While I really enjoyed The Hunger Games movie adaptation, I was not enamored of the film’s direction, and despaired at the thought of Gary Ross helming the next three sequels. (Yes, the cynical and truly bad idea of splitting the last book, Mockingjay, into two movies in order to cash in one more time is still alive.)
In Hollywood, money is the only language anyone understands, and with HG raked in so much at the box office, I figured there odds would ever be not in my favor, because it looked like there was no way to get Ross off the franchise.
But yesterday, The Hollywood Reporter brought this happy news, like a parachute from a wealthy Hunger Games sponsor: Ross is apparently holding out for more money to direct the first sequel, Catching Fire. And I couldn’t be happier about his disenchantment!
According to THR, Ross got $3 million plus 5 percent of the gross for directing Hunger Games, but the negotiations with studio Lionsgate were “terrible.” Now that HG has made roughly $309 kajillion or so, it’s a no-brainer that Ross will want to squeeze the studio for more money. Lionsgate has a reputation for being tight-fisted, and could well call Ross’ bluff to walk away.
I say… let Ross go! In fact, have someone from security exit him from the premises. And that’s because Ross’ direction was easily the worst thing about The Hunger Games. As I mentioned in my HG review, Ross’ shakycam filming technique in the first part of the movie was nausea-inducing, the action scenes were edited in such close-ups that it was impossible to discern what was happening (some of that may have been by design, to hide the bloodshed), and he spent no time creating a coherent world in which to set the games themselves, and thus to help us care about the characters.
And, while we’re at it, his screenplay wasn’t exactly all that, either. Stripped of Katniss’ inner dialogue and her sense of place in a starving, poverty-stricken backwater, moviegoers saw a central character who was largely sullen for no real reason. Well, yeah, she was expected to die in the arena, but there is so much more to her character in the book.
Could anyone else have done a better job with the material? Possibly. Probably. But let’s face it: The odds were stacked in favor of this movie to such a degree that it was destined to be a hit as long as it was in focus. (Which was probably a near thing, given how haphazardly the shots are framed…) The book series is a massive hit all around the world, and the marketing campaign expertly built expectations (something the criminally underrated John Carter‘s helpless marketers should have done). The cast boasted a number of young, attractive actors and a magnetically charismatic lead in the Oscar-nominated Jennifer Lawrence. It was like shooting fish in a barrel.
Of course, there is something to be said for not bungling a sure thing (I’m looking at you, Catherine Hardwicke; Twilight made tons of money, but it was utterly irredeemable trash as a movie), and Ross could be trusted to turn in another serviceable movie. After all, Ross was nominated for an Oscar himself for writing and directing 2004’s Seabiscuit, but horse racing is a long way from a gladiatorial arena. And, considering the plotline of Catching Fire, I, for one, would rather not see Ross take another whack at it.
However, if Lionsgate is going to pony up the cash, the studio has to do it soon, considering that it has already announced a release date for The Hunger Games: Catching Fire — Nov. 22, 2013. And if that date has to be pushed back, the sequel will immediately be branded a “troubled production” and the whispering will start. Maybe people will be calling for Ross’ head at that point…