#125 Fireside Chat: Bigger but Better? Sunday 20 October, 2013

“Bigger but Better?”

Miss Episode 125 live last night? Click here to listen to the recording OR simply use the embedded player below!

Episode 125 of Hunger Games Fireside Chat will air live this Monday, October 21, at 10pm ET/7pm PT! This week, our panel of experts will include Crystal from Mockingjay.net and FictionalFood.net, Natalie from Bookish, Courtney from Welcome to District 12, and Ariel of Nerdy, Wordy, and Over Thirty.

Here’s what’s on the agenda:

– We’ll spend the show comparing the first film in the Hunger Games franchise with what we’ve seen of Catching Fire thus far. With its bigger budget, improved CGI (Weta, anyone?), and reassuring quotes/decisions from director Francis Lawrence, it seems as though we’re in store for something truly grand come November 22. Some even believe that Catching Fire has the power to surpass $1 billion in worldwide ticket sales. But is bigger necessarily better? In recent weeks, many fans have been quick to praise Lawrence while being very vocally negative about Gary Ross and The Hunger Games. Is this fair? How have our own opinions of the first movie changed since March of 2012? We’ll discuss.

Of course, we also want to know what you think. So leave a comment below with your thoughts on the topic and let us know if/how your perceptions of The Hunger Games and Gary Ross have changed now that you’ve gotten a good taste of what to expect from Francis Lawrence.

(Thanks to Marce for suggesting the $1 billion discussion and to Satsuma for suggesting we chat about the Ross negativity!)

You can chat with other listeners throughout the live show by using our hashtag #HGFiresideChat on Twitter! We recommend TweetChat to easily follow along with the conversation.

Click here to listen to last week’s episode.

And click here for an index of all of our archived episodes.

Follow this week’s participants on Twitter:
Adam (Host): @AdamSpunberg
Savanna (Co-Host/Producer): @MlleNouveau
Crystal: @pikko / @mockingjaynet / @FictionalFood
Natalie: @nataliezutter / @BookishYA
Courtney: @WtoD12
Ariel: @Madam_Pince


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18 Comments

  • Jose Torres says:

    I really liked what Gary Ross did with THG of course it wasn’t perfect but compared to other book to movie adaptions Gary should be praised. He followed the main story line and without his dedication Francis wouldn’t have had such a smooth transition on taking on CF. You also have to factor in budget, we could all infer if THG would have had a bigger budget there could have been better C.G.I e.t.c. Without Gary Ross’s success with the first movie Catching Fire wouldn’t be on the road it’s in now. Gary was part of the spark that has turned CF into the EPICNESS Frances has made it. And yes based on everything we’ve seen about CF so far November 22 will be an unforgettable day!!!! 😀

  • Twirl4me says:

    No, my opinion of Ross and THG movie has not changed at all. I still think it’s one of the best book adaptations I’ve ever seen, along with 1994’s Little Women. It got across the basic heart and meaning of the book even with the time, budget, and visual constraints of a movie. I’m especially impressed with the arena segment, which was about 18 days in the book, but was condensed to about a week in the movie, while still hitting just about all of the important plot points. Like with any adaptation, there are things that we might have changed or wish had been included, but there’s only so much you can do with a movie. Which is why books are so great, there’s no limit!
    CF has of course benefited from increased budget (thanx to Ross’s THG revenue), but part of the reason why it seems like we’ll be getting more out of CF is because of the book, not just the director. There IS so much more going on. Higher stakes, the districts, uprisings, a Quarter Quell, etc.

    PS: It was the first movie that led to my being a “tribute” in the first place. Having never heard of THG, I thought the trailer looked interesting (and I already loved Elizabeth Banks), but I didn’t get a chance to read the book before the movie’s release. Then on opening Friday, I basically saw it on a whim because my roommate invited me to go with her and her girlfriend. When we walked out of the theater, my roommate said, “Yeah, I definitely need to read the books now.” I agreed.

