“Remember who the real enemy is.” - Haymitch Abernathy
The point of dystopia is to paint the landscape and social makeup of an oppressive government and its effect on its citizenry, a genre that has produced plenty of great examples in the last century. For awesome/unprecedented reasons, Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games brought renewed life to this gloomy genre, striking a cord with audiences that may not have been felt since The Giver. Depicting such governments makes for a gripping social morality tale and helps reinforce the importance of freedom to its audience. With Catching Fire, this importance is reinforced to a whole new level. The world is larger, the stakes are higher, and the games more treacherous, making Catching Fire one of those rare sequels that outshines its first outing.
Welcome to the 75th annual HUNGER GAMES (this is where I laugh like Caesar Flickerman, but I’ll resist)! Things are different this year, however, as this is a Quarter Quell – which means a special “wrinkle” will be applied to Panam’s favorite sporting event where two kids from each of the 12 districts fight to the death. What kind of change can we expect to the rules this year? As you know, the previous games caused quite a stir. For the first time in the history of the games, we had two victors. As a result, hope is spreading throughout the 12 oppressed districts, and this is making the devious President Snow anxious. He wants Katniss Everdeen dead, along with all the other victors who stand as an “invincible” threat to his regime. The solution is easy: make the previous victors fight to the death! What better way to kill several birds with one dome?
I doubt anyone can argue that Jennifer Lawrence is the pillar that holds this movie together. It would take a master to pull of the complex role of Katniss, but she manages to balance a decent love triangle (if not change the gears abruptly) and tackles being a star while using that fame to stand up for others. At one point in the film, she will look at you, and the look in eyes is sure to send chills down your spine. The supporting cast does its job of, well, supporting Katniss in her journey, Donald Sutherland is cunning and callous, and Philip Seymour Hoffman is a welcomed addition as the new Game Master. The tour of Panam gives us a thorough look at this world and captures a broader (and much needed) glimpse of its people. While much of the film’s pacing is recycled from the first run (which makes sense), there’s enough difference to keep things fresh.
The score by James Newton Howard sings once again, providing a vibrant or subtle tone where appropriate. The visuals are striking (particularly the CGI creatures) and an improvement from the first games (with the help of a larger budget, I’d wager). It would seem that previous complaints of “shaky camera” were taken into account by the new director, as there is little to be found here, providing a smooth and clear experience that didn’t confuse or cause headaches.
As is the nature of adapting a first-person novel into a movie, the internalization of the character is usually lost and difficult to translate. This happens to Katniss in a few places. She does unexpected things, and we see the gears working in her head by the look on her face, but her decisions aren’t always clear. By film’s end, I had an idea of where her resolves lie, but not her heart. Then again, there is the promise of more to come and Katniss may not have made up her mind yet. Fair enough, but I would’ve appreciated a smoother transition to her motivations.
The “Sequel of the Year” award goes to The Hunger Games: Catching Fire – hands down – fulfilling the anticipation of fans everywhere without alienating the casual viewer. Go Catch some Fire! If you didn’t like the first movie, you may find much to like about this one.
Release the Mockingjay!
Who's excited to Catch some Fire? What do you like/don't like about series, books or otherwise? Who's ready for the next one?
I'm David, and "The odds are never in our favor ..."