Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Movie Review - Catching Fire



I am a big fan of The Hunger Games books and movies. On Black Friday I finally went to see Catching Fire. Depending on what part of the movie was playing, I went from crying for Katniss and her friends to shaking with excitement for "the girl on fire/the Mockingjay" to cringing at characters like President Snow and Caesar Flickerman, to even laughing at a couple parts. When I walked out, the only word I can use is 'stunned'. I feel like this movie, in more ways than one, set me on fire.

My goodness, it is amazing and not for the frail of heart.

Catching Fire picks up right where The Hunger Games left off. Katniss and Peeta have won the Games, and now they must go on the Victory Tour. Rebellion is beginning to stir among the districts, and President Snow knows the rebels are using Katniss' act of defiance in the arena as a motivation to fight. She is slowly but surely becoming the symbol of the rebellion. Katniss must learn to live a new kind of game, in which she pretends that she only did it out of her (not real) love for Peeta, not to oppose the Capitol. As the rebellion starts to ignite, the Capitol brings more oppression to Katniss' home of District 12. Then, to celebrate the third Quarter Quell that is the 75th Annual Hunger Games, all previous victors are to participate once again. The Game victors, always thought to be invincible, must now go back to the arena to fight for their lives a second time. This time, however, they all know who the real enemy is - the Capitol.

I have read multiple reviews that compare Catching Fire, the second installment in The Hunger Games film series, to The Empire Strikes Back, The Dark Knight, and Toy Story 2. I agree! Catching Fire fits right in with the sort of film sequels that enhance the story quality, further character development, raise the stakes, and most importantly, lead the story's themes on the next leg of their journey. The audience feels a greater sense of empathy for the character, more nail-biting suspense, and a broader look at the big picture. We are given a more vivid picture of what's at stake and what's going through the characters' heads. If noting else it is a level up from its predecessor.  If The Hunger Games was the appetizer, Catching Fire is the main course.

While The Hunger Games used the shaky camera effect to make the audience feel like they were actually Katniss in the Games and in the Capitol, Catching Fire has a whole different look! It is blatantly clear they brought in a new director. And while I do love how the director made the first one, such a style would not have worked for the more epic, large-scale story that is the second one. Catching Fire has more of a cinematic feel, more of a Hollywood action movie feel rather than the indie flick feel of The Hunger Games.

The movie also follows the book very well. The first half or so focuses a lot on the characters, especially Katniss. We see a lot of the things they are dealing with and what they are going through. The second half focuses mostly on the 75th Hunger Games, where the action and the violence is on a whole new level from the first movie. Jennifer Lawrence's performance as Katniss, of course, is what holds the entire film together.

I can say this with all honesty (it has been a few days since I've seen the movie, so I have had time to think this through)...there was nothing with Catching Fire I did not like. I loved the choices and portrayals of the new characters. I loved the pace and the feel. I loved how they included a lot of moments that made the book so memorable (the Mockingjay dress, the painting, the sugar cube, etc etc!) I loved how they handled the cliffhanger ending. I have to also say that I love, love, love how these filmmakers are handling the major themes of THG book trilogy. Often a story's true message is misinterpreted, distorted, or completely ignored when it's adapted to film. Instead, these movies are not afraid to attack a lot of the heavy subjects the books covered, and they are doing a fantastic job with it. I love The Hunger Games because of how real, raw, and powerful the themes are. And I love that the movies are just as real, raw, and powerful as the books.


So yes, Catching Fire is a must-see. It's made in the style of an eye-candy, feel-good action flick like The Avengers or Transformers. But the characters and the themes carry it much deeper than that, and beneath the surface there is a dark, brutal satire of the world we live in today. It digs deep and it disturbs you, but you are on the edge of your seat with suspense at the same time. And of course, if you know how the book ends, the cliffhanger will leave you breathless for the events to come in Mockingjay Part One and Two.

Holy smokes, those movies are going to be brutal.

Shoot, shoot...I'm crying. I'm tearing up. I tear up whenever I hear the four-note whistle or see the Mockingjay symbol. This series is amazing.

3 comments:

  1. Great review! :D I went and saw the movie on Sunday and I agree, it's amazing and was so well adapted from the book!(which was my personal favorite of the trilogy). I really enjoyed the new casting choices for Catching Fire, especially that of Finnick, Johanna, and Mags; I wasn't so sure about Sam Claffin, but he definitely personified Finnick and his portrayal of the character was one of my favorite parts of the film(I basically loved the entire thing, though XD).

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  2. Having not read the books, the first Hunger Games was just kind of meh, but Catching Fire blew me away! This is probably the most improved sequel I have ever seen. Not the best sequel by any means (ESB obviously), but compared to the first, Catching Fire was fantastic! One of my favorite movies of the year for sure. Almost everything I disliked about the first HG movie was fixed and then some. One of my favorite parts has to be Jena Malone as Johanna Mason; she was crazy and that is why I loved her character. I had a few minor problems with the movie, but I like the movie more and more every time I think about it. It has certainly turned me into a fan and I can't wait for the next film, especially since it was filmed in my hometown.

    While I disagree about your comment on The Avengers (but agree about Transformers), great review; the movie surprised me a ton.

    -James

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  3. Nice review. Not as good as the first, but still tense and epic in its own right. Something tells me this next installment is really going to kick it all up a notch.

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