Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Movie Review : The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)

What would you do if you had the attention of millions of young people? Say ''hi mom'' and walk away? Star in a reality show about your own life? You probably wouldn't manage to keep a coherent message like  best-selling author Suzanne Collins did. The Hunger Games trilogy was a welcome new darling in the young adult fiction landscape after the Twilight fiasco and it introduced a fierce new heroine, Katniss Everdeen. Through three novels, Collins managed to keep Everdeen coherent and not let her ego run amok inside her stories, no matter how successful they became. The first Hunger Games movie came out on the silver screen last year and was surprisingly well adjusted for a general audience. To my great pleasure, THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE is a strong, worthy sequel that is both entertaining and deceivingly political. 

The second installment of The Hunger Games trilogy picks up as Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta Melllark's (Josh Hutcherson) are about the start their victory tour after their win at the 74th Hunger Games. They were the only two dual victors due to Katniss openly challenging president Snow (Donald Sutherland) in front of the entire nation of Panem. Because of that, she is now seen as a symbol of rebellion by the twelve districts and Snow wants her dead. New game maker Plutarch Heavensby (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) has an idea of how she should die, though. In a special, 75th anniversary edition of the Hunger Games, pitting victors of the past against one another. Snow loves the idea and Katniss is back in the arena, whether she wants it or not. 

It's kind of ironic that The Hunger Games has been made into a Hollywood blockbuster. If anything, it's a witness to commodification of culture. The Suzanne Collins novels the movies are based on openly criticize mass entertainment. President Snow says it more than once, he organizes the game to distract the poorer people from their miserable existence and give them hope of transcending their condition one day. It's an idea not that far removed from reality television. We love to see people tear each other apart on television, judge them and believe we would do better. So for that message to be broadcasted through a powerful vehicle such as Hollywood, somebody, somewhere (probably wearing a suit and having a business degree) deliberately turned away from content, hoping the movie adaptations of The Hunger Games would multiply the already massive success of the novels.

'sup, bro?

THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE (like the previous movie) is better than the sum of its parts. Suzanne Collins had great success with her novels, but the two screenwriters Simon Beaufoy and Michael Arndt, as well as director Francis Lawrence streamlined some ideas, left the more adolescent content out and heightened the allegoric power of Collins' work using strong symbols and dynamic filmmaking. The allegories in THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE aren't subtle, the capitol people are silly and have distorted vision of beauty, as the district people are miserable, but at least there is an effort made to illustrate ideas, rather than throwing them out. I don't mind your allegories being obvious, as long as you make the effort to build them. It's not a sanctimonious movie and it's a nice change of pace for something aimed at teenagers. Katniss Everdeen is a lead-by-the-exemple type of girl.

Did I forget something? Of course. America's sweetheart Jennifer Lawrence is as good as ever, but I'm sure you knew that already. She is so confident in herself. In one scene, she'll be hunched over and sporting a defeated pout like a twleve year old and two or three scenes later, she will make you forget that and stun you with her beauty. She plays with reckless abandon, so hard she often overshadows her cast mates, especially the limited Josh Hutcherson, who could've well been her roadie during the 75th Hunger Games.

Anyway, I don't think THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE will change the way we perceive mass entertainment if 1984 is still perceived as a science-fiction story today. But it's a great, smart blockbuster movie, which makes it precious oddity in the landscape of Hollywood. It's worth your time and attention.


  1. I didn't see this one yet and I wasn't going to until I read your review.

    There's a lot of things I didn't like from the first movie and I'm wondering if Catching Fire would do a better job at not taking me for an idiot.

    I don't want to shit on it only because it's kinda mainstream but when I saw the first one and the final action scene, which should be the pinnacle of the suspense build up throughout the movie. Yet this very part is sooooo wrongly written/adapted ( can't tell I didn't read the books )

    They're running away from dire wolves and manage to climb up some structure to find the guy from district 1 was already on it and they fight. Ok ... If he ran from dire wolves too and got there before the heros, where are those dire wolves ? They ran back in the forest ? And if he got there first, wouldn't be logical to try to stop Katniss and Peeta from climbing on it instead of waiting for them to be safe from the wolves ?

    I mean, if there's no crap like this in "Catching Fire", with your review, I might watch it. Otherwise I'll pass.

  2. I'm not sure the dire wolves were real. They're a natural catastrophe programmed by the game maker. I mean they can kill you, but they can also disappear at the press of a button, I think.

    Didn't pay much attention to it, I must say, although I remember watching the scene. Was too taken by the fact there was an actual positive role model for young girls ON SCREEN.