5. Plutarch Heavensbee Blows Seneca Crane Out Of The Water As Games Master
It might seem like a relatively small change when you are talking about quality between two films, but the replacement of Wes Bentley's arrogant, preening games master with the affable-yet- sinister Hunger Games maestro Plutarch Heavensbee massively improves the suspense and competitive nature of the game sequences themselves. This was by design even in Collins' novel, where Crane was merely a delusional tool of the government machine, while Plutarch functioned as a mysterious free agent, who advises Snow and threatens Katniss but never once seems like someone's puppet. In a dystopian novel of this type, the real villain is the social hierarchy and its leaders, which can often feel shadowy, vague and insubstantial as a primary antagonist. The first film had President Snow as the ruthless face of the Capitol and its regime, but his scenes were minimal, even when greatly expanded from the book. In order to feel the tension of the game event and perceive Katniss and Peeta as having a real adversary---outside the other scared but dangerous kids fighting for their livesRoss and his scriptwriters did an interesting and welcome thing; they went behind the scenes of the game-planning. We watched Seneca Crane as he and his Truman Show-esque team manipulated the terrain, delivered aid or set traps. It was just what a more literal vision of the story needed. The problem was really down to Wes and an insubstantial Crane. He never felt particularly sinister or imposing, and so these scenes added interest but not suspense or gravity. Not so this time around. Snow and the Capitol are sufficiently fleshed out and menacing, but they take a backseat eventually to Hoffman's spin on Heavensbee, which is so terrifically understated that it vibrantly stands out from the rest of this universe. If you're from the districts, you're covered in mud or coal dust, and if you're from the Capitol you look like you raided the wardrobes of Brazil or The Fifth Element. Not Hoffman's Plutarch, who could have just wandered right off the set of The Master, wearing the same exact suit. When this guy digs in to work he's like a stockbroker or a composer; there's no emotional attachment registered as he goes about government-sanctioned murder as entertainment. Hoffman gives him texture without playing his hand, which makes him more threatening, not less.