Because you are surely not aware at this point, a very popular movie called The Hunger Games (which is based on a very popular book called The Hunger Games) will be available for your consumption at midnight. But you already know that (and likely have tickets). Because of this monumental occasion, CinemaBlend's Katey Rich (a die hard Hunger Games fan); Indiewire's Matt Singer (a Hunger Games curmudgeon) and myself (falling somewhere in between of those two) decided an obsessive chat about The Hunger Games was in order. (Minor spoilers, ahoy!)
Matt: To set the mood I'm eating a sandwich.
Katey: I am so hungry already.
Mike: I just ate a Berry Bar from Pret A Manger.
Katey: That is not food you're likely to find in the Games, Mike!
Matt: Panem backwards is Me nap. Just FYI.
Mike: Is that what you did during the screening?
Katey: Yeah, that sounds like a revelation into your experience, Matt.
Matt: Nah. No napping.
Mike: So, Matt, have you purchased your official Katniss Everdeen sleeping bag/lawn darts set yet?
Matt: No, but I do have my Katniss Everdeen evergreen lawn care system from Scotts Turf Builder.
Katey: If they sold a Katniss-branded lawn dart set, I might buy it. May as well disclose that from the start. Mike, you have done a remarkable turnaround from "What are Hunger Games?" to "Team Peeta!"
Mike: See, I wouldn't go that far. The book was ... fine. I enjoyed the film more than the book.
Matt: I have not read the book. I was pretty bored by the movie.
Katey: I have read the book, and I also liked the movie better, but I do get being bored, especially if you're not attached to the material -- somehow the Games themselves are kinda dull.
Matt: I was more bored by the stuff before the Games, actually. Which felt like an hour of fan service that didn't really matter to the film, but was crucial to readers.
Mike: I wouldn't go that far. I think they had to establish that, to the people in the Capitol, the Games are just an excuse to party and watch television.
Matt: I guess. But once the Games begin, the fact that the whole thing is televised is barely mentioned.
Mike: How do you figure? We see play-by-play announcers...
Katey: We see people watching at home...
Mike: Gale! Gale is so upset when Katniss and Peeta kiss!
Katey: That shot was a little goofy. That was the only part of the movie where the audience laughed and it wasn't intentional.
Mike: That shot of Gale reminded me of Giovanni Ribisi in That Thing You Do. The seemingly unimportant character who got left behind -- and when we see him, later, watching the success of what he missed out on, it's funny.
Matt: I guess I was confused because the Games are supposedly there to mollify the public, but the big time they show people watching the Games, they start a riot. So if people riot over this stuff, why have it?
Katey: The Games are there to remind the public that the Capitol can destroy them -- and to entertain the people in the Capitol, who don't tend to see the people from the districts as humans. I thought the movie did a pretty good job of creating a visual distinction between the poor districts and the garish people in the Capitol.
Matt: I guess that distinction didn't come across clearly. The reason for the Games, not the costumes. Yes, that was very clear. The people in the Capitol have watched a lot of The Fifth Element and Lady Gaga videos and they dress accordingly. Is this all stuff in the book or stuff that's also in the movie and I missed it because of Me Nap? (NOTE: I did not actually nap.)
Katey: The uprising stuff is in the very beginning. In the video they show at the reaping. Matt, you clearly don't get the depths of this book beloved by 10 year olds
Matt: Obviously. Hey, here's another question I had. Why's everyone so hungry?
Mike: Well, when the human body hasn't eaten food, it causes a sensation known as "hunger."
Matt: I get that they're all under the rule of this despotic dictator. But overpopulation doesn't appear to be a problem. Where Katniss lives is really green. It's all trees and forests. Why not just grow some crops?
Mike: Well, yeah, but it's illegal for her to be out there. She's not supposed to be in the woods like that.
Katey: Remember how she has to jump under the fence to get out there?
Mike: I'll side with Matt on this one. That's not explained in the film ... at all.
Matt: OK, so jump under the fence and plant some potatoes.
