Monday, September 17, 2012

"Catching Fire" Casting Mania!

This post has been awhile in coming, but it was totally inevitable that I make it. Back when they were casting for The Hunger Games, I followed the entire process with bated breath and made many blog posts about it, analyzing and rating each actor or actress. Now the sequel, Catching Fire, is officially underway, and there’s a handful of new faces leaping into the arena! It seemed to make more sense to wait until all the new major roles were cast and discuss them all at once.

Quick plot summary: In Catching Fire, heroine Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and her sort-of love, Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), are being paraded around the nation of Panem after co-winning the Hunger Games. In order to survive that bloody televised murderfest, they seriously fucked up the status quo and sowed the seeds of rebellion, and now Katniss tops the shit list of the evil President Snow (Donald Sutherland). SPOILER ALERT: Part of Snow’s revenge is to make it so the next Hunger Games will have an “All-Star” lineup of past winners, thereby forcing Katniss and Peeta back into the ring to once again fight for their lives. But the new Games are quite different from the old, and fresh allies and enemies are crawling from the woodwork.

So who’s new?

The Role: Finnick Odair, greatly beloved by many Hunger Games fans, most of whom are female. A former victor from the fish-centric District 4, he seems at first like a prettyboy douchebag whom Katniss wants little to do with. To her surprise, Finnick proves a crucial ally, balancing ruthlessness with compassion and also murdering bad guys with a badass trident. His bond with Katniss continues through to the final book/film, Mockingjay.

The Actor: Sam Claflin. C’mon, you know this guy. Don’t you remember him as a bland, boring ingenue nobody cares about in Pirates of the Caribbean 4? No? Hmm. How about as a bland, boring ingenue nobody cares about in Snow White and the Huntsman? Ring any bells? No? Uh, I hear he’s handsome?

My Approval Rating: 3 out of 10. I admit I watched with dismay as Claflin cinched the role. It’s not just that he’s the wrong kind of pretty (Finnick is supposed to be deeply bronzed with matching hair and sea green eyes), it’s that he’s indistinguishable from every other fucking prettyboy actor out there. Put it like this: he’s the guy they brought in for Pirates because Orlando Bloom, the king of blandness, was no longer available. The B-choice for Orlando Bloom. Sound like anyone qualified to play a dangerous, feisty type like Finnick? Also, I always pictured Finnick as looking Hispanic, or Samoan, or anything other than TOILET BOWL WHITE. Hmmmmmph.

The Role: Johanna Mason, another former Hunger Games winner and unlikely ally to Katniss...sort of. She’s from District 7 and won the Games by looking weak and fragile, then brutally slaughtering everyone else when their backs were turned. Johanna is sneaky, whip-smart, and a total bitch, but she has plenty of usefulness in the arena. She’s almost like a cautionary character, a glimpse at what victory might do to Katniss. She has suffered, and is going to suffer even more.

The Actress: Jena Malone, from such films as the polarizing Donnie Darko, the obscure Saved!, and the widely hated (but not by me) Sucker Punch. You’d probably recognize her if you saw her; she tends to pop up in unusual roles. This one, for instance.

My Approval Rating: 8 out of 10. I like Malone a lot, and while I didn’t expect to see her as Johanna Mason, I can totally roll with it. She doesn’t look like a cold-blooded killer, but then, the whole point of Johanna is that you don’t flag her as dangerous until she’s bifurcating your face with an axe. I can think of a couple other actresses who could’ve pulled this off -- Natalie Portman would have been an inspired choice -- but I can’t think of any quibbles with Malone in the role. I look forward to being freaked out by her.

The Roles: Beetee and Wiress, Tributes from the high-tech District 3, who round out Katniss’s ragtag band of allies. Beetee is a gentle, nebbish guy who can do all sorts of fun things with gadgets, including set deadly traps; he won the Games by brainpower alone. Wiress is a bit of an idiot savant who’s highly intelligent but hardly ever talks; she tends to notice important little things that everyone else has overlooked. Both are crucial to the survival of the good guys, though their own survival is less assured.

