The truth is, I am a huge fan of The Hunger Games franchise and the excitement is not wearing off any time soon either. I’ve read the books, second being my favorite of the series, and I’ve seen the first movie more than once. Therefore, it was pretty much given that I was going to see The Hunger Games: Catching Fire on its opening weekend and now, almost a week later, I think I’m still not able to contain my thoughts into a coherent sounding review but I’ll try to do my best. And in case you missed the POW popcorn rating, I freaking loved Catching Fire!
After the high critical praise for the first movie, and some confusion among the viewers who were maybe not as familiar with the books, the second movie tries to maintain its hype while making the story more opened for the wider public. I’m not an expert, since I’m familiar with the books, but I think Catching Fire has much more appeal for those who haven’t read about Katniss and her inner struggles. Then again, the second book was, in my mind, a step up from the first so I was fairly certain that the movie itself was going to be epic. Add Jennifer Lawrence and a new director to the mix and every fangirl of the series was on the edge of their seats during those two hours. On a downside, since I knew the twists and turns ahead, especially the whole arena situation, it kind of dragged for a little bit which is funny because I think the first movie had the same issue. But calling it an issue isn’t quite right because I think it’s subjective and I wouldn’t take my opinion too seriously.
But the whole movie had so much packed in itself that I was actually amazed how it all fitted in, the long Victory tour, the trainings, the interview, the arena – everything was there that I could think of, some segments shorter than others, yes, but they where still there. I’m sure if I re-read the book I come to a conclusion that some things were missing but in terms of the story, the plot and the whole love triangle, I think the screenwriters (also new additions) did a fine job. There was a little bit of Katniss/Peeta missing in the Victory tour, because as far as I remember they became close throughout that train trip because Katniss was struggling and Peeta was her support. But Catching Fire still had a lot of Peeta moments and since I’m Team Peeta, I enjoyed them a lot.
Now, Lawerence as Katniss is something I probably don’t have to discuss, she is an Oscar winner and her performance as Katniss is Oscar worthy. I’m not saying she will get an Oscar for The Hunger Games: Catching Fire but compared to all the other young adult series turned movie series, her leading performance is high above the rest and worth the metaphorical Oscar. The second movie also allowed Lawrence to have a wider range of emotions because I think as a character, Katniss evolves into a woman who is more opened to the idea of showing her emotions. Then there’s Josh Hutcherson as Peeta who isn’t everybody’s cup of tea but I like him. I can’t help to feel sorry for the guy, because as much as I’d like to be gravitated towards a tall, well built Liam Hemsworth as Gale, Hutcherson’s puppy-eyes and softness as Peeta just gets me. Anyway, Hutcherson was definitely stronger this time, so was Hemsworth but probably because he actually had some screen time, but I think that Hutcherson’s development was brought up from the character – Peeta went to the arena as a boy and returned as a man.
What I’m trying to say is, the characters from the first movie had definitely changed and it showed not only in the storyline but also in the acting and I must praise Lawrence and Hutcherson for that. I’m sure some of you will not agree but it doesn’t matter, I think they portray these book characters well and that applies to the rest of the cast as well. Woody Harrelson, Donald Sutherland, Elizabeth Banks and Lenny Kravitz did all a fine job and while looking at those names I can’t help to be amazed how wonderful the cast of The Hunger Games series is. But most of all, I want to point out that Stanley Tucci needs to get all the awards because this man is just golden. He has great supporting characters movie to movie, memorable roles even in bad movies such as Burlesque, and he has the ability to outshine the leading characters effortlessly (Devil Wears Prada). Please, somebody, give this man a damn Universe Award or something!
That being said, Catching Fire also had few new characters that are worth the mention, Sam Claflin as Finnick Odair and Jena Malone as Johanna Mason. Now, I wasn’t really one of those people who started to question the casting when these two were announced as their characters and I’m not going to question the decision after seeing the movie. I do think Claflin’s shoulders don’t project as much hunk value as Finnick has in the books but his characteristics suited the role well. Malone was a surprise because I couldn’t really remember Johanna’s character from the books because everybody else stood out more but in the movie she made a bigger impact. The elevator scene was pretty much the highlight of everything. And finally, Philip Seymore Hoffman joined the cast as the game maker and well, I mean, he’s Philip Seymore Hoffman, what more can I say.