  • Adna says:

    I find the bashing of Gary Ross unfair. First of all the first movie was a diffrent story! Catching fire is suplose to have a different vibe. Also Gary Ross was working with a smaller budget. And third of all everyone seemed to love the first movie which is why it surpassed as many records as it did. Just because someone new comes on aboard and is doing a wonderfull job doesnt necessarliy mean the old leader was bad. They could be equaly good given their circumstances and stories.

    • Twirl4me says:

      Yeah, some of these “fans” who seemed to have turned on the first movie are coming across to me like a little kid who just got a shiny new upgraded toy, then threw the old one against the wall. Remember guys, Buzz was great, but Woody still had his charms. 😉

  • discotia says:

    I like the first movie for what it was. We saw what we needed to know: life in District 12, the glitz and glamour of the Capitol, and then the Games. That’s the story, and that was perfect, but Catching Fire is different. Katniss and Peeta travel to different districts in the Victory Tour, and we need to see that unrest throughout Panem. I love all the shots of the Capitol we have seen so far, and am so happy the bigger budget had really allowed them to show it as the huge, futuristic city I always pictured it as. And finally, “these Games are going to be different”. The arena in the first film was simple and most of the scenes that were not action-oriented did not need to be edited or intensified with visual effects, it was just a forest. In Catching Fire, the Cornucopia scene alone was filmed in 3 different occasions. It amazes me to look at the final seconds of the trailer and know that an editor had to somehow fuse shots between three different locations into one seamless scene. This movie NEEDED to be bigger because the book is bigger. I’m incredibly pleased with Francis Lawrence so far, but I have no reason to believe that Gary Ross would not have worked to make this film bigger in a similar way.

  • Isaac says:

    I think the bashing of Gary Ross is unfair. He worked with the budget Lionsgate gave him and he did a very good job with adapting the book. The plot of the story was basically exactly the same as in the book and, to me, that matters the most. Compared to recent book to move adaptations, I think The Hunger Games, in my opinion has been the most faithful one. We cant forget that he established, along with Debra Zane, the amazing cast. Some of them didn’t have to audition like Stanley Tucci. On the Hunger Games DVD extras he said he met Stanley Tucci at a restaurant in NY and asked him to join the cast, just like Elizabeth Banks. Even if they did have to audition he probably decided to cast them right on the spot.

    Just because there is a bigger budget doesnt mean the first director was bad. The world wasnt that big in the first film or book. It was just Katniss in Dostrict 12, Capitol, and the arena. In Catching Fire she is going to the Capitol, ALL the Districts, she explores more of D12, and there is a new arena. The World expands after the first film/book and it keeps expanding even in Mockinjay. I feel like the first film/book was just giving a taste of the world and just showing how the games work; after that the story takes off based from the first one, and Gary Ross established it pretty well.

  • laura says:

    I think it is really interesting to see how opinions about the first movie have changed over time. The one obvious flaw to me was always the CGI (especially the mutts), and I’m glad that will be fixed with a better budget. The script is where I really think it shines. The extra scenes they added were amazing and made our jaws drop. Gary Ross and Suzanne Collins put so much effort into it and it shows. I REALLY hope the Catching Fire script is just as good. There is reason to be worried since it was rushed and SC didn’t have as much input, but who knows? hopefully it is great!

  • Marce Escoto says:

    I loved the first movie, there’s no question about it but it still has flaws that are now starting to bother people, specially the character development in THG and the ending. We really didn’t get to know any of the characters and that’s enough for “fans” to start bashing out on Gary. For what it seems, FL is focusing on that this time around and people are getting excited because of it. The trilogy to me had amazing characters and I wouldn’t want that to be lost. For what is worth, we should all be thankful for Gary Ross he was instrumental in bringing the trilogy to the big screen.

