I can now say I have seen The Hunger Games: Catching Fire by Lionsgate films. Owing to how the first movie turned out, I wasn’t exactly standing in line to see this one opening night. I did for the first one, and ended up with a pretty good motion headache.
The good news on that one is that with a new director they were able to keep the camera steady enough to show the details of the movie.
For those who haven’t read the book Catching Fire, it’s the sequel to the Hunger Games, where a post-war America reminds those that lost the second civil war that they had lost by an institution known as The Hunger Games, where two children from each of the twelve districts are chosen to fight to the death for the honor of their district. All for the sport of the Capitol, who had won the war seventy five years ago and now live in the lap of luxury provided by the twelve districts.
In this fiery sequel, the tributes for the hunger games are chosen from the pool of victors, rather than any twelve to eighteen year old in the audience. This automatically throws our heroine, Katniss Everdeen, back into the arena. Only this time she’s against experienced fighters.
Now, if I were to say that the director, Francis Lawrence should have stayed with the integrity of the book, most people would write that off as the most cliché movie review ever and move on. But this time it’s legit.
The biggest reason is that the movie was created to send a political statement to America and use Suzanne Collins’s novel as a vehicle for that.
Don’t believe me? Let’s dig into it then.
The biggest thing is that the Quarter Quell, every twenty fifth Hunger Games, was established alongside the institution of the games themselves. President Snow opened a seventy five year old envelope with the details of that year’s games. It even mentioned what had happened in previous quarter quells.
And then in the movie there’s a couple of big conversations about Katniss needs to be killed, but in the right way and at the right time. They need to destroy the symbol. Then you see President Snow opening a letter and announcing the stipulation to the games. He could have written that card, or even left it blank, and revealed it like it had been something planned out when he could have thought about it twenty minutes ago.
Then there’s the whole conversation in the beginning before the tour even begins. Just Katniss recognizing a white rose in her house in the Victor’s Village brought a whole new level of fear for her, yet in the movie Snow had to be there himself to announce that not only did he know last year’s hunger games was a farce, but that if Katniss and Peeta didn’t play along, then they would all be killed.
Those two moments that didn’t exist in the books sets the stage for all of the rioting, the parties and lifestyle of the Capitol to be a statement of what we’re dealing with now. The riots and parties occurred in the books, true enough, but saying Suzanne Collins wrote this novel to send a direct statement like George Orwell’s 1984 is an outright lie. Didn’t happen, But Francis Lawrence made it out that way.
For the die-hard Hunger Games fans, I think the biggest frustration, if they could accept the changes that come with the shift in medium, is they never explain all the details that make the world real. Katniss had a bigger drinking problem, they never explained the three finger salute or much of the life in the Capitol, or even much about the tributes or showing how they won their previous hunger games. So, they had to become the resource to answer questions when the non-book readers started asking.
In the end, the movie was much better and very enjoyable regardless.
I will say that we need to pay some respect to the actress who really outdid herself.
No, not Jennifer Lawrence, people expect that. Especially that scene in the elevator. I’m talking about Elizabeth Banks. She played Effie Trinket and she was the one person who was without a doubt spot on in her acting. It’s one thing to play a character you believe in or does the things that should happen. It’s another to play a character who is just now discovering what that is. She pulled out vapid, empty-headed Capitol for the first movie, but you can see the mental walls breaking down, you can see her struggle to accept everything that’s going on. If she accepts that the Games must happen, then she must also accept that Katness and Peeta will die. If she wants the star-crossed lovers to live, well then she needs to accept the fact that she’s shooting herself in the foot career-wise. And those hairdos don’t pay for themselves.
In the end, if I have any desire to see Mockinjay in theatres, it’s because of the overall improvement Catching Fire made.