Release date: 11/22/2013
Dir. Francis Lawrence
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence (Katniss Everdeen), Josh Hutcherson (Peeta Mellark), Liam Hemsworth (Gale Hawthorne), Woody Harrelson (Haymitch Abernathy), Sam Claflin (Finnick Odair), Jena Malone (Johanna Mason), Jeffrey Wright (Beetee)
I walked into Catching Fire with high hopes. I enjoyed The Hunger Games after walking into it with expectations of a terrible spin on Battle Royale. Catching Fire was completely satisfying. The dynamic between all the characters was well executed and it didn’t hold back from showing the most troubling and emotional scenes from the book in the movie. The movie hit highs of great excitement and juxtaposed it with a solemn love triangle. Was Catching Fire perfect? No. But would I turn down a return visit to the theatre to see it? Not a chance.
I have many lovely spoilers ahead. Assume this covers both the movie and the book. SPOILER ALERT!
Similar to the first movie, we are thrown right into Katniss’ current predicament. Now that she’s returned from the games by proclaiming her love for a man she doesn’t truly love, she has to continue the act. Despite knowing this, she doesn’t realize the severity of her situation and how dire it is that she makes the districts believe she is actually in love with Peeta. At least not until her stop on the victory tour to District 11, when a man is shot for showing solidarity to Katniss.
After playing the perfect couple, and never daring to do off book again, Katniss is given another dose of who is in charge when Gale is beaten in the twon square as part of increased fear inducement by the peacekeepers. But the real doozy was learning that the Quarter Quell would be drawn from the current pool of Victors, meaning Katniss and either Peeta or Haymitch would be joining her in the arena. Unsrprisingly, Peeta decides to go in with her and together they decide who of their competitors they will ally themselves with. It is only in the arena that they realize they allies had already been chosen for them with Finnick and Mags (District 4), Wiress and Betee (District 3), and Johanna (District 7). Together they execute Beetee’s plan to take out the remaining members of the Careers, but it seemingly goes wrong.
End Plot Overview
The dynamic between Katniss and Peeta was intriguing to watch, However I didn’t always feel the bond they shared. While Katniss was not truly in love, I didn’t get the sense that she truly cared about Peeta at all until she nearly lost him. Before that, he seemed like little more than an inconvenience. For the movie, this can work although the sudden shift is not there. In the book, we got a stronger sense of her uncertainty about having to be with Peeta for the rest of her life, but it was always clear that she did care about Peeta, just not in the way he wanted. I missed that from the feel. If we had more build up to her sudden switch in the end when she is completely motivated and drawn in to Peeta.
This internal confusion could have been played up a bit, but yet again, we are treated to very little Gale in the movie. I will give them that there was more of him in this film, but we never get to see Katniss really struggle with her emotions for him. She comes off a certain to not make any decisions. She knows she will marry Peeta, but she I never get to feel how upset she is over not being with Gale. As a result, the love triangle is a bit week. However, all of this leads me to believe that the movies don’t want to really play into the love triangle more than they have to. I can’t blame them. Though, as Haymitch notes, Katniss doesn’t deserve Peeta. Thankfully, by the end of the film you start to understand how much he truly means to her, even if she is terrible at expressing it.
The action sequences in the movie were really top notch. Gone were the shaky camera scenes of the previous movie. With a steady camera, we are treated to even more excitement both inside and outside the arena. In an era where an action sequence seems almost required by movies to adopt, it is nice to see the action here done well. We are pulled through events and are able to get lost in what is happening whether that is running through a forest from poison gas, fighting off baboon muttations, or the chaos of a final escape. Each scene was handled wonderfully as it rose tensions and maintained a level of excitement many recent action movies lack. I was never bored by the movement and it wasn’t too quick to become confused.
As far as the characters go, my opinions are a bit torn. In one instance I was compelled by Katniss’ growth throughout the film. Her recognition of her situation was both tragic and genuine. As a young girl thrown into a situation way over her head, she maintained her stubbornness that saved her life. She was able to start to realize her importance. One thing I wish the movie had more of was the reveal of how important she was. As an already long movie, I know it would be hard to include. That said her importance is ultimately thrust upon us, without any proof of how she is actually affecting others. She is the symbol of the rebellion, that’s why she needs to be protected. That was why she was saved. A painting in a tunnel of her mockingjay was not enough to indicate just how important she actually was.
The supporting cast of the film was wonderful, particularly Effie Trinket, played by Elizabeth Banks. The emotion Elizabeth was able to bring to her character far exceeded anything that was evoked in the books. You really felt how much it troubled her to see her two tributes go back into the arena. She may have been from the Capital, but she truly saw Katness and Peeta as part of her family. It was heartbreaking to see Effie go through that inner turmoil while trying to stay strong for the two of them. Phillip Seymour Hoffman, as Plutarch Heavensbee was also wonderful. He hid his intentions well. While, the film didn’t allow for his slight hints to Katniss to show, you still felt him as an ominous presence. Yet, his constant delays with President Snow started to add up. To learn that he was part of the Revolution didn’t feel too abrupt or unbelievable with his portrayal. And one final supporting cast member who stood out was Lenny Kravitz as Cinna. Yet again, he was engaging and charming in a reseved manner. You could feel his pain just as Effie, but instead of sadness, he rebelled.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire was a solid movie that is sure to entertain. However, don’t expect to walk into a light-hearted romp. This is a solemn movie with a lot of tragedy. There are not many light moments and the film does not suffer from that, in fact it thrives on it. We are treated to some great moments of emotion and action. There are certainly things that could have been worked on, like building the relationships stronger. However, I look forward to enjoying this film in the future as it possesses the great quality of rewatchability that many recent movies are losing. And for anyone on the fence of watching the movie, I would recommend at least giving it a chance.