01:45 am - Two Movies Well Worth Seeing Last week I saw John Carter, and it was as visually stunning as Avatar, while being both considerably better in terms of the plot making sense as well as far less offensive. It was lovely, the plot worked, the hero could perform impressive feats because he was essentially Superman (ie he came from an environment with a much higher gravity) on Barsoom, Dejah Thoris was both a skilled warrior and a scientist and well acted by Lynn Collins, and both facts were important to the plot, Tars Tarkus was played wonderfully by Willem Dafoe, Sola was an interesting and complex character with her own story arc, and amazingly the sex of female tharks was actually not exceptionally obvious. Taylor Kitsch can't act his way out of a paper bag, but everyone else made up for this also, [Spoiler (click to open)]the helpful and heroic Martian "dog" actually survived the film, I kept expecting it to die in a scene of cheap pathos, and it didn't, a fact that contributed to the film's overall humanity.
teaotter and I saw The Hunger Games today. As I'd read, it was quite impressive from a gender PoV – As this article discussed, Katniss Everdeen is an unusual character for modern US film or even for wildly successful modern YA novels. TV is typically considerably more progressive (and simply more adventurous) than film, and we had Xena and Buffy in the 90s, but Katniss isn't inherently outside the range of humanity, like Buffy or Xena. Also, and perhaps most importantly that fact that she's a female hero is less important than the fact that she's a hero, and that's not something that I've seen very much in any US film. Later this year, we have Brave, and Snow White and the Huntsman both coming up later this year – interestingly enough in a year also featuring both the Republican War on Women, and also a significant feminist push-back against this.
It was an interesting film in other ways – the scene where the tributes were initially styled reminded me (certainly intentionally) of the make-over scenes in America's Next Top Model, and the entire feel of the movie was informed by reality TV. However, it was also discomfiting and a bit frustrating to watch a film about injustice and the first stirrings of revolution to overthrow a truly hideous society, which also clearly contained as little social commentary as the people who made it could possibly manage. I haven't read the book (preferring to avoid YA dystopias) and so don't know if the book contained much in the way of social commentary, but I suspect not. It's equally clear that in the modern US, if the film had contained significant social commentary it would not have been a big-budget picture, but this lack was still frustrating, since it felt like it should have been there. In some ways, even John Carter has a bit more social commentary than The Hunger Games (although nothing more complex than environmental destruction for profit & shadowy white overlords = bad) The Hunger Games was however, very well done and visually quite impressive despite this lack. Current Mood: pleased
I've read book #1 and am part-way through book #2. Yes, there is social commentary and politics. By the first quarter of book #2 Katniss has discovered what it's like to be used as a propaganda tool, seen political demonstrations put down by brutal force, and is getting ready to go on the run. I can't/won't comment further (haven't read the rest yet -- am stalled out, reading William Gibson instead) but it looks as if it does indeed make some political points pitched at a YA level.
Right. The thing is it can't bring the social commentary in until Katniss herself is socially aware and it takes time for her to have both the information needed for social awareness and the leisure time to actually think about what's going on around her.
Book 3 is almost entirely social commentary getting deeply into the flaws of 99 percent ultra capitalist system that is the Capitol and the equally frustrating flaws of a socialist system that Katniss gets drawn into.
What's interesting is that the flaws are balanced, and Katniss ends up having to destroy both the super right wing system and the super left wing system.
The social commentary will come in the next two Hunger Games films. It makes sense - Katniss isn't able to think about the big picture at first. Either she's in District 12 and starving or else she's fighting for her life.
It's once she actually sees the Capitol, wins the games, has money and leisure time that she's really able to think about things. Plus, she ends up with more information about how the world as a whole works in the next two books which gives her a broader perspective.
Since all the books are from her point of view, we can't get social commentary until she's aware enough to provide it.
I completely agree regarding the Hunger Games. I've never read the books and knew almost nothing about it, but it pleased me immensely that my 12-year-old brother deeply enjoyed a movie where I did not wince for one gender-related reason once. (And hurrah for Katniss being human! Not that Xena and Buffy were worse for not being human, of course...)
I did wince at some of the romance scenes, but those actually pleased me too, ultimately: Katniss and Peeta's dynamic is almost completely gender-reversed, but in a way that doesn't seem forced at all.