The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
I adore the Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins and the Catching Fire film is, in my humble opinion, pretty perfect. Catching Fire was my favourite book of the trilogy and so I was thrilled to see it faithfully transferred to the big screen. I did, admittedly, go to the midnight release and it was a fantastic time!
It’s always risky when adapting your favourite book to a film, and so for the most part, CF has almost everything in the book. (Almost).
In the second book of the Hunger Games Trilogy, dual victors Katniss and Peeta set off on their victory tour of the Panem districts. This time, they are under threat as their stunt in threatening to eat poison berries in the Hunger Games has sparked a rebellion; the districts are rising up against the Capitol and President Snow has laid all the blame on Katniss. She struggles to convince the districts and Snow that their stunt was not rebellion, but rather her desperate love for Peeta, forcing them to continue in their charade affair despite her confused feelings for Gale (love triangle alert!). Just when they think they are safe, the 75th Hunger Games and 3rd Quarter Quell reaps the existing victors and throws Katniss and Peeta back into the Games. Together they work through dangerous alliances and deadly threats in the Games, always trying to remember who the real enemy is for the final showdown between victors and gamemakers.
In terms of looking good onscreen, this film is sleek and fast paced. The first section of the Victory Tour is great – we get to see the districts, witness Katniss’ PTSD and see more of the Capitol and the dynamics between the districts than we did in the first film. The political tension begins to rise steadily. The second half, set in the Arena, is awesome. There is non-stop action and drama, strategising and the love between Katniss and Peeta seems real and heart-breaking. Jennifer and Josh are incredible.
The director Francis Lawrence is pretty amazing. His film is crisp and well shot, characters are given great gravity and presence. I really appreciated the attention to detail shown in Effie Trinket’s character development, moving away from the vapid escort of the first film, to a person who sees the revolting nature of her society and can believably become a rebel in Mockingjay. The novels were deeply symbolic to dystopian media, political propoganda and parallels to ancient Rome, which sadly wasn’t explained at all in the first film. But Francis Lawrence carries on from Gary Ross’ adaptation really well, and the propoganda theme is carried well through the film. It was a pivitol concept in the book, Katniss’ role as a symbol of the rebellion being corrupted by the Capitol (anti-rebellion) and utilised by the rebels in District 13 (through her terrible TV spots they tried to film in Mockingjay). In the film, Katniss and Peeta’s victory tour is the platform to show the Capitol’s corruption of Katniss, by having her read Panem propaganda to the Districts and spin a fantasy wedding to try and restore peace. Plutarch Heavensbee, portrayed by Phillip Seymour Hoffman, is as slimy and dishonest as I’d imagined him when reading the book, pulling the strings to warp the image Katniss is meant to present to the masses.
And speaking of Lawrences, Jennifer Lawrence is incredible. She is truly talented and portrays Katniss to perfection. From vulnerability to determination to eradicate the Capitol, she shows every emotion and gives Katniss depth. Everyone in the film gives it their all, and Donald Sutherland is spine chilling as President Snow. In a similar vein to the first film, with sequences showing Seneca Crane and Snow strategising over the games in the rose garden, this film introduces Snow’s granddaughter, showing that not even his family is immune to the effects Katniss has and the power of the victors.
I totally loved the film and highly recommend seeing it! It has everything needed in a great action flick, and is a faithful and inspiring adaptation of one of the best young adult trilogies out there.