I’m surprised I saw this movie. I abhorred the first Hunger Games after watching it in theaters and couldn’t make it through a second viewing months later. Still, doing my due diligence as a nerd and consumer whore, I saw the second film, Catching Fire (my girlfriend wanted to see it). Not only was this film better than the first — and fixed many problems — I actually enjoyed it.
I haven’t read the Hunger Games books. I considered it, but after the first movie, I didn’t want to waste my time. Still, the trailers did a good job, or a poor one, showing the plot. Civil unrest had spread throughout the districts after Katniss and Peeta won the Hunger Games. Allowing more than one person to win showed how the system could be broken. As the two made their victory tour, people rallied, showing support for their defiant act. These mutinous actions were met with swift and harsh punishment. President Snow (Donald Sutherland), in an attempt to quell the civil unrest, had the 75th Hunger Games reap their tributes from previous winners. As Katniss was the only living female victor from district 12, it was assured that she would be chosen.
An immediate difference between this film and the first was the atmosphere. In the first one, I never got the feeling that this was a desolate future with people kept in line through strict governance and impoverished conditions. I understood this was the status quo, as it was explained, but it was never shown or conveyed well. With Catching Fire, I instantly felt how bleak and destitute their lives were.
The entire cast returned, each delivering an amazing performance. Woody Harrelson was awesome as the drunken Haymitch Abernathy, while Josh Hutcherson was less annoying as Peeta, and dare I say actually likable. Liam Hemsworth had an expanded role as Gale, and Jennifer Lawrence proved that she earned every bit of that Academy Award. Two new characters were added, Philip Seymour Hoffman as Plutarch Heavensbee, the new gamemaker, and Patrick St. Esprit as Commander Thread. Hoffman gave a good performance as the slimy Heavensbee, though it was obvious that something was amiss as he didn’t dress like anyone else from the Capitol. St. Esprit was angry and terrifying as Thread, though his character disappeared after the first act. I’m assuming he needed to be introduced here for the third book/movie, but it was odd that he wasn’t seen or heard from again.
There were three moments in the film that really grabbed me, still playing out in my head. Cinna (Lenny Kravitz), helped Katniss show her defiance with her dress during her interview. Before she was sent up to the games, soldiers arrived to bludgeon him in front of her while she was sealed in the launch tube. This attempt to break her mentally was gut wrenching and captivating. During the games, when Mags kissed Finnick goodbye, her sacrifice was touching, making it more agonizing when we saw Finnick’s reaction. This worked beyond her sacrifice as it changed my initial (and intentional) perception of Finnick. And finally, the last scene, with Katniss crying for a moment before getting angry. Normally, I might not have cared for something like that, but with Lawrence performing that scene, I felt Katniss’ sorrow and rage.
One more note about Finnick. He’s a good fighter in water and carried around a trident? He’s Aquaman. And Beetee? Where the hell did he get that wire? “I invented it.” With what? Sand?
Catching Fire was a very good movie, one that I’ve heard is better than the book. So good in fact, I’ll likely read the books before the last two films come to theaters (Mockingjay was split into two parts for 2014 and 2015. Thanks, Harry Potter). Even if you didn’t like the first movie, there’s a good chance you’ll enjoy this one.
Was the book or movie better? Any scene give you the feels? Comment below!
Plutarch Heavensbee? How did Collins come up with the names?