Monday Morning Critic – The Hunger Games Vs. Twilight, Paul W.S Anderson and The Three Musketeers

Every Monday morning, InsidePulse Movies Czar Scott “Kubryk” Sawitz brings an irreverent and oftentimes hilarious look at pop culture, politics, sports and whatever else comes to mind. And sometimes he writes about movies.

The spring’s biggest release is The Hunger Games, which also comes as an added bonus of having the first trailer for The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 exclusive to it in theatres. One thing to notice is if much, if any, that’ll affect its first week box office gross ala A Bug’s Life getting a bump up because of Star Wars geeks coming out to see the first trailer for The Phantom Menace being exclusively in front of it. The one thing that intrigues me, though, is that so far the ability to mock The Hunger Games is kind of hard.

For a film that’s attempting to be another big franchise like Twilight, The Hunger Games seems to be doing two things so far that make it fairly engaging as a potential franchise on the level of sparkly vampires and werewolves who don’t wear t-shirts.

It is avoiding the direct appeal to one specific demographic and instead is trying to bring in a diverse audience

I make fun of Twilight regularly for being plenty of things, first and foremost as being fairly insulting to young women who just don’t quite understand that they’re being insulted, but I understand its appeal. It’s a grand attempt at a romance for the ages, admittedly one that ought to have a soundtrack twanging to “He loves me with his fists,” but it is an attempt nonetheless. And mainly its overtly appealing to women and guys trying to maintain romantic relationships with them. No guy actually watches a Twilight film unless he’s with his girlfriend and/or at gunpoint. Or a creepy pedophile scouting his next victim; being an adult male at a Twilight film is like being an adult at a children’s film: no matter what everyone there is going to look at you like a creep because it looks a bit child-rapey especially if you’re wearing a hoodie.

The Hunger Games trailer, et al, and all, have all been fairly solid in trying to establish it as a bad ass action flick. Yeah it’s centered on a female protagonist but it’s not screaming “girl power” … it’s kind of got a cool The Running Man type vibe to it. I kind of dig that; The Running Man is my favorite Arnold Schwarzenegger film and it’s been really hard to duplicate in terms of feel. Tone and vibe are something that is difficult to duplicate but this has a similar feel to it.

Here’s the one for The Running Man.

Now for The Hunger Games.

It has a spectacular cast

Say what you want about the Twilight cast but when all is said and done most of them will be attending conventions like the Star Trek cast years from now, banking on their fame for $10 Polaroids. When you look at the respective casts it’s kind of an embarrassment of riches for the Hunger Games variety.

Look at the principle cast members you have from Twilight from the first film to the presumably last one this fall: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Billy Burke, Ashley Greene, Nikki Reed, Jackson Rathbone, Kellan Lutz, Peter Fascinelli, Cam Gigandet, Dakaota Fanning, Michael Sheen

Now compare to that to The Hunger Games: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Woody Harrelson, Wes Bentley, Lenny Kravitz, Stanley Tucci, Elizabeth Banks, Liam Hemsworth, Toby Jones, Donald Sutherland

It’s not even fair in a lot of ways, obviously, but the key thing I think that gives The Hunger Games an overwhelming edge is that the film wasn’t designed as a one-off. Twilight went on the cheap with its original cast; my guess is that Summit didn’t have confidence in the film becoming such a phenomenon at the box office and as such cast it with a bunch of lesser names and Kristen Stewart. They all became stars but it was significantly unexpected that it would become this way. The Hunger Games is expected to do more and be a franchise, not just cash in on a book that homely women have embraced en masse.

A Movie A Week – The Challenge

This Week’s DVD – The Three Musketeers

When it comes to adapting source material well known like the tales of grand literary characters like Sherlock Holmes or The Three Musketeers, it’s difficult to try and reinvent the wheel. Both Sherlock Holmes films have reinvented the detective and Watson as a sort of buddy cop team for the ages. It’s the same sort of conceit that the BBC’s newest version of the detective Sherlock follows as well; it may be the sort of stuff out of an ‘80s action film but it feels new because we really haven’t seen this sort of steampunk style with character we know. Which is why I was anticipating the new version of The Three Musketeers when Paul W.S Anderson opted to adapt it one more time. I may not be a fan of Anderson, as I don’t think much of his work, but I’ll give him credit for a handful of things.

One is his tremendous visual sense. I don’t think Anderson ever gets enough credit for it. I’ve always thought that in terms of his sense of what he shows on screen he’s in many ways like an early George Lucas; he knows how to frame a shot and set up an action sequence that is amongst the best in directors working right now. It’s the one thing I loved about this film; The Three Musketeers is a tremendously well designed film in terms of how Anderson frames it.

The next is that his heroes are always rock stars. It’s the one thing that many modern action films don’t give us anymore; in the rush to make everyone into an everyman trying to survive horrible circumstances ala John McClane the mystique is gone. Anderson is one of the few that doesn’t really do this; the Musketeers when we’re first introduced are absolute badass types that save the day. It’s such a killer introduction that the film just flows from it.

You can read my theatrical review here.

And that’s the key to The Three Musketeers. It does a lot of good things and is a fun action film; Anderson has a sense of being able to least to make a goofy action film like this into a breezy affair instead of a dull one. I enjoyed the heck out of this in theatres and it’s just as good on DVD.


What Looks Good This Weekend, and I Don’t Mean the $2 Pints of Bass Ale and community college co-eds with low standards at the Alumni Club

The Hunger Games – A number of children are chosen in post-apocalyptic North America to fight one another, Battle Royale style.

See It – It’s been getting nothing but good buzz as well as it’s based off a substantially popular book series; odds are it’s probably going to be at least watchable.

The Raid: Redemption – A group of badass cops go into the slums of Jakarta to take down a drug lord. Violence ensues. In Limited Release

See It – While I think this is going to be one of those films that winds up being a victim of its own hype, the “greatest foreign action film ever” I’ve seen from many folks is a bit much (uhh … Hard Boiled anyone?), it looks to be pretty good so far.

Scott “Kubryk” Sawitz brings his trademarked irreverence and offensive hilarity to Twitter in 140 characters or less. Follow him @MMCritic_Kubryk.

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