Popcorn Bowl 16 – Catching Fire

Catching Fire is the second installment of the Hunger Games trilogy.

Katniss Everdeen has returned home safe after winning the 74th Annual Hunger Games along with fellow tribute Peeta Mellark. Winning means that they must turn around and leave their family and close friends, embarking on a “Victor’s Tour” of the districts. Along the way Katniss senses that a rebellion is simmering, but the Capitol is still very much in control as President Snow prepares the 75th Annual Hunger Games (The Quarter Quell) – a competition that could change Panem forever.  (lionsgate)

I went to the cinema on Monday! 😀 The movie was amazing and there’s little to complain about. The first thing I must point out is that it flows really well; I was absorbed in this cruel and fascinating universe from the first minute up to the very last. I could have easily sat in the cinema for another two hours for the action and emotions we’re given here. And exactly that feeling is what movie makers should strive for.

The only shame is that the movie suffers from the usual 2nd movie/book syndrome like all other trilogies. This means that the ending does not adequately wrap up the story. I was not happy at the sudden end, although I know why they chose to close the movie with that scene. It fits, but I seriously doubt viewers who have not read the book understand it. My brother and sister certainly voiced their confusion about the abrupt ending and I heard one other member of the audience ask her friend if that was it.

The movie truly sucks you in and you may need a moment or two to realise what just happened. The symbol at the end doesn’t tell non-readers anything about the future. Don’t get me wrong though, it’s still a far better book adaptation than expected and I’m glad that this is the only issue I can legitimately complain about. The movie is faithful to the book, almost too faithful in some regards.

The other things I must point out as the movie’s strong points are listed below in no particular order.

I love the cast – they’ve found the right people for the roles. I know there was some grumbling when names were announced, but I paid it no mind. In fact, I tried to keep away from any potential spoilers. I saw the trailer, liked it and went to the cinema.

Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss is a power to be reckoned with here again, but other actors do their very best to shine. You can feel they give their all to the characters and you must applaud that.

I’d like to single out Sam Claflin and Jenna Malone starring as past victors Finnick and Johanna. They were amazing in the time we got to see them, leaving a very strong impression. Finnick, especially, is one of those characters you wish to read and see more of. It’s his aura of strength, cunning and integrity you just have to like. He’s easy on the eyes as well, but then again we already have two love interests for Katniss. So, knowing he has a deep, abiding love with Annie just scores him points in the sympathy department. I hold a very deep grudge against the author for his fate, so the movies better make it right by him. How they portrayed him here promises just that.

Effie (Elizabeth Banks) becomes more likeable in the movie; in fact the Capitol in general is starting to wake up to the cruel reality. I think that is the strength of the movie and second book. In the first one we’re only shown what president Snow wants us to see, but here the cracks are wide and only growing. It’s exactly the scenario he fears so much. At one point the amount of fear gets too much for the people and they rebel exactly because there is no hope for them anymore.

There’s lot of anger and dissatisfaction boiling underneath the pristine facade of the Capitol as well, but we’re not shown that untill book three. The movie does a good job showing us that the people in the Capitol have a mind of their own.  They may be spoiled, but they are still human beings with emotions and motivations. Thus you can see Effie embracing her tributes, keenly feeling the unfairness of the Quarter Quell and starting to understand her own precarious position. The woman more concerned about the mahogany table than people on the death train has genuine tears in her eyes here. And more people are actively fighting against the system now, giving us a taste of the future.

So, I like how the Capitol was portrayed – the costumes in particular were a feast for the eyes and good for a quiet chuckle at the absurd shapes and colours – but I hoped to see more of the districts. I wanted to get to know them better, see the actual everyday situation. We’re not given much of that in any movie, and the few cruel scenes of the District 12 crack-down don’t show that much of the situation in Panem. Then again, we don’t really explore the districts in the books either at this point. We have to apply the scenes globally to imagine the cruelty of the regime.

The universe Collins created is the strong point of this movie and why it’s not just another action flick. It’s ripe with social commentary that is oh, so relevant nowadays. We are living in a world like Panem, only we don’t see it. We are blind to the harsh realities, too caught up with our own survival and lives. I’ll spare you further commentary on this, but know that you can’t ignore the messages here and firmly push the movie into the realm of fantasy or dystopia. Art is the reflection of current culture and spirit of time, so there’s something to be learned from it, no?

The other thing I liked about the movie is how Peeta is portrayed. It is pretty obvious that the few lines Josh Hutcherson has to say can’t capture Peeta completely, but he does a lot with them to build a solid foundation for our liking him. Peeta is a sweet guy with a spine of steel. Let’s not forget that he survived the Games. He can be pretty bad-ass, although here he’s more often the damsel in distress since the majority of his strength is utilised behind the scenes. Haymitch and Peeta are tight as thieves again and Katniss can be pretty thick sometimes. That’s all I’m going to say. I do believe that the island changes a lot for her and that this is the moment she realises she actually loves Peeta.

Gale (Liam Hemsworth), on the other hand, is still a pretty obscure character. He barely beeps on my radar whereas in the books I really liked him until the middle of the second one. I think I clung to the idea of him because Katniss actually chose him at some point before the games. I was pretty much torn about the pairing with this book.  She was pushed together with Peeta and I disliked her diminished freedom, feeling that she was trapped. Still, both love interests have their weak and strong points. I like Peeta because he’s the only one who’ll ever really know how she feels, sharing her experience, but I also like Gale since they grew up together and supported one another. The trouble is that he doesn’t truly understand the depth of her psychological scarring.

I know I’ve forgotten quite a few things from the books, so the movie served as sort of refresher course. It is better so, or I’m too focused on the differences than on the actual strong points of the adaptation. I’d love to see more of the riots, the subtle and not so subtle signs of defiance in the districts that Snow fears so much. Still, following the book and how much Katniss knows closely, makes it hard to branch out and show more of the people she has no connection with.

Consensus: a movie worth your money. It’s a great continuation of the first movie. Enjoy it and try to count all the similarities to ancient Rome you can spot along the way. May the odds be ever in your favour!

Trailer:

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2 responses to “Popcorn Bowl 16 – Catching Fire

  1. I went to see Catching Fire last night. I was excited because I love The Hunger Games series of books and I really liked the first movie. But I didn’t enjoy Catching Fire as much as the first instalment in the trilogy. I really wanted more depth and more interaction with characters such as Gale. I feel like his character is being sidelined because the action focuses mostly on Katniss.

    I’m glad that Catching Fire is mostly faithful to the book but some aspects just didn’t satisfy me. Maybe I will feel differently with a second viewing; I will watch it again when it is released on DVD. To be honest, I think it could have been a lot longer! It is a long movie anyway, at 146 minutes, but I wanted some scenes to be more detailed. Overall, I liked it but I do have some mixed feelings about it.

    • I thought from the start they should have made a series rather than a movie adaptation of the books, so I accept the drawbacks of the shorter format. I was annoyed with the first movie for downplaying the violence and cruelty for a lower rating – PG-13, I think. Perhaps that is why I did not connect with the first movie as well as I did with this one.

      I agree that some scenes should have been more detailed and I hoped for a more balanced division between Peeta and Gale. If we’re honest, even Peeta gets sidelined by Katniss a lot of times. It’s hard to divide the time among a large cast and make them count. Tributes are dying left and right so you barely have time to catch your breath.

      I wonder if they’ll ever release an extended version of the trilogy (or tetralogy as the last book is to be split in two) like they did with LOTR. I’d buy that immediately. 😀

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