So a little while back, you may have remembered my comparison and contrast of the two books in the teen death match genre, Battle Royale and The Hunger Games. (And if you didn’t here is the link *wink wink nudge nudge*) I talked in pretty open detail about the merits of both books and found both of them to be stellar stories within their own regards… But one thing I did not touch upon is what I thought about the film adaptations that were created. Now we will get into Battle Royale’s movie in just a little bit… Because today we are talking about The Hunger Games movies. Without getting into a full scale review of the first movie (which you won’t be seeing from me), I can tell you that I did really enjoy the first film. It was very well done and well acted all around. Solid 4 in my books. Today’s subject; however, is the next story in the saga, Catching Fire. And I have to say that this is one of those rare instances where the film is on par, if not better than its novel adaptation.
The story picks up a year after the events of The Hunger Games. Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) are trying to carry on with life after the Hunger Games and are trying to maintain the facade of their romance that saved both of their lives in the games. They soon leave on their ‘victory tour’ where they travel to each of the twelve districts and the Capitol where they eulogize the fallen competitors and are shown off as victors to the masses. As they travel to each of the districts, they quickly learn that the games have stirred unrest in the districts as people are beginning to revolt against the peace keepers with anyone who gives the mocking jay symbol are quickly and publicly executed. Meanwhile President Snow (Donald Sutherland) tries to force Katniss to keep up a happy facade in order to quell the rebellion which proves to be futile.
As the 75th Hunger Games comes to be, it is announced that it is what is called a Quarter Quell where former victors have to compete again in another Hunger Games. Peeta and Katniss are recruited again and are sent to the Capitol to prepare for another Hunger Games. There they meet with several other former victors and begin to form friendships and alliances for the games all the while being watched over by the new Game Master Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman).
Jennifer Lawrence Knocks it Out of the Park as Katniss
I have made it pretty clear that I am a huge fan of Jennifer Lawrence and everything that she has done in her career. This movie is no exception. She portrays Katniss as a person who is truly traumatized by the events of the Hunger Games, including seeing hallucinations of fallen victims while she is hunting turkey at the beginning of the film. When President Snow and her have a their face to face conversation you can feel the emotion, hatred, and concern resonating from her as well as seeing the gears working in her mind knowing that she has to make some underhanded deals in order to keep herself and her family alive and safe.
There are so many layers to the Katniss character and Jennifer Lawrence is able to portray each of them to perfection. The love she shares for her family, the contempt she has for those attempting to use her, and the love that she feels for both Gale (Liam Hemsworth) and Peeta. But at the same time she can turn on the badass in a split second and begin picking off career tributes like it is her job (which it kind of is). I do not know if I am the first to say this, but I happily will. I would say Katniss Everdeen and by extension Jennifer Lawrence is the greatest action hero I have seen in the past two decades and will be happy to debate anyone who argues otherwise.
If you haven’t read the book, then you are in for some treats. There are several curve balls that this film will throw at you that you just are not expecting. I tried to put the knowledge of the books out of my mind as I was watching the film and man they do a great job of foreshadowing events and but keeping the veil over the readers eyes until just the right moment for the big reveal.
(Spoilers from this point until the next section)
If it wasn’t for the scene between Katniss and Heavensbee at the Presidents Party in the Capitol I would have had no idea that Heavensbee was actually working against Snow and the dance itself was a very subtle foreshadow at that. I praise the film for the fact that it kept Heavensbee thoroughly hidden and his motives vague up until the end of the film. Even during the dance, Heavensbee has an air of arrogance to him, but with a hint of nobility. You cannot tell whether he is being a gentleman or a complete sleeze ball through the entire scene and by extension the rest of the film. He plays the role to perfection (both Heavensbee and Hoffman).
Then there is the Hunger Games itself. With no knowledge of the book, you would have no idea that the true intent of the majority of the tributes was to protect Katniss who has become the symbol of the resistance. You can tell there is something at work ‘behind the scenes’ but you can’t really put your finger on just what it is. The fact that all of these characters come across as ‘protagonistic’ but with that tinge in the back of your mind saying ‘wait this is supposed to be a fight to the death, they can’t all stay friends’. Keeps you wondering just how the match is really going to end… And man does it throw the ultimate curve ball at the end of the film. Very well done.
The Antagonist in Snow and the Capitol Becomes More Pronounced
While the first film really focused on the Hunger Games themselves and the antagonists were really centered around Cato, the other career tributes, and Seneca Crane with President Snow being a secondary antagonist at best. This film really brings Snow and the Capitol to the forefront as the primary antagonists of the film. While the career tributes in the Hunger Games are a threat, you really do not get into who they are and their motives in the story. The antagonist becomes Snow and his regime as the film is a good transition into Katniss’s beginnings with her first Hunger Games and into the full revolution of the third book.
The Peace Keeping Commander
This means very little in the grand scheme of things and isn’t something that will affect the overall score too much… But I feel like I need to bring it up… The person who plays Commander Romulus Thread, Patrick St. Esprit is so hilariously terrible in his few moments on screen that I almost fell out of my chair laughing. The character is supposed to play this evil and intimidating commander who is sent to District 12 to crack down on the inhabitants and is also the person who viciously whips Gale for preventing him from attacking some innocents on the street.
This guy… This guy comes across as every stereotype and caricature of a hardened soldier that you could possibly think of. Loud guttural screaming, a look on his face that has all the signs that he is suffering from explosive diarrhea, and completely devoid of any emotion besides drill sergeant rage… The guy is flat out hilarious. The scene where Gale is being whipped is supposed to be very dramatic, horrific, and vicious… But all I can do is laugh at this commander whose face made me think that he was just enjoying an S&M session.
It isn’t a big issue because he was only in those sequence of events… But my lord they were some memorable scenes for all the wrong reasons.
By all accounts, Snow’s motives are very vague when the movie is concerned. In my opinion, the extremes the man goes to to try to suppress these people are pretty vicious and can only stir the hornets nest further. He did the right thing by trying to ally himself with Katniss. But why instantly kill anyone who gives the mocking jay signal? That can only antagonize people more to action. In the book, Collins makes it very clear that the revolt was clearly on its way, it was just waiting for the spark to start the flame, the spark being Katniss. In that regard then this make a lot of sense.
But in the film this is not the case or at least it is not as clearly stated as the book states it. Instead it feels a lot like all Katniss would need to do is go on her victory trip and then Snow would ensure that she keep a low profile for the rest of her life in District 12 to let the fires settle in people’s hearts. Instead the man practically pours gasoline on the fire and then proceeds to beat it with dry wood in the hopes to put it out.
This film is pretty fantastic. It is a good transition from the first film to the third part of the series and it expands upon the characters already presented in Katniss, Peeta, the victors, Snow, and the political turmoil that is coming to the boiling point. The visuals are pretty standard for today’s cinema, but the acting is phenomenal, and Jennifer Lawrence is quickly becoming one of my favorite actresses with her portrayal of Katniss in the film.
Final Score 4/5
Thank you for reading and as always if you enjoyed this review then please like and subscribe for more. I will return Sunday with another review.