Catching Fire stays true to the word

Hey Hollywood, this is how you adapt a novel for film.

Image

For some reason, the movie industry has a hard time translating sci-fi/supernatural/speculative stories from the page to the screen. Exhibit A: Anne Rice‘s Interview With the Vampire and Queen of the Damned. Exhibit B: Anything by Stephen King (except maybe for Carrie).

They got it right with Catching Fire, the second novel in Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games series. (The official movie title is The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. Too long.)

The books aren’t perfect, but they’re great. And the movie effectively conveys all that happens in the book at a quick pace.

First, a primer: The Hunger Games series is about 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen in a futuristic dystopic North America who is selected to compete in the annual Hunger Games, which pits 24 teens in a fight to the death (see the Japanese film Battle Royale). The 3 novels follow her battles against the oppressive government.

Katniss is my favorite type of hero: an every man/woman who is thrust into danger and is forced to rise to the occasion. She remains reluctant throughout the series, a central fact that Jennifer Lawrence has captured. In the books, Katniss develops PTSD (Collins stated in interviews that she wanted to write about the traumatic effects of war on children), and luckily the movie did not shy away from this topic.

As with the novel, the movie picks up right where the first novel/movie left off, and it churns through with a cliffhanger. Catching Fire has been compared to The Empire Strikes Back, and with good reason: it’s tough and sharp and has a tight narrative core. And it is often a downer.

But it works. It is a solid addition to the speculative film canon. The third book will be broken into two movies, which is good because there’s a whole lot of story to tell.

How much you want to bet we’ll be seeing spin-offs for years to come? After all, there have been 75 Hunger Games, and we’ve only seen two.

Music and mood: Lorde cover conquers Catching Fire

Music, writing, movies/TV can have a synergistic effect, and when it works, it’s powerful stuff.

A couple of years ago, a friend recommended I read The Hunger Games. I resisted — after all, how would a YA novel about a 16-year-old girl hold my interest. I relented, and I’m glad I did, because the author, Suzanne Collins, crafted a character and story that transcended age, gender, and genre. I went on to read the other two books in the trilogy, Catching Fire and Mockingjay, both excellent, though not perfect.

The Hunger Games translated well to the big screen, and Jennifer Lawrence on the screen was everything that Katniss Everdeen was in the book. Catching Fire is getting positive early reviews, and I was looking forward to seeing it.

Then I heard a song from the Catching Fire soundtrack. It’s by Lorde, a cover of a Tears for Fears song from the 1980s called Everybody Wants to Rule the World (click to hear the original).

The lyrics, written over 20 years ago, could have been penned for the movie. Lorde’s voice is creepy and compelling. Just listening to the 2.31 minute song brought the story to life for me. Now I cannot wait to see the movie. Listen below:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DaVA6sgOpws

I’ve written before about how music has influenced my writing of The Last Conquistador — how unexpected lyrics or melodies left a haunting impression that I wove into the story. The version of this song by Lorde does something similar, even if it wasn’t written for Catching Fire. It captures the desperation of Katniss Everdeen and the whole of Panem society.

Music, images, and words, when woven together, can be a potent combination.