Philosophy, Psychology, Nerdisms, Writing from the Trenches

Hunger Games: Catching Fire Review – From the 3rd Largest IMAX Screen in North America

Hunger Games: Catching Fire Review - From the 3rd Largest IMAX Screen in North America

When I saw the first Hunger Games movie, I said I liked it better than the book. I like Catching Fire better than the book,too.

Saw Hunger Games: Catching Fire. You should, too. Here’s my review.

Spoilers ahead.

I’m a fairly on-the-fence fan of the Hunger Games trilogy. I’m taking my sweet time to read the final book (though I’ll get to it before the 3rd movie comes out.) In all honesty, I had to start and stop and start Catching Fire again. Why? It was kind of boring. Katniss takes a lot of baths and thinks a lot.

And thinks a lot.

And has teenage angst and thinks about.

Not to be rude, Katniss, but, frankly, I don’t care. If the choices are Team Peeta and Team Gale, I vote neither. 

I haven’t ever really liked Katniss’s voice in her head, which you get a ton of in the book. But, I love the world. I love the idea. I know it’s a little illogical, sending your children to be killed every year, but it’s actually not and Catching Fire really shows us why. Let me give you some examples as to why I like the movie better than the book:

1. Hope killer

The Hunger Games is all about hope vs. fear. Every year, the Capitol might pick your kid to be put to death in a battle royale. Deal with it. That’s a constant fear in the world. If you were forced to live your life fearing that your child would be ripped away from you, it might stunt the relationship. The beginning of Catching Fire takes us on the Capitol Victory Tour, parading the heroes of this battle royale in front of every family of the child they killed. This person who killed your kid is now supposed to be considered a hero. 

And you’ve created a teenage hero with PTSD.

2. PTSD

Oh my God, how wonderfully this is addressed in Catching Fire. Oh my God, it is so well-executed. While Katniss and Peeta might be living in the lap of luxury, they are constantly haunted by the things they did in the arena. There are two tributes from District 6 and they are addicted to drugs. Haymitch is a raging alcoholic. Joanna is full of rage and spitfire. Katniss has flashbacks, Peeta has nightmares. They’re told to put on a happy face, but you can tell how deeply, deeply depressed they are.

3. Plutarch

Major spoilers. If you read the book, you know that Plutarch isn’t the bad guy Katniss originally thinks he is. He’s the new game master, played by Phillip Seymour Hoffman. In the book, you only get Katniss’s viewpoint. In the movie, though, we have scenes of Plutarch sitting down with President Snow and this is fricking magical. If you haven’t read the books, you don’t really know what’s going on. The script is so well executed by Hoffman, you will think he’s still a bad guy.

If you have read the book, the script is so well executed by Hoffman, you can see the more dangerous game he’s playing against Snow throughout the film. In many ways, he’s the real hero of this story. Katniss is thrust into the arena and has to survive. Same old, same old. She has no idea about the greater revolution around her. Katniss does what she does.

Plutarch is in the same amount of danger. If Snow even suspects Plutarch of playing him, he’ll be deader than Mags walking into the fog. He is playing the games just like the Tributes.

4. Background Imagery

All right, kids. You should look at background stuff and I’m not playing around here. I’m sure there are things I missed, but let me give you some things to look out for.

a) Katniss’s house and Victor Village

Wings, feathers, arrows. They are all over this place. And it’s very powerful. When you are on Katniss’s turf, you have Katniss’s set dressing. Look out for these details because they were definitely intentional.

b) The Train

Once Katniss is on the train, white roses everywhere. It’s not overdone. In the first Hunger Games, we saw what the train looks like and, to the casual observer, this train looks the same. However, all the flowers are white roses, the symbol of President Snow. Katniss crossed over to President Snow’s world and he doesn’t want you to forget it.

c) As always, the Fashion

The book spends a lot of time on the fashions. The movie does, too. I can only image how excited the costume designers must have been to work on something so strange and beautiful as this. I love the chariot fashions. I love the fashions with Cesar. Drink it in.

Hunger Games: Catching Fire Review - From the 3rd Largest IMAX Screen in North America Now, the icky part. The bad.

1. Not enough arena

A lot of the movie was slow build to slow build. While all of it seems necessary, there could have been a much faster way to get to the Hunger Games. That being said, they still leave out a lot of the important information like they did in the first movie. Like, why is this happening. Readers understand the whole District 13 thing, but most moviegoers are like, “Wha…?” Really, we’re there to see them in the arena. Because there’s so little time of them in the actual arena, Katniss figures everything out much too fast, we don’t get to see all 12 hours, only 5 or 6, and we don’t really get that emotional attachment to Katniss’s allies. You don’t see why water works to Finnick’s advantage. You don’t see the depth of the plan.

2. No ending

I’m not joking when I say Catching Fire is the Empire Strikes Back of the Hunger Games. Instead of cutting to credits, they should have said “tune in next year for to exciting conclusion…” Again, I knew this was going to happen because that’s how the book ends, but still. It leaves you feeling exhausted and unfulfilled.

3. Katniss isn’t a role model

Time after time, I see that Katniss is supposed to be this grand female role model and maybe she is. But, not in Catching Fire. Catching Fire sees her used and manipulated. It sees her submissive to what’s happening around her. Even in the 1st Hunger Games, Katniss is a completely reactionary character. All she does is survive. At least in Catching Fire, she has the active want of keeping Peeta alive. But, everyone manipulates her. Snow, the revolutionaries, Cinna, Haymitch, even Peeta. She is a pawn in a game that the adults are playing. I had an issue with this in Hunger Games, as well. Katniss doesn’t actually do anything. She survives. She kills one guy and it was almost an accident.

It seems as though that will change, as implied by her angry look at the end of the film, that maybe she’ll be a more active character. But, my bet is on her missing things up, because her strong suit is reaction, not action.

Catching Fire is good. Any issues I had with it are light, but maybe in some cases, intentional. It’s a nice, solid sci-fi romp and an incredibly strong adaptation. 

Final thought: Stanley Tucci’s teeth

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