Katey: All right, fair. I think a problem with The Hunger Games, in general, is that the world it's set in is more interesting than the story we're given to follow. And while I think they do a pretty good job of establishing this world onscreen, there are details that make it even more interesting that they don't have time for.
Matt: They spend ten minutes explaining what "sponsors" are -- these people who they claim have a huge impact on the Games, but generally don't -- but they don't really explain the extent to which the state controls these peoples' lives (and their diets).
Mike: How do you figure? How do you think Katniss got her soup?
Matt: The gifts she gets are signed by Woody Harrelson's character -- so why not just slightly alter the story so he's the one sending them?
Mike: Well, then that takes away the aspect of "playing up the romance angle." Because they did that for the sponsors.
Matt: I guess. So, can you name one sponsor? They spend an awful lot of time talking about them in the abstract. Who are they?
Katey: So, I think the importance of the sponsors is misunderstood by people who didn't read the books. Which, of course, is the movie's fault. The sponsors are important for providing stuff, but the "romance angle" is more for the viewers at home -- making it a good TV show.
Matt: You said it's for the people in the Capitol. And the Capitol only does the show to intimidate the masses.
Mike: But the sponsors respond to the ratings. Like they're investments. So If the people at home like the romance angle, the sponsors will donate.
Matt: So why try to please them if you're trying to intimidate them? I'm sure all of this stuff makes perfect sense if you've read the book.
Mike: Like President Snow said: hope is more powerful than fear.
Katey: I guess it's a combination of both-- you intimidate them by taking their kids, but you make them invest in the Games, too.
Matt: But as someone who hasn't, I was totally befuddled by this stuff. All of it was left in so the fans of the book could see it, but all of the context was taken out because otherwise a two-and-a-half-hour movie would have been a four-hour movie. But I'm tired of kvetching. I want to hear what you guys liked about it. Because I'm in the minority here. The girl two seats down from me was bawling. BAWLING ... over one particular scene. So obviously people have a strong connection to this. I'm just totally dead inside. Let's just say it's when one of the characters dies, and obviously she had read the books and knew it was coming. And sobbed and sobbed anyway. Did either of you guys get choked up by the movie?
Katey: Yeah, and in the same scene I think we're talking about.
Mike: After the scene that you just mentioned, it cuts back to the district of that character. I'll admit, that scene got to me.
Katey: Honestly, watching all this stuff, I assumed it would work for someone not familiar with the books, but Matt you're the second non-reader I've spoken to who didn't really like it, and now I'm worried I just lost perspective by knowing the story.
Matt: Well it might work on a non-reader who's not dead inside like I am. Was the other person you spoke with a cold, soulless shell like I am, Katey?
Katey: Yes-- it was David Ehrlich.
Matt: Look, the film is made with undeniable skill and craft.
Katey: I think it's fair to get caught up in the confusing details, but I also think Jennifer Lawrence's performance, the interesting side characters, the world-building, and a lot of the action are captivating on their own.
Matt: The actors are good, and I was impressed with some of the technical aspects of the film, particularly the use of subjective sound to put us inside the mind of Katniss.
Mike: Tracker jackers are scary.
Matt: The name "tracker jackers" is not, though.
Mike: "Come on down and test drive the 2013 Dodge Tracker Jacker."
Katey: Or the subjective shaky camera work -- which is egregious in some parts, but really effective in others. I was really grateful that the movie didn't feel as stiff as the Twilight movies or some of the Harry Potters. It took the material and had a point of view on it, which is far more than I expected. I'll admit, I didn't think once about the shaky camera. Perhaps, after all of these years, I'm just used to it.
Mike: It's not like it was Cloverfield shaky.
Matt: Or perhaps we were sitting in the very last row of the theater Mike. And so the shaky cam was not as extreme on the eyes for us.
Katey: There's one key scene of hand-to-hand combat, near the end, that I thought the shaky cam destroyed. For the most part, though, I didn't mind it -- again, I liked that they tried to do something with the cinematography, rather than just set up the scenes the fans want, light them, and go.
Matt: I hate shaky cam, and I've seen people complaining about it online, but it didn't bother me very much in this case.
