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
– 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?