There you are, sitting on your couch or in your office, and you read the above headline. “A pitch reel? Seriously? Why would I want to watch an alternate take on a film I enjoyed from a director whose ideas were rejected by the film’s producers?,” you wonder, hoping that we might somehow offer a convincing reason to hit “play” on that clip embedded below. Fortunately for you, we have many reasons why you should watch director Kevin Tancharoen’s pitch reel for The Hunger Games.
Tancharoen, though far from a household name, is one of the most interesting up-and-coming directors in Hollywood. Remember that awesome live-action Mortal Kombat vignette starring our beloved Michael Jai White as Jax? That was Tancharoen’s work. Warner Bros. even tapped the man to film a 9-part live-action Mortal Kombat series around the same time that its video game division was releasing the various iterations of the most recent Mortal Kombat game. In short, the guy has proven directorial chops.
Secondly, we caught The Hunger Games in theaters and while it was a perfectly acceptable blend of romantic notions aimed directly at impressionable teenage girls (and the surprisingly impressionable adult women they inevitably grow into), the world created by director Gary Ross was a bit too clean for our tastes. Here’s a dystopia where newly-pubescent youths are forced to fight to the death, and yet the film’s aesthetic tone was as bright and relatively chipper as any of the Twilight movies (which, in fairness, makes a canny sort of fiscal sense). Tancharoen’s vision of The Hunger Games however, skews more towards a sort of dark, depressing urban sprawl that more accurately mirrors the macabre fate awaiting the movie’s attractive, MTV-ready cast. That’s not to say there isn’t spectacular beauty however. Tancharoen’s vision works specifically because he contrasts the wealthy with the poor, and by rapidly showing us the physical edifices that each group have constructed to live and work in, Tancharoen demonstrates that he has a keen understanding of the kind of societal dysfunction that might spawn an entertainment medium built on the literal blood and sweat of high-school-aged children — or, at least, that he has a pretty solid idea of what it might look like.
We also like the fact that Tancharoen’s pitch reel is seemingly designed to work with or without the presence of major movie stars. We’re well aware of all the myriad reasons why Hollywood relies so heavily on recognizable faces for its big tent pole productions, but by removing that element of “hey, I know that guy from …” viewers are more inclined to identify with emotions and concepts, rather than individuals. The version of The Hunger Games that was released to theaters was acceptable, but it seemed that director Gary Ross wanted to create a “bubblegum action movie,” that would be both appealing to the key demographic of the original Hunger Games novel, and as easy to digest as any Schwarzenegger flick from the late ’80s. It’s an entertaining spectacle to be sure, but we can’t help but feel that Tancharoen’s version might have a bit more nuance, or at least inspire people to discuss the worrying prescience of the story’s vaguely allegorical ideas of where our modern, reality-TV-soaked culture might lead.
The last reason why we want you to watch this thing is simple: How often do you get a chance to watch a pitch reel for a major Hollywood film? Unless you’re Harvey Weinstein or Brian Grazer a chance like this probably doesn’t come around that often, so you may as well take advantage and see what you think. If nothing else, it should be entertaining to see how many of the pitch’s scenes you recognize as belonging to another film. Apparently that’s how they do these sorts of things. See, you learn something new every day.