First off, Happy Thanksgiving to all! We hope you are enjoying your turkey day with a good film or two.
Secondly, we are happy to introduce a guest writer for this piece, Nick, in place of Vig, who was unavailable this week.
And now for the feature presentation, The Hunger Games; Catching Fire. Based off the worldwide best selling series of the same name, The Hunger Games series has been adored/not by people of all ages, and the same goes with the films. It is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence, thematic elements, and language, and stars Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth.
Catching Fire continues the story of Katniss Everdeen (Lawrence) in the aftermath of her defiant victory in the 74th Hunger Games, as she becomes the symbol of hope and revolution all across the Districts, much to the dismay of the Capitol and President Snow (Donald Sutherland). Before she embarks on her victory tour, she is confronted by Snow, who challenges her to prove her love with Peeta Mellark (Hutcherson), the co-champion from the previous games, in order to convince the world that her defiance was love, not rebellion.
With the help of their team, Haymitch (Woody Harrelson) and Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks), Katniss and Peeta attempt to continue on with their lives. However, Snow, in an attempt to kill Katniss to extinguish an uprising, announces that the 75th Hunger Games, the “Quarter Quell” will feature solely past winners. Katniss, being the only female victor from her district, is automatically chosen to the games. Katniss, with the hopes of millions on her shoulders, is forced to find help in those she trusts, and those she doesn’t.
I’d like to start out by saying I read the Hunger Games Trilogy which these movies are based on. The first movie, released last year, didn’t quite do the series justice. I was unimpressed by the stale acting, some pacing, and the horrible “shaky cam” that effectively ruined every action sequence. That being said, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire improved on everything that was lacking in the first movie, and went above and beyond my expectations.
After comparing the sequel to last year’s film, it’s easy to see that a new director was at the helm this year. Hearing about the change actually worried me before seeing the movie. Gary Ross, director of Pleasantville and Seabiscuit, was replaced by Francis Lawrence, known for I Am Legend and Water For Elephants. I thought his butchering of both those titles from the books to the big screen would foreshadow how Hunger Games: Catching Fire would turn out, but I’m glad to say I’m pleasantly surprised.
The film starts out with Katniss, now a victor of the 74th Hunger Games, struggling to live her life after defying the Capitol. Everything around her depends on her ability to convince the nation she really does love Peeta and defied the Capitol out of love instead of rebellion. As the story progresses, society around the characters begins to crumble, and by the end it is clear the film has set everything up to climax in the next two movies (Mockingjay will be split into two parts).
The acting in this film has seen a huge improvement since the first movie. After watching Silver Linings Playbook (for which Lawrence won an Oscar), I expected a lot more of Lawrence this time around. And I’m quite happy to say she definitely delivered. She behaves less like a cardboard cutout and more like the complex character that she is supposed to emulate. Everything from her screams to anxiety attacks feel real, and that is a definite difference in the sequel. Katniss’s relations with some other characters such as Gale (Liam Hemsworth) and Peeta are complicated to say the least. The chemistry between these actors is definitely interesting to watch, but the main relationship between Peeta and Katniss fell a little short for me. Hutcherson has certainly improved from the first film, but has still a ways to go in my opinion. Characters that get less screen time, like President Snow manage to absolutely nail their roles. Cinna (Lenny Kravitz) was only on screen of about fifteen minutes, but his performance and role manage to stick out in the forefront of my mind.
Although the pacing was a bit odd (The actual games started an hour plus into the movie) the movie really focused on the bigger picture of the movement against the Capitol. I loved this, especially as the time in the actual games was far less interesting than out. By the end, you know the next movies are where the series will become even darker.
The fact that this whole movement started because of a helpless girl just being fed up with being played around with is very apparent. Katniss is constantly out of her depth, and the Capitol will stop at nothing to bring peace back to Panem. At this point in the series, it’s Katniss and her friends versus an entire omnipotent government that doesn’t have an inkling of what mercy is. And in short, the movie set up for the bigger picture events while also having a story of its own. Hunger Games: Catching Fire was a great film, and gives me hope for the next movie in the series.
7.0 out of 10
Can we get a film about the guy who yells “HUNGER GAMES” in the trailer?
I kid. I kid….A little. But around two years ago, when Hunger Games had just wrapped up its trilogy and I was about to start reading the books, people warned me that there was to be a gradual decline in the quality of the books; culminating in the polarizing mess that is Mockingjay.
While I can’t say if that happened in the books (I’ve only read the first one), I can confidently say that the movies aren’t appearing to lose their strong points anytime soon. I went in under the pretense that it would be a lukewarm re-hash of the original as some have said the book is and I was pleasantly surprised by the fact that it expanded on it, just a sequel should do. The movie plays out like a bleak middle chapter that is shaped around our characters rather than the opposite.
But if there is one thing that the Hunger Games movie (s) tends to suffer from, its indecisiveness. The franchise has a lot of different types of fans to appeal to. There are those who see it as a character-study of Katniss while others see it as a commentary on modern day entertainment and inequality. Still, there are always going to be those who are a part of it just for the wooden love triangles that seem somewhat hastily set up. In reality, I do think it is a mix of the three elements (Yes, even the third one) but, in our world of fast-paced movies, asking for two hours and twenty-six minutes of a viewers time is a touch too much if the film is undecided on what exactly it wants to develop.
The actors tend to keep the scenes rollin, however. I don’t think I can really say anything about Jennifer Lawrence that hasn’t been said by fans, critics or the Academy but I’ll reiterate that I feel like I’m watching the character, not the actor playing her. The others are also good picks as they fit pretty perfectly into the world their characters are in. Rumor says that Donald Sutherland found the role of President Snow so complex that he would continually write detailed letters to the producers of the Hunger Games films just to expand his role and confirm all of his choices and I think that shows here. Much like Tom Hiddleston with Loki, you can tell that Sutherland finds the villain he’s playing very interesting to the benefit of the audience.
As for what themes there are that need to be discussed, I would say they are relatively obvious. The Hunger Games perpetually and flawlessly depicts the brutality of modern media in such an extreme way that the viewer can not help but resonate with it. Its hard to believe that we, as a society, needed a franchise about kids killing each other to meet this realization but we meet it nonetheless.
Catching Fire falls into that category of sequels that about meet the quality of their predecessor. I would personally say that it surpasses it by a millimeter. With some direction, Mockingjay could cement this trilogy as a success.
Bonus Video! Coldplay’s song “Atlas” made for the Catching Fire soundtrack.
Rotten Tomatoes: 89%