  • Celine says:

    I think Gary did an excellent job with the budget he had, he was introducing this world to audiences and non-readers and he had to be extra careful by doing that. It need to be explanatory of that world but also needed to show the actual plot, and of course most of us have watched THG more than once at this point, and is not perfect but it was good enough to pleased fans and critics as well. I love it for what it is. (I mean look a the Mortal Instruments/Beautiful Creatures/Percy Jackson horrible adaptations)Besides, I am sure that when CF goes on DVD and fans have the chance , the’ll find flaws on it as well, is the same with every book adaptation, is never gonna be perfect for all fans.

    On the other side there is CF and Francis Lawrence, with a bigger budget and a different story to tell (CF and THG plot are very different) we have seen the trailers and have blown us away, but we haven’t seen the final product yet. We don’t really know. Besides Flaw already has THG as a base.

    Is unfair to judge THG with CF when CF has not even come out, and to say that Gary was not a good director is also wrong even after CF comes out because he did and excellent job with casting (Jen/Josh/Woody/Donald and more) and the script adapt. I believe people should be happy that we have these excellent directors in charge of our loved book series and instead of comparing we should praise both on those aspects in which they separately shine.

  • In terms of solid artistry, I do prefer Lawrence’s take on the series. However, to denounce and ridicule Ross’ direction for the first film is absolutely blasphemous. Lionsgate had no premonitions as to how well the first movie would do, and they weren’t going to take the risk of investing a massive budget on a film that could potentially be a long shot. The budget for the first film was around 78 million, and I think we all know that’s pretty damn good for a non-sequel YA novel to movie adaption. Ross worked with what he had. He may not have been able to finance the best. But he afforded what he could. And the result was something that, I believe, will sit on the throne of novel-to-movie adaptions forever. No matter which way our opinions swing, we all have to keep in mind that the first film is what started this series off. And because of Ross’ work on the first film, The Hunger Games is a household name. And I think it’s best if everyone remembers that…

  • Terrence says:

    I think trailers and TV spots can be very misleading a lot of the time. They’re cleverly edited to make the movie look amazing, but they don’t necessarily represent the movie as a whole too well. Yes, all the signs do look promising; pointing towards what could be a spectacular movie – but I’m withholding my judgement until I see it in full from beginning to end. Francis is a very visual director, so there’s little doubt that Catching Fire will look amazing, but will it have the substance to back that up? I think Gary did a fantastic job with The Hunger Games. Even though it left rather a lot to be desired visually, the characters and plot were conveyed very well. This ranks higher than visuals in my opinion.

  • I feel that the negative feelings towards Gary Ross are uncalled for. He did an amazing job with what he had in terms of budget. He got the feel and atmosphere for the Hunger Games perfectly in my opinion. I love what Lawrence has done with Catching Fire building off what Ross did and making it so much better as of what we have seen in the trailers in stills.

    I think many need to remember is that Ross got many of the elements we love of the Hunger Games. Like Jenifer, Woody, Josh. The look and feel of District Twelve and the Capitol. The amazing extra scenes of President Snow in the Rose Garden! Those were so great to see!

    Yes some things were left out… some things didn’t push the envelope as much as they maybe should have.. But it was a new movie franchise and sometimes you have to be careful. If he would have pushed to far with Capitol looks or the Mutts. They might not have translated well and people who haven’t read the books wouldn’t truly understand what is happening. Yes I know they should read the books. *laughs*

    I guess what I am trying to say is Gary Ross was the spark for this movie Franchise and Lawrence seems to be turning those first beautiful sparks into flames!

    I am seeing the double feature of Hunger Games and Catching Fire and I am so excited to see both in theaters. 😀 Hunger Games is still one of the best book adaptions I have seen and I have strong feelings that Catching Fire is going to be great as well! We are so lucky when it comes to the directors, actors, and film crews we have!

    • Twirl4me says:

      Yeah, I’m about as excited to see The Hunger Games for the first time in IMAX as I am to see Catching Fire for the first time ever.

