Being at opposite ends of the temperature scale, one might expect these two movies to be vastly different and they are.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013) – Rated PG-13
“Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark become targets of the Capitol after their victory in the 74th Hunger Games sparks a rebellion in the Districts of Panem.”
I really enjoyed The Hunger Games. I have not read any of the books but Jennifer Lawrence is hugely likable and Katniss is a real heroine. She does her best in the face of adversity while staying true to her ideals. She is neither a wilting flower constantly in need of rescue nor is she a parody of a female buttkicker.
The world was well-realized and the supporting players quite good. The only problem was that the direction was just awful. Supporting characters weren’t fleshed out properly. The action was absurd with shaky cam all over the place to hide the seams in the budget.
Catching Fire has a much bigger budget and a better director. The action is clear and concise (there was only a moment or two where I couldn’t tell what was going on). The acting is much better and the characters are fleshed out quite a bit. Effie, while quite bizarre, no longer seems the caricature she was in The Hunger Games. Costuming and set design are wonderful.
Catching Fire is an enjoyable romp through a dystopian landscape. I am very much looking forward to the two MockingJay movies.
Frozen (2013) – Rated PG
“Fearless optimist Anna teams up with Kristoff in an epic journey, encountering Everest-like conditions, and a hilarious snowman named Olaf in a race to find Anna’s sister Elsa, whose icy powers have trapped the kingdom in eternal winter.”
Exec #1: Sales in our princess line are sagging. Toy sales are flat and revenues in our music division are falling.
Exec #2: I’ve got it. How about we throw together a movie with a princess, a cute sidekick character to turn into a toy, and have lots of songs so we can sell the soundtrack. We can even get a big singer to sing the credits song so we can qualify for an Oscar.
Exec #1: No, no. That’s why you’ll always be Exec #2, you’re thinking too small. Take your idea but let’s have TWO princesses and TWO cute sidekicks. We can sell twice the toys. Also let’s make them sing all of their dialogue so we can sell a double soundtrack.
Yes, this appears to be what happened. Sven the reindeer is cute. Olaf the snowman is even cuter. Sadly the movie is not about them. Even the scene in the teaser where Olaf and Sven fight in a lake over a carrot is NOT IN THE MOVIE! Maybe it would have been too cutesy to make the movie about them. I feel certain they will return in direct-to-video sequels.
Instead the movie is about Anna and Elsa. Their parents are dispatched surreptitiously – blink and you’ll miss it. Everything is strictly by the numbers. Disney really appears to have skimped on the voice-casting. Wreck-It Ralph was filled with recognizable names and voices as are most Disney animated movies. The songs are banal, so much so that my daughter and I were singing our dialogue for the next hour or so after we left the theater. It was more interesting.
All of this is not to say that Frozen is bad but more that it smacks of assembly by committee. The only thing memorable was the adorable Mickey Mouse short in front of Frozen, which will no doubt be nominated for an Oscar.