When a film like The Hunger Games: Catching Fire comes along, it brings out my inner feminist. Films like this are rare. We are so used to seeing women be the lead in romantic comedies, that when you see one wielding a bow and murdering people for survival, it’s jarring. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire may not be the best film of 2013, it is far from perfect, but it is one of the most important films of 2013.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is the middle child of the trilogy, so you’d expect it to be forgetful, a placeholder for the more explosive conclusion. However, that is not the case. Catching Fire is a darker, deeper and more action-packed than the first film. It builds upon what the first film already created and adds more layers, to its characters, and the world they inhabit.
Great detail is paid to the characters of the film. You can see a more grown relationship between all of them. The survivor bond that Haymitch and Katniss have. Effie’s reaction to Peeta and Katniss going back into the games. Cinna’s friendship with Katniss. Gale’s jealousy of Peeta and so much more. Catching Fire understands its characters and puts their development to the forefront.
All of this evidenced in the film’s cold opening, with Katniss suffering from a bad case of PTSD. The opening shows her reluctance about being the face of a rebellion and leading people to their death. She just wants peace and quite.
The film never tones down its subject matter. It’s a dark and violent world, and if you’re a book purist, you won’t be disappointed about how the films handles its violent content. The film had moments that made me feel uneasy, it had me wondering how they managed to get the PG13 rating. The film adds weight to every death and every dire choice these characters make.
The film has a two and half hour runtime, basically following a similar structure to the first film. You follow Katniss dealing with the aftermath of her first games. Peeta and her both survived the last games and in the eyes of the Districts she defied the Capitol in refusing to play by their rules. President Snow in an attempt to try and destroy the symbol of rebellion Katniss has become, states, that the 75th Hunger Games will be drawn from the previous victors.
Here you meet some welcome new additions to the cast. Sam Claflin as Finnick, who is all charm and secrets. The scene stealing Jenna Malone as Johanna, who plays the feisty character with such conviction, it really is the character from the novel come to life. The incredibly cool Phillip Seymour Hoffman, as Plutarch Heavensbee.
The returning cast is just as terrific but the film rests on the shoulders of Jennifer Lawrence and the newly crowned Oscar winner delivers. She captivates the screen, conveying Katniss’ inner torment and the hope she is reluctantly giving people.
The biggest change to the film, is Francis Lawrence replacing Garry Ross as director. Gone is the dizzying shaky cam shots that many people complained about in the first film. Also gone with Garry Ross is the grittiness from the first film. Nonetheless, Lawrence’s direction is top notch. The Games themselves are worth the approximate 90 minute wait.
A rotating island, rabid baboons blood soaked rain, attack birds and the rolling poisonous gas all have a visceral beauty to them; especially when the play out against the gorgeous tropical backdrop. The film at times is simply stunning. A shot of Peeta and Katniss against the sunrise, is a particular favourite of mine.
The film has a few rough patches that are forgivable but the abrupt cliffhanger ending is unforgivable. The book ends in a similar way but for a film it didn’t work, it made me more mad than when I read it. You can’t help but feel like an extra scene was needed, instead of the final scene they choose. It leaves you with a “that’s it” feeling, like there should be more, considering all that we just witnessed in the last two and a half hours.
Many people write off The Hunger Games Trilogy as rip off, of everything in pop culture. Plot is similar to Battle Royale and to some extent Spartacus. The peacekeepers look suspiciously like Storm troopers. Poison fog, reminded me of the smoke monster from Lost, etc. For me, ultimately these are references, to help us connect to themes in modern pop culture. Themes about our obsession with celebrities, our hate towards politicians and our addiction to reality TV and video games.
Despite its lack of ending and the structural similarities to the first book, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is a strong addition to one of the better teen movie/book franchises in recent memory. It adds new depth to its characters while building on what was already created in the first film. Anchored by a strong female lead, Catching Fire is appropriately emotional and sad. Go for the action but stay for the story, characters and Stanley Tucci’s purple eyebrows.
Score: 8.0 out of 10