  • laura says:

    Just thinking about my earlier comment… it is important to remember Gary Ross not only directed the first movie, he also co-wrote the script and was responsible for a ton of other minor details. He did this because he didn’t have the budget to get others to do it, AND he wanted to make sure everything matched his own vision. Some of the criticism is of him as a director, other is of his script. I think his best work was with the script, mostly for the extra scenes. Some find flaws in the script, particularly with peeta’s character, that I don’t necessarily share. Ross’ flaws as a director are easier to see and point out (shaky-cam, CGI, etc).

    When making a comparison to Lawrence, just remember he didn’t have to write a script, and he had lots more help with almost every aspect of the filmmaking because he could buy the best professionals in each field. That’s not to say he is more or less talented (it takes a huge talent to run that kind of circus), but when trying to compare, it really is comparing apples to oranges.

    And isn’t it a bit early to compare all of this? I hate to say it but the trailer could be the best two minutes of the movie. I hope not and I doubt it but I’ll reserve judgment until I’ve seen Catching Fire.

  • mse says:

    I hate it that somewhere along the line it became a sort of “universal truth” that the first movie was just kinda okay, and Catching Fire is somehow our new saviour. I see it all around in the fandom and in the news outlets, and it just bugs me. I get it that the whole “bigger better” concept is great for marketing but there’s a whole lot more to a movie’s value than flashy effects and bigger budget.

    And THG was even a critical success! It had a 85% rating on Rotten Tomatoes for example. I know that we tend to focus on the parts that got the more mixed reviews, like the CGI and the shaky camera, but let’s think about, without the latter would we have had the same experience watching the movie? Because that damn shaky cam actually served a purpose, and a lot of reviews I read realized that so again, it’s not really something that everyone agrees that it was bad. And the CGI might’ve been better, but what we had worked well enough with the simplicity of the tone that Gary created. Which is again something that helped make the movie what it was.

    THG had heart. It really was a good movie. Catching Fire is different but I believe that it’s gonna be just as good as well. But I don’t see it as an “improvement” – I see it as something “different”.

    As for a much more pleasant subject: will Catching Fire pass the 1 billion mark? Maybe not, but I can absolutely see it closing in on it.

    THG was a huge box office hit in the US, but internationally it “only” did great. Not exceptionally, just great. And the reason is simple: The Hunger Games might’ve been a big hit in the US, but in most other countries it didn’t blow up until after the movie was released.

    I live in Europe and I see it all around me – when I was trying to insert the books into conversations before the movie, all I got was blank stares. But now it just gets brought up without me pushing it at all. People are catching up, and I’m pretty sure that that will show on the international box office numbers. And since the huge blockbusters tend to bring in more from outside of the US, I’d say that if CF manages to draw in at least 400 million, a 1 billion total income is quite possible.

  • Maia says:

    I am very happy with the direction of the Catching Fire film.

    And kuddos to Gary Ross for bringing the story to life. That must have been very hard to do

  • Greg says:

    Visually, I prefer Lawrence’s look for the series. I’m one of the people who never liked the shaky cam Ross used for THG (although I LOVED the way he used it for the reaping scene, though). Ross also broke the 180-degree rule very jarringly.

    Lawrence uses a steady camera, of course, and relies on a lot of impersonal center framing and uses the rule of thirds in a way that really stands out.

    As someone who never liked Ross’s vision for THG in the first place, I much prefer Francis’ vision for the series from what we’ve seen so far. Ross’ script seemed cliché in my opinion scenes like the little Capitol boy getting a toy sword and the (overexaggerated IMO) D11 riot, and Cato’s final monologue seemed stilted and forced (but or course it could be the way they shot the scenes).

    Lawrence and Arndt’s take seems much more realistic and surprisingly visceral from what we’ve seen the trailers. The old man getting shot and Katniss and Effie crying at the reaping really shocked/depressing me the moment I saw them from the advertising which rarely happens in book-to-movie trailers for me.

  • Maia says:

    Great trailer I was hoping they didn’t show the arena , but I guess things are different !


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