row!  I am spoiled!  This got me thinking yet again about what I want out of my entertainment. As an entertainer myself, I’m very interested in this question, because it helps me figure out how to write my own books.  What should I put in?  What should I leave out?  How do you craft a narrative to evoke an emotional reaction?

You know how people say, “Well, it’s a pretty good movie if you just shut your brain off?”  You know how infuriated that makes me?  Because it means you’re doing exactly what corporate filmmakers expect you to do:  not care if a movie is dumb, as long as it has pretty CGI and explosions and crap.  WE DESERVE BETTER.

What I’ve realized:  I absolutely LOVE being able to shut my brain off during movies.  Because when it happens for me, it means it’s a really good, fun, entertaining movie.  Seriously, I want to be able to shut my brain off during movies.  I want to be entertained!  I write for a living, I don’t want to spend a movie — my fun time — figuring out how to fix something that’s broken!

So I love it when my writer brain (mostly) shuts off.  (It rarely entirely shuts off.  Thor Dark World and Catching Fire both have fairly rigid three-act structures and make use of escalation and so on.  I could track it.)  Bad movies are bad precisely because they will not let me shut my brain off.  I can’t ignore it when bad writing throws me out, when the plot is nonexistent or becomes too forced to bear, when it becomes clear that the filmmakers think I’m an idiot and won’t notice that their movie is dumb.

So yes, those people who say I should just shut my brain off are absolutely right.  Movies are better when I shut my brain off.  But it’s up to the movie to earn my trust so that I’m able to turn my brain off.  It’s not a gift.  They have to earn it.



3 Responses to “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and thoughts on being entertained”

  1. Vickie B Says:

    We saw this yesterday morning and I heartily concur. Totally *squee* worthy flick. I, too, feel for Effie. Bless her, she is trying very hard to help. I was very glad to see her role improved in this one. I suddenly realized she had a ‘stage persona’ with her affected accent and her ‘offstage human persona’ and was more warm and less accented.
    I did not want to leave my seat once. Faithful to the book and very well done.

  2. Griggk the goblin Says:

    It’s not so much about shutting your brain off any more than it’s about shutting your nose off…if something stinks, you smell it. If something blows its own internal logic, your bullshit filters should catch it and toss it up for the conscious brain to analyze.

    I was watching “Man of Steel” last night, and my internal logic filters were clogging…Kryptonians can fly, but if they are thrown, they can’t steer and become ballistic missiles. An artificial intelligence can have full control over the hatches and life support systems of a ship, but can’t lock the hatches and reduce life support until the bad guys pass out? High tech Kryptonian armor is useless against energy beams, fists, and knives…

    …but it was a very pretty movie. Hoping “Catching Fire” holds to its own internal logic, but it was my least favorite of the trilogy.

  3. Carbonman Says:

    what you say is so true; if you can’t turn your brain off during a movie, you can’t be fully drawn into that universe.
    My wife and I thoroughly enjoyed Catching Fire. I was quite faithful to the book and the run time wasn’t edited down to under 2 hours so more screenings could be run. Kudos to the studio!
    Note that it’s also not in 3D. Good stories don’t need it; the audience is drawn into the events through great storytelling. BTW, I loved the change of expression on Jennifer Lawrence’s face in the last few seconds. Who wants to get in her way now? Not me!

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