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How “The Hunger Games” succeeds as an adaptation where “Twilight” and “Harry Potter” failed

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There’s a lot riding on the March 23 release of “The Hunger Games.” Whether you like or loathe the film will be based on your personal preferences, but it can be universally agreed upon that “The Hunger Games” not only is a good movie, but that it succeeds as a fully fleshed out adaptation where most before it have failed.

This is coming from a die-hard “Harry Potter” fan. And while I wouldn’t consider myself a Twi-Hard, I am well versed in both the films and the books. So it’s not entirely objective when I say that both series’ onscreen adaptations are not that great, but it is an honest statement.

“The Hunger Games,” on the other hand, stands on its own as a movie. It deviates from the source material in a way that is honest to Suzanne Collins’ book, and also often strengthens the story. Much like HBO’s adaptation of “Game of Thrones,” every additional scene in the movie adds something that should have been there to begin with.

That’s not to say that “The Hunger Games” is without its flaws. Every movie has them. But that’s the key word right there. “The Hunger Games” is a movie in its own right whereas both “Twilight” and “Harry Potter” were chained at the hips to their source material.

This isn’t an editorial with the intention of bashing “Harry Potter” or “Twilight.” Both of those franchises are successful for a reason, and are good in their own right. “Harry Potter” tells the story of a boy wizard with a big destiny, while “Twilight” tells the tale of the unrequited love between a human and a vampire. The problem with those films, though, is that they don’t add much to the screen that wasn’t already on the page.

By contrast, “The Hunger Games” isn’t constrained by the book’s story. Collins’ novels offer hints that a larger saga is taking place, and the film shows us that. And its strength lies in that component of the movie.

The argument can be made that “The Hunger Games” was always going to be best served as a movie. The action-packed and dramatic story was constantly constricted by Katniss’s first-person perspective while it was always obvious that the tale being told was much bigger than just her. Without that restraint, the film was able to set the stage for the future “Hunger Games” films while also allowing the world of Panem to be fully developed.

There is one character in particular that gets a much larger role in the film than he does in the books. His presence as a counterpoint for Katniss really works. By amping up his role in the movie (someone else will have to spoil who he is for you), the character helps highlight the brutality of the Capitol in a way just telling Katniss’s side of the story never would.

That’s not to say that “Twilight” and “Harry Potter” never stepped outside of the confines of the novels that they were based on, but those extra or changed scenes never quite worked the way they should have. Showing James, Laurent and Victoria killing innocent civilians didn’t have the same impact as hearing about the mysterious murders occurring in “Twilight” and wondering what was going on. And that scene in “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” where Bellatrix Lestrange burned down the Burrow felt out of place and also makes little sense in the continuity of the story.

In those film franchises, there was always the sense that viewers who hadn’t read the books were missing out on something important in the story that wasn’t being portrayed on the big screen. That’s not how it felt walking out of the theater following “The Hunger Games.” The heart of the story was in that film, and it did just as good a job telling Katniss’s tale as the book did.

It’s yet to be seen if “The Hunger Games” will do as well in theaters as the “Twilight” and “Potter” films, but my gut says that it will. Even if it doesn’t end up breaking the same records that the precious two franchises set, one thing is certain: it’s a much better movie than either of those were. And this is coming from a girl who vehemently thought “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2” deserved a Best Picture Oscar nod this year.

Do you agree or disagree with our sentiments on “Twilight” and “Harry Potter”? Are you just pissed that I’ve taken those franchises names in vain? Tell us in the comments section below or on Facebook and Twitter.

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.

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Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…

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IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.

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IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).

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IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.

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IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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Reality? Check.

Baroness For Life

Baroness von Sketch Show is available for immediate consumption.

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Baroness von Sketch Show is snowballing as people have taken note of its subtle and not-so-subtle skewering of everyday life. The New York Times, W Magazine, and Vogue have heaped on the praise, but IFC had a few more probing questions…

IFC: To varying degrees, your sketches are simply scripted examples of things that actually happen. What makes real life so messed up?

Aurora: Hubris, Ego and Selfish Desires and lack of empathy.

Carolyn: That we’re trapped together in the 3rd Dimension.

Jenn: 1. Other people 2. Other people’s problems 3. Probably something I did.

IFC: A lot of people I know have watched this show and realized, “Dear god, that’s me.” or “Dear god, that’s true.” Why do people have their blinders on?

Aurora: Because most people when you’re in the middle of a situation, you don’t have the perspective to step back and see yourself because you’re caught up in the moment. That’s the job of comedians is to step back and have a self-awareness about these things, not only saying “You’re doing this,” but also, “You’re not the only one doing this.” It’s a delicate balance of making people feel uncomfortable and comforting them at the same time.

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IFC: Unlike a lot of popular sketch comedy, your sketches often focus more on group dynamics vs iconic individual characters. Why do you think that is and why is it important?

Meredith: We consider the show to be more based around human dynamics, not so much characters. If anything we’re more attracted to the energy created by people interacting.

Jenn: So much of life is spent trying to work it out with other people, whether it’s at work, at home, trying to commute to work, or even on Facebook it’s pretty hard to escape the group.

IFC: Are there any comedians out there that you feel are just nailing it?

Aurora: I love Key and Peele. I know that their show is done and I’m in denial about it, but they are amazing because there were many times that I would imagine that Keegan Michael Key was in the scene while writing. If I could picture him saying it, I knew it would work. I also kind of have a crush on Jordan Peele and his performance in Big Mouth. Maya Rudolph also just makes everything amazing. Her puberty demon on Big Mouth is flawless. She did an ad for 7th generation tampons that my son, my husband and myself were singing around the house for weeks. If I could even get anything close to her career, I would be happy. I’m also back in love with Rick and Morty. I don’t know if I have a crush on Justin Roiland, I just really love Rick (maybe even more than Morty). I don’t have a crush on Jerry, the dad, but I have a crush on Chris Parnell because he’s so good at being Jerry.

Jenn: I LOVE ISSA RAE!

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IFC: If you could go back in time and cast yourselves in any sitcom, which would it be and how would it change?

Carolyn: I’d go back in time and cast us in The Partridge Family.  We’d make an excellent family band. We’d have a laugh, break into song and wear ruffled blouses with velvet jackets.  And of course travel to all our gigs on a Mondrian bus. I feel really confident about this choice.

Meredith: Electric Mayhem from The Muppet Show. It wouldn’t change, they were simply perfect, except… maybe a few more vaginas in the band.

Binge the entire first and second seasons of Baroness von Sketch Show now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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