Katey: But I do repeat: Don't see this in IMAX. It'll make you ill and it's unnecessary.
Mike: I feel bad for the one person reading this thinking, "When are these three going to talk about Wes Bentley's soup like last time?" For you, one person, I apologize.
Matt: This movie was all about Wes Bentley's beard, not Wes Bentley's soup.
Mike: Oh, man, that was something. I like to think that it was his own creation. That he just showed up like that.
Matt: I felt like Wes Bentley was auditioning to play Adrien Brody in the next disposable razor commercial.
Katey: That beard really was something -- it totally bested Donald Sutherland's. This is Wes Bentley saying "Remember meeee?? I'll make sure you do!"
Mike: You just know that at some point Sutherland was heard screaming, "That bastard is trying to show me up!"
Katey: Sutherland will have his chance. His character isn't even supposed to be in the first movie. His best stuff is yet to come
Mike: So, Matt, are you looking forward to Catching Fire? At all?
Matt: Are you asking if I'm looking forward to the book or to angry Hunger Games fans trying to light me on fire after they read this?
Mike: Both, actually.
Katey: I think we're all somehow underestimating just how big this movie will be
Matt: I'm not -- this movie is going to be huge. Every girl like the one sitting next to me who's going to need therapy for three years because of this movie is going to see it 100 times.
Mike: How can we get Matt to read the book?
Katey: Matt, it will take you two hours to read the book. You surely have a long subway ride ahead of you at some point.
Matt: The only way I'm reading this book is Clockwork Orange-style strapped to a chair with you guys eye-dropping me every three minutes.
Katey: Don't rule that out!
Matt: Most important question: Twilight or Hunger Games?
Katey: Oh, Jesus, Hunger Games. Have you ever read the Twilight books? They're barely even in English.
Matt: Does the movie deserve a PG-13? Should it be R-rated? Is it too mature for kids?
Mike: The subject matter it too mature -- but I thought the actual violence was pretty tame. A lot of slick editing to make it look like you're seeing something gory, but you don't actually see much gore.
Katey: Yeah, I think they pulled it off pretty well.
Matt: Someone on Twitter pointed out that kids cursing in the documentary Bully gets an R, but kids killing one another in The Hunger Games, for real, gets a PG-13, which I thought was an interesting point. Oh, speaking of kids getting killed, who was the shrimpy kid with the red afro? He cracked me up every time he came on screen because you just know he's gonna be the first one to die.
Mike: Ralph Malph IV?
Matt: Winkles McHardwire? Torton Jamesmith? Vlampoo Kamptown? Zorgon Rinklebottom? How many of these can I do before the hate mail starts pouring in?
Mike: Three more.
Matt: Latka Pollywolly? Quaker Weezeflax? Ascap Jumproger?
Mike: Is it out of your system now?
Matt: Yeah, I'm good.
Mike: OK, last thing: What's your final takeaway from the theatrical version of The Hunger Games?
Katey: Jennifer Lawrence single-handedly ensures it's better than the book. She really makes the movie spectacular.
Matt: A lot of teenage girls are going to take up archery this summer.
Mike: That will be a trend piece. How archery training is completely booked.
Katey: I did archery at camp when I was seven. I am happy to give lessons for high-paying clients.
Mike: "Want to learn how to shoot your peers, just like Katniss Everdeen? Katey Rich will teach you how."
Matt: Mocking Kay (Tee) Archery
Mike: And with that -- me nap.
Katey: I like all these names for the poor kid. Though none beat Caesar Flickerman
Matt: Cramptown Doohickey? Schmoopstock Hunklering? Neergarden Inkheat?
Mike: John Carter.
Matt: Ba dum bum.
Katey Rich is the editor-in-chief of Cinemablend.com. You can follow her on Twitter.
Matt Singer has contributed to IFC, Sundance Channel and is a critic for Indiewire. You can contact him directly on Twitter.
Mike Ryan is the senior writer for Moviefone. He has written for Wired Magazine, VanityFair.com and GQ.com. He likes Star Wars a lot. You can contact Mike Ryan directly on Twitter