Saturday, November 30, 2013

Catching Fire (2013)

Catching Fire is much better than the first installment of The Hunger Games. It's almost like magic. Something about The Hunger Games just didn't come together, and so I found myself quibbling over all the little problems the movie had. But Catching Fire is so good, none of those things mattered anymore.

I wasn't caught up in the casting of the characters, because what they were doing and saying were more important than all that - you could say I got lost in the characters and forgot about the actors playing them, which is what a good movie should accomplish. The ridiculous fashions of the Capitol didn't bother me as much, either - I actually started to like them (even Effie became likable).

Katniss' interview dress was a lot more impressive (and emotionally effective) this time around, too. And, thankfully, the Capitol grunts weren't just fruity like before, but were finally intimidating - as they should be - with their brutal reaction to the growing resistance in the outlying Districts. The ridiculous shaky cam in the first movie was also absent here, which is a great relief.

How much of all of this is due to the new writers and director, and how much is due to the story itself (The Hunger Games is tasked with introducing this unfamiliar world to its audience, while Catching Fire is free to focus on developing the rising conflict), I don't know. But in Catching Fire, the stakes are much higher, and it shows, and it is a much more powerful and effecting story than The Hunger Games was.

Jennifer Lawrence, too, is much better as the newly-crowned Victor Katniss, evoking more of the haunted pathos of the character than she did last time. They even managed to make the rather abrupt ending work out well, leaving, as it does, the audience clamoring for the next installment of the series, where the revolution inevitably explodes and everything will eventually come to a head.

I'm a lot more excited to see Mockingjay now than I was to see Catching Fire after watching The Hunger Games. But having been so thrilled with the second installment of the series, I'm going to go out and see it again - it's just that good. It's not that often you go out to a movie and get a real, thrilling experience. It's what you always hope for, but so rarely get. I hope they're able to keep it up for the two-part conclusion to the series.


  1. I was very impressed. Makes me sad that the first film couldn't have been this good, but happy that three of the four might be this good. Catching Fire was actually my least favorite of the books, not by a huge margin but enough to make it definite. But the film was so perfect, it may end up my favorite of the films.

    I also think doing such a strong and faithful adaption of CF sends a good message that this director understands and respects the books, because it would seem that Mockingjay is destined for a lot of new content -- whether just to make it more ideally fill two films, or to "improve" upon what most fans seems to consider a major lowpoint in the story (which I vehemently disagree with, Mockingjay is by far the best part!)

    (Mockingjay Spoilers) Following that, I really can't stop thinking about what they'll do with Mockingjay. I'm afraid they'll end up smoothing it over too much. If the ending of the film series is even remotely 'happier' than the ending in the book I will be furious, I felt the melancholy ending was essential to the story's anti-violence theme; the idea that committing violence, even in the best of intentions, is a poison that weigh on you invariably for the rest of your life. I need for Katniss to be completely unstable and broken by the end of this series... but will they have the courage to do this to her?

    On the other hand I'm excited about what they might do, as well. I'm really hoping that we get some propaganda spots as the trailers for Mockingjay, that would be so cool. "If we burn, you burn with us," would be amazing.

  2. Egads, new content? I hope they do it right. Personally, I thought the story was good enough the first time around. I think Mockingjay is where things get real. Before, it was just a game - even if a brutal one. But here, it's war. I think it was Katniss who likened the games to the war - "it's just another Hunger Games, but this time Snow is a tribute." It was great that Catching Fire (the movie) was more mature and had more pathos than the first Hunger Games. I hope they continue that streak into Mockingjay. Kind of like how the Harry Potter movies (and books, actually) grew up and got darker and more serious as they went along. Not that the first Hunger Games is like recess on the playground or anything, but if they do get more serious, that would be a good rationale for giving the story the bleak ending it needs, instead of raising Katniss as the teen action hero who gets the guy and lives happily ever after that her fanbase would seem to want her to be. Either way, I'm excited to find out.

  3. Well, it's only fan chatter at this point. But many suspect we'll see much more of Peeta in the capitol, his brainwashing, and the rescue mission than we saw in the books. The actress who played Johanna also recently spoke of the transformation her character supposedly takes in the next films, which I found quite intriguing because I don't recall Johanna changing all that much in the books. And she's one of my favorite characters. And they already cut out my other favorite character (Madge4evar!!)

    I also suspect Katniss won't constantly be blacking out in the films, but even if she does we'll no doubt get to see what's happening in the interim (I would think). I think the point of having Katniss black out in the novels was to distance the reader from the 'fun' of typical action sequences, and because it's not supposed to be triumphant. You're not supposed to get to see them storm the capitol and raise the rebel flag and let's have a big hurrah moment yadda yadda... so Collins just has Kat blackout, and you don't get any of the fictional glory of war, all we're left with is the pain.

    But they can get the pain across without necessarily cutting to black every time something "good" happens. They just have to portray the "good" things negatively. Imagine a scene where they're storming the capitol but instead of being triumphant, they're killing a bunch of hapless, cowering capitol citizens. Now it may be a long shot but I'll be very impressed if they pull this off.

  4. That's a good interpretation for Katniss' blackouts. This is completely out of left field, but I thought the way George R. R. Martin (does he really have two middle names that start with "R", just like J.R.R. Tolkien? Weird coincidence) wrote about war and battles was pretty interesting in a novel sort of way. But then, Martin does lots of things differently than we're used to, that makes his stories so intriguing. A lot of times it's about the effects and aftermath of battles, but even when we do go "into the trenches", because of the way Martin narrates the story, you just get to see a single perspective, and it's not necessarily the great hero's perspective - you know, like the Aragorn or the Gandalf or whoever slays the battle troll of the denizen of hell or what have you. Like when Tyrion goes into battle, especially. It was very stark and not all trumpets and fanfare, but like waiting behind the trenches and then bam, an axe in your face, chaos, and sooner or later it ends - either in death, blackout, or your comrades in arms sufficiently thinning out your enemies.