Saturday, December 7, 2013
Catching Fire Film Review
Back when I was eleven/twelve years old(too young to read it, I now realize), I picked up the first book in The Hunger Games trilogy. I was already a huge fan of Suzanne Collins' "Underland Chronicles" series(which I personally enjoyed more), and I was excited to read another book by a favorite author. It's been a while, but I do remember enjoying the novel, but for some reason or another, I didn't get around to reading the sequel for a couple more years. I ended up picking the second book, Catching Fire, up and I found the novel to be amazing and I quickly plowed through it- it was emotional, it was riveting, and the book just flew past my eyes. Even though I did love the third book, Mockingjay,(it's my second-favorite), Catching Fire just had something about it that drew me in and wouldn't let me go until I had finished.
And I'm happy to say that the movie of this book has the exact same impact. I had been very excited about seeing this film and, thankfully, it did not disappoint. Of course, it has a few flaws, but it's definitely one of my favorite films of the year and I'm glad I was able to go see it :).
First of all, as many other reviews have stated, this story is much bigger in scope- Katniss, along with the viewers, is reminded "who the real villains are", which was something I felt was lost in the last film(since many people could villainize all of those kids in the arena, when really, all of them were just trying to win so they wouldn't die). However, in this film, we really see more of how the capital is evil- from the poor of District 12 who can barely feed themselves and live in constant fear, to how, in the capital, there is so much food that, at parties, the people will drink this stuff that makes them puke so they can eat even more food(something that disgusted me when I read the book the first time, which I'm very glad they included).
I think this 'larger than just the games' plot point is an important one since, really, this isn't about 'just' the games', it's about the poor and the impoverished attempting to rebel and free themselves against a controlling, over media-ized, dictatorship(just so you know, I do support the government when it's good- I'd rather have one than anarchy- but of course, this kind of ruling body is unacceptable and disgusting and should definitely NEVER exist). And, since that was a theme in the book, I was happy to see it in this film so predominately.
As with the scope, this film really was able to reach in and make you emotionally feel stuff. The way the poor were treated, how everyone was just kicked around, how evil the police and ruling body was(hey, reminds me of all those bad police stories one hears in the news where they attack minorities and women), and how, if anyone did any little thing that the upper people didn't like, people would just get run over. There were several times, while watching, where I'd get so pissed off I wanted to jump in their and kick the peace keepers(and the new leader of District 12) butts. I also felt very bad for the people in the various districts- the scene where Katniss apologizes about Rue dying in the games was a very poignant moment and a lot of the dialogue came straight from the book, which was nice to see. And, of course, the parts where people were beaten and killed, like when that old man in Rue's district held up his fingers and was killed because of it, were very, very sad :(. I am indeed grateful the director and writers decided to include what they did of the Victory Tour, since it really gave us, as the audience, a feel for what it was like to live the they way they do(and, creepily enough, there are similar areas in our country even now- ie, Appalachia and Pineridge, for example).
Besides the meanings of the overall story, there were many other things in the plot that I enjoyed. The Quarter Quell(which made me think "WHAT! NO!" while reading) was perfectly handled and made so different that we don't feel like we're re-treading known ground. The arena looked magnificent and was an impressive feat in of itself. In fact, this whole section was my favorite part, not only did it help us to learn more about our characters, it helped, even more, to stress who the real villain are. Even though some of the tributes(how cruel was it to send former victors in there- I agree with what Johanna said about it) aren't on our heroes side, they aren't villanized and you don't hate them- incredible film making right there.
The last fifteen minutes are so were pure gold, from Katniss being a badass and shooting the ceiling of the arena with the cable(and shutting the power down), to, at the end, where the fateful words "There is no District 12"(the very ending where Katniss looks right into the camera was awesome!) are spoken by Gale, is all pretty much flawless.
P.S.- No Shaky-cam! :D YAY!
The best thing of this film(and the series as a whole) is the characters. They were good in the first film, but this one brings everything to a whole new level, with more development for the leads and some amazing new co-stars, who I'm sure most people will love.
Jennifer Lawrence, as always, knocks it out of the park as Katniss. She perfectly captures the PTSD her character is going through; the part at the beginning where, when she shot at the birds, and thought she shot one of the guys she'd killed in the first film was a very good scene and showed that Katniss is a changed girl from the one we knew in the first film. I also appreciated that Katniss, while having the ability to act for the cameras, is actually quite awkward when she's out of her hunting/taking care of herself element, and really isn't the type of person who could, say, get a guy to do what she wants by being all 'sexy'; I find this really refreshing to see a girl who, while very capable in taking care of herself and shooting an arrow, is pretty clueless when it comes to so-called 'feminine wiles', who sometimes says the wrong thing, and has a hard time talking to others(something I can identity with). I also appreciated that Katniss, while shown as a strong individual, was portrayed as she was in the novel- still having it pretty much together, but slowly slipping downwards. And, of course, Miss Lawrence does this masterfully. One of the best scenes of the film, and one that I remembered vividly from the book, was when Katniss(along with Finnick) think they hear the voices of those they care about screaming for them(which, as Katniss finds out, are actually just jabber jays), and, even though Katniss knows that the voice screaming for her really isn't her sister, she collapses to the ground, covering her ears, and screaming. This had been an extremely powerful scene for me when reading, and seeing on screen was better than I could have hoped for- the PTSD was handled perfectly here and that makes me very hopeful for the next two films.
As before, Josh Hutcherson was amazing as my favorite male character of the story, Peeta Mellark. He does even better here, balancing Peeta's inherent kindness and charisma while also showing the damaged side of this guy. A person I follow on Tumblr pointed out that, just like Katniss isn't your ordinary girl, Peeta isn't your typical 'macho, buff' dude- he can take care of himself, and definitely knows how to fight, but he also bakes and can paint(apparently some people were making fun of Peeta, which I don't understand, since I've always loved his character), which people, often times, consider 'girl things', which they're obviously not, since gender rules like that are ridiculous and untrue; I thought this was a very cool thing and is something I'd love to see more of in fiction, since not everyone is the same. And, I have to say, Mr. Hutcherson also played that part of his character's personality perfectly.
Liam Hemsworth does a good a job as ever as Gale in this film. I really disliked Gale in the books(you'll understand, if you haven't read them, when you see Mockingjay), but so far, I haven't in the films, so that shows how good of an actor Liam is.
The other characters we first met in "The Hunger Games" are all just as good as they were then. Haymitch is as likable as ever(I've really been enjoying his character- he was perfectly cast), Effie is, oddly enough, made to be a