Anyone out there still care about The Hunger Games: Catching Fire? I may have missed the boat on this one but I had to upload (do people still say upload?) some thoughts on this movie. First off, I loved the first movie in the Hunger Games series. Before seeing it I read the book in five minute chunks on my tiny phone screen during work breaks. I never got around to reading the next two books so I went into this second entry with no expectations. Honestly, after reading the first book I didn’t feel the need to move on to the others. This happened with the “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” series as well. The first book in both of these series felt like they wrapped up the plot lines well enough for me and I never felt like I needed to press on with the books. Sure we knew there would be more to Katniss and Lisbeth’s stories and that Katniss would have to sort out her awkward love triangle and minor issues with the President and Lisbeth would have a bunch of craziness going on with her father, but I felt like I had come to a safe end point. Eventually I went on to read the rest of the Millenium Series (which are some of the best books I’ve read in a long time) but I left the Hunger Games alone, thinking I got all the childhood violence I needed.
Literary tangents aside, this movie far exceeded my expectations and reminded me that one can never have enough movie violence (well…maybe that’s just me). At the start of the movie we fly over a snow covered forest and see Katniss hunting by a lake with her trusty bow. Walking into the theater I was a little foggy as to how the first movie ended, and I wasn’t sure if this opening was a dream, a flashback, or in the time of our current movie. After a few quiet hunting scenes, we find that we are in the current timeline and Katniss has retreated to where she feels most at home while making a stop on her Victory tour. There are several moments in the first half of the film where Katniss tries to pull away from the responsibilities of being a Victor. We see her imploring Gale, one third of the movie’s love triangle and lesser brother of Thor, to runaway with her into the woods. Instead of escaping, she keeps getting pulled back into the world she never wanted. The crux of the movie arrives when Katniss, Peeta (the final third of the love triangle), and other Victors are summoned back for a mega-Hunger Games. Basically this is the Hunger Games version of Survivor: All Stars with the amazing Phillip Seymour Hoffman playing the role of Jeff Probst.
Between the episodes of the first movie and the actual Hunger Games of this movie, Katniss has become a symbol for rebellion against the fascist government lead by President Snow, and has galvanized the oppressed people of the colonies. As a result, this Hunger Games deals much more with the out-of-the-arena world than the Games of the first installment. This extra-Arena plot warps the emotions of the Games, giving us an additional story to process outside of the survival of our heroes. The intensity and suspense are still present in dosage equal to the first film, but I found the emotions slightly more powerful in the first edition. I imagine the change is due to the lack of a Rue-like character that Katniss protects. Instead, Katniss herself is looked after by her new posse who take the active role in the strategy of Games and are unwilling to let Katniss pull away like she would so prefer. This posse is provided to us by the adjusted All-Star format of these Hunger Games, giving us a full quiver of pre-loaded characters each with interesting back stories and flashy video montages showcasing their past Hunger Games triumphs. Sam Claflin in particular offers a solid and sufficiently layered performance as the trident wielding Finnick.
At this point, you’ve probably read enough reviews about this movie so I’m going to move in a different direction. The Hunger Games franchise is probably the most popular sci-fi/fantasy series running today. Of course this only applies if we want to talk about the franchises in their prime. Lift that constraint and the argument can be made that Harry Potter is still the king of the fantasy hill. The last time Potter fans waited outside bookstores, dressed as their favorite Potter pals, was way back in 2007 and the last film hit theaters in 2011. It’s been a few years (not nearly as long as I thought it had been), but the Potter franchise is still the benchmark for new fantasy worlds, and likely will be for some time (for the record I’m not counting the Lord of the Rings given the age of those books, or the compartmentalized yet overlapping Marvel Studios series). But other than their box office and book sale successes, how do Harry Potter and The Hunger Games compare? What parallels can be drawn between them? Many of the aspects of this film that I’ve mentioned above have direct correlates to the Harry Potter Universe and I will explore them further in a separate post.
Check back this Sunday, April 27th for Part 2, my follow-up and break-down of these two ultra-popular series.
Rating: 8/10. While this movie has a different feel from its predecessor, it is still an enjoyable couple of hours well worth your time and leaves us anticipating the next installment.
Rotten Tomatoes: 89%
Where to see it: Well…you probably can’t see it in theaters anymore, but if it’s still showing in a theater near you, it would absolutely be worth the money to see it on the big screen. Plus only the dollar theaters are likely to still have screenings. Obviously the action sequences would be better served by a theater, but your favorite home movie seat will suffice.
Head over to Alex Raphael’s site for more on this movie!
Thanks for reading!