Something that made me proud to be a fan of the franchise were the visuals because that was another aspect that had improved a lot. Come to think of it, everything about Catching Fire was a little bit better and like I said, I think some of the credit should go to the second book because it was a very well crafted story which is even better on the screen. In terms of the visuals, the costumes and the arena were amazing. I like how the movie stayed true to the books and allowed us, the readers, to have the visual imagery of the costumes we had already read about – it was nostalgic and amazing. The arena on the other hand was a surprise, not that it was altered, no, I mean I think it was designed in a way that it looked even better than I imagined! It was beautiful, and the whole idea of it was already something I loved in the books, and it was something I was looking forward of seeing on the big screen – maybe even the thing I wanted to see the most. Eventually, it didn’t let me down and I don’t have anything bad to say about the arena, except all the killing and torture that happens there.
Though this review is already longer than usual, I’ll just continue ahead with some spoiler scenes but before that, I want to share my concerns about the last two movies based on the third book. I did not like the third book. That is something that is a widely spread opinion because the whole thing was just wrong and lacked depth compared to the first two. That being said, I hope the writers and the director Francis Lawrence are able to elevate the book and create something different and better. That being said, here are some of my favorite scenes from Catching Fire so in case you haven’t seen the movie or read the books, keep away.
SCENES THAT STOOD OUT (SPOILERS)
As I exited the cinema, I had four scenes in my mind, playing over and over again because they had such raw emotion behind them and it was mostly because Jennifer Lawrence is freaking amazing! I’m gonna mention them in the order of appearance in the movie but in a way, they are also ranked as such because those emotion heavy scenes kept getting better and better as the movie progressed.
1) Rue’s speech
Katniss and Peeta start off their Victory Tour in District 11, the district where Rue lived and we all know that she was the sweet little girl who won Katniss’s heart in the first arena. Peeta starts off reading the speech he is supposed to give but he changes his mind and does something very Katniss-like – impulsive and emotional. That leads to Katniss getting all emotional and sharing her thoughts about Rue – and behold, the first emotional scene of the movie that will just get to you.
2) The stare-off
Katniss and Peeta are riding the carriage towards President Snow, Lawrence and Sutherland stare at each other the whole way and it is just brilliant. She never breaks, she just looks at him with determination and you can’t really tell if she is angry but you can definitely see that she is menacing as Katniss. She knows she is a threat and she isn’t afraid to show it to Snow.
3) Cinna gets attacked
In the books, Cinna is the only person from the Capitol Katniss trusts, he is her rock when it comes to the whole getting dressed up and performing to the public thing. Since, for me personally, the difficulty of the second book was letting go of that character, seeing Katniss struggle on screen was very hard. Lawrence is so raw when it comes to these types of emotions and it’s impossible not to get rattled up yourself while watching her struggle.
4) Peeta gets electrocuted
Now, my understanding of Katniss being fond of Peeta is due to her instinct to protect. She has protected and cared for her sister for years, and when in the first movie they were given the permission to win together, she starts taking care of Peeta. So I think, part of her likes Peeta because he needs her, and another part likes him because he is the only one who knows what she is going through emotionally. So loosing him is like loosing a support system, like loosing a part of you and man, was that a scene for the history books or what. If anybody had any doubt of Lawrence, then just watch that scene and you’d be proven wrong. As a side note, I think Claflin’s reaction as Finnick was just perfect in that scene as well.
5) Katniss and the jabberjays
The opposite to the last scene is the one where Peeta is suffering because of Katniss and I must confess, that was the moment where I truly believed that Hutcherson can act. Consistent as Peeta (he has given him some specific facial expressions it seems) and yet, so powerful at the same time. Then again, Katniss steals the moment by giving the most cut drenching scream one could imagine – and while in the audience I kept thinking my god, can Lawrence get any better?
6) Final scene
Answer to the last question is YES! When Gale informs Katniss that there’s no District 12 anymore, there is just the perfect scene to end Catching Fire and prove that this movie is currently the best young adult franchise out there. We have Jennifer Lawrence on the screen, just her face, she is crying at first, and then.. all of a sudden, complete 180 and her eyes read anger, determination, revenge! I mean, thinking back to that, chills, I mean, just chills and to end a movie with that high is just pure heroin to my freaking veins right now. Therefore, my final thought about Catching Fire is –
Lawrence, you are amazing!
PS: I liked The Hunger Games: Catching Fire so much that I’m going to see it for the second time tonight.
I know this post became extremely long, so I applaud you for making it to the end but now, let me know what you thought about The Hunger Games: Catching Fire in the comments.