Friday, November 22, 2013

REVIEW: Catching Fire leaves me hungry for more Katniss

If Harry Potter defined the literary and cinema landscape last decade, then The Hunger Games does the same for this decade.

At least so far.

The books – much like Harry Potter – manage to transcend young adult literature and appeal to a cross generation of people.
While the first Hunger Games movie was, by and large, a huge success. The second Hunger Games  movie – Catching Fire – creatively blows it out of the water.

When we pick up on the action, Katniss is still adjusting to her new life while being haunted by what happened to her almost a year ago. While out hunting with childhood friend, Gale, she relives the horror of killing Marvel in the first movie.

The people surrounding Katniss seem to be waiting. They’re waiting for her to embrace a destiny that she keeps denying. They see greatness in her, even if the only thing she think about is protecting those around her.

Jennifer Lawrence continues to prove why she is the best young actress out there right now. She
manages to help the audience feel Katniss’ fear over her future, her protective nature towards her friends and family and the outright anger that is always bubbling at the surface.

Early on, President Snow (a snarling Donald Sutherland) pays Katniss a visit to tell her that the rebellion her actions in the Hunger Games the previous year helped to stir is still a concern. She’s given a script to follow – and a threat.

For her part, Katniss is generally torn. She’s a loyal individual, so she’s trying to placate Gale while not hurting Peeta – all the while keeping her beloved sister safe. She’s got a heavy load for a young woman. She’s above the love triangle, but she can’t be separated from it.

As a way to quash the rebellion – and the power Katniss continues to wield over an oppressed people – Snow devises a way to kill Katniss without making her a martyr. For the 75th annual games, past winners will all be thrown back into the pit. One woman and one man from each district. Since Katniss is the only female winner from District 12, this guarantees she will be going back to play.

The Hunger Games, at its heart, is a political movie. It’s a commentary on absolute power ruining things. At the capital, the richest citizens are eating so much food that they take a drink to purge so they can continue eating. This is all happening while the poorest people are starving in the outer districts. It’s a timely message today.

While the first Hunger Games was about surviving in a pit of children as they killed each other, this
second games edition is vastly different. This is about bitter adults – adults that have already survived unsurpassed horrors as children – having to do it again. To say these adults aren’t happy would be an understatement.

Even though they’ll be fighting against each other, a lot of the participants show a form of solidarity with each other. And even though Katniss doesn’t want to join forces with someone she might have to kill, that’s exactly what she and Peeta (Josh Henderson) have to do right from the get-go.

I don’t want to ruin the ending for those that haven’t read the books, but let’s just say things aren’t always what they appear.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is a middle movie. There’s no denying that. That doesn’t mean it’s not important to set the foundation for the trilogy’s finale.

The movie isn’t perfect. I still think Henderson was miscast as Peeta, one of my favorite characters in the book. Lawrence more than makes up for his lack of charisma, though.

Woody Harrelson and Lenny Kravitz lend gravitas to their roles – with Harrelson really stepping things up this go around. Haymitch is one of those characters that manages to steal every scene he is in -- and when Harrelson and Lawrence go head-to-head at the end of the movie, the result is heartbreakingly real.

The big revelation for me, though, was Jena Malone. She’s always been strong, even when she was a child. I didn’t notice her as an adult actress, though, until Life as a House. She also stole the show in The Ruins.

Here, Malone manages to walk a tightrope of comedy and drama, leaving the audience unsure where
her true loyalties lie. She’s flamboyant and deadly – but she’s also got a decent heart.

I don’t think that Catching Fire is a movie that someone can see without seeing the first flick. You can watch it and enjoy it without reading the books, but if you haven’t seen the first movie (or read the books) you’re bound to be lost.

As someone that loves the books and the movies, though, I was in cinema heaven. Now I can’t wait for Mockingjay.

May the odds be ever in our favor.

What do you think? Are you going to see Catching Fire?


Blogger grace crawford said...

"Catching Fire" is more substantial than the first feature because it delves deeper into themes such as loyalty, love, honor, sacrifice and freedom.
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July 31, 2014 at 3:11 AM 
Blogger Marlene Detierro said...

Bought this for my daughter for Christmas. From the description, I was expecting a thinner, more magazine-like booklet, but it turned out to be quite thick, with nice, glossy pages, and tons of content. Quality item, worth the money.

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September 12, 2015 at 10:46 PM 

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