The Actor & Actress: Jeffrey Wright as Beetee and Amanda Plummer as Wiress. Wright’s a solid character actor who’s been in a bunch of things, including Basquiat, Ali, Syriana, Source Code, and in the latest 007 films as James Bond’s American pal, Felix Leiter. Plummer has also been in a ton of stuff -- but let’s face it, we mainly remember her waving a gun around in a diner at the beginning of Pulp Fiction. Some stars are just defined by one role, y’know?

My Approval Rating: For Wright, 8 out of 10. I like that they cast an unlikely actor, and I’m gleeful that they cast a black man, because I love watching dumb racists make idiots of themselves on Twitter. I was really, really, really hoping to see Michael Emerson as Beetee; he’s got the perfect creepy-nerd look and can display an amazing emotional range. But Wright’s a choice I’ll happily get behind. For Plummer, 9 out of 10, because she’s good at playing crazy, maybe one of the best. And that’s really all she’ll have to do.

The Role: Plutarch Heavensbee, gamemaker of the new Hunger Games...i.e., the dude who designs the arena into which the Tributes will be tossed and the video-gamey environmental hazards they will encounter, and who runs the Games from his invisible skybox. You’d think that after the last gamemaker, Seneca Crane (Wes Bentley) was put to death for fucking up, the new guy would be in Pres. Snow’s pocket. Katniss sure thinks so. But Plutarch is, shall we say, a man of many layers. And not just layers of fat. I won’t spoil anything more.

 The Actor: Phillip Seymour Hoffman, who...oh, come on, you know who he is just by looking at his photo. Like Stanley Tucci (who will be returning), Hoffman is a darling character actor and chameleon of the screen; he won an Oscar for Capote and will likely get another nom, at the very least, for his new film, The Master. If you insist on being lowbrow, he was the bad guy in Mission: Impossible III, okay?

My Approval Rating: 9 out of 10. They just keep casting these awesome actors who I can’t not approve of! One thing Hoffman does well is play enigmatic; you look at his character and think, “What a butterball,” but then he uncorks all sorts of unexpected depths. And that’s a good thing for the actor playing Plutarch to have; again, I won’t spoil the plot twists involving him. He’ll have a sizable role in the third (and fourth?) film(s?) too, and I never get tired of watching Hoffman and his whale-sized screen presence!


 The Director: After the sudden exit of Gary Ross, Catching Fire will be directed by Francis Lawrence, whose feature film credits include Constantine, I Am Legend, and Water For Elephants. Wait, did I say “include”? I mean “consist entirely of.” He’s also done a ton of music videos. I mean a metric TON of music videos. Pick a musical artist and there’s a damn good chance he will have done a music video for them. For whatever that’s worth.

My Approval Rating: 5 out of 10. I’m really torn with this guy. It seems like a step down, going from a respected director like Gary Ross to one who has made only three films, all of which are considered mediocre. Is he out of his comfort zone? Can he bring the same intriguing atmosphere and stripped-down aesthetic? Will he just try to copy the first film’s style? I’m nervous. On the other hand, considering that these films revolve around garish, ghastly killsports that the dysfunctional public watches on live TV, maybe a music video director is a good choice; he’ll know how to film the Games for maximum titillation. Maybe the thing on his resumé we should be looking at is the video for Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance,” which got a shitload of awards and praise...and which happens to be set in a weird, glitzy, pseudo-sci-fi realm where nothing is quite real and humans are treated like wind-up toys. Just like Panem! So, yeah, I’m not gonna dismiss Lawrence as a no-talent director, but he’d BETTER not fuck this up.

Filming on Catching Fire has begun, guys! I can’t wait! But in the meantime, I’ve got Cloud Atlas, Life of Pi, The Hobbit, Les Miserables, and Silent Hill: Revelation...and that’s in 2012 alone. Movies are neat.

No comments:

Post a Comment