The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013), directed by Francis Lawrence
For all the contact I’ve had with The Hunger Games and how much it seems I liked the first movie, going by my review, I have a hard time getting excited about it. Maybe it’s because I’m getting tired of hearing it. Maybe it’s because I only thought the books were pretty good and not much more in the first place. Whatever it is, I wasn’t exactly shaking in anticipation to see Catching Fire.
Which might piss some people off, seeing as I ended up getting to see it before the damn thing even opened. Sorry, Hungerers. Or is it Hunghards? That just sounds wrong. Someone work on this and get back to me.
So, Catching Fire, part two of the saga. Here we go.
Not much has changed since the first go round, despite Katniss and Peeta pulling off a surprise underdog win at the Coke-a-Cola Presents the 74th Annual Hunger Games. Sure, they have nicer homes and are less likely to starve, but just outside the gates of their drab new subdivision is the same old drab mining town with people in drab clothes, moving about like worn out old drab coal miners.
It’s like England, basically. Right?
People have been talking about how hard it is to pull off a good middle series of a trilogy, but I’m not sure that’s true. For that argument is Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Iron Man 2 and Spy Kids 2: Island of Lost Dreams (very disappointing). On the other hand you have The Empire Strikes Back, The Bourne Supremacy and Police Academy 2: The First Assignment.
By my count it’s about 50/50.
Well worry no longer folks because Catching Fire officially belongs in the latter category. In fact, I’m going to go so far as to say it’s better than the first film. GASP. I know.
The main difference surely must be the change in directors. While Gary Ross brought some pedigree to the job (it’s a Seabiscuit joke), his initial outing turned out rather mediocre, without much in the way of deep emotions or even tense excitement. And he insisted on a near constant use of that damn shaky cam technique that’s all the rage right now.
Francise Lawrence isn’t exactly God’s gift to Hollywood (although I did rather like I Am Legend) he seems to be a good fit here, with a skilled sense of pace and production. He also seems to own a good tripod, which probably got him the job.
Catching Fire is a tough cookie because in some ways it’s kind of more of the same from the first film, and that does slow it down a tad. But the fact it does the first film better than the first film did makes it worth your while. Just like Rocky 2 (howzat?), I enjoyed watching how these character’s are functioning after the fame of the games and Katniss’ struggle with wanting to run away but finding herself the up and coming leader of a revolution.
Jennifer Lawrence handles Katniss really well in this sequel, and I really think it’s in this film she fully inhabits the role. There’s a bit more to grip on to here, with this inner struggle becoming even more tearing and a lovely amount of conflict with a great number of people. Everyone wants a piece of Katniss and she doesn’t know who to go with.
Phillip Seymour Hoffman is also added to the mix, at his mischievous mumbling best. I liked him, and he helped an old indie film fan like myself find an entrance point into this tween world.
Despite my enjoyment of this film, I still think the series as a whole is slight. I still groan at the thought of having the third book broken up into two movies spread out over two years. While I see the appeal, I have the unfortunate vantage point of experience. I grew up with other distopian futures (Fahrenheit 451, 1984, Death Race 2000) and already know the dangers of fictional totalitarian rule.
This isn’t to say I’m above it all. I’m not. I thoroughly enjoyed Catching Fire. But I’m not losing my head over it. For those who are though, this should hit the spot.
May the odds forever be in your flavour. I like chocolate peanut butter.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire opens today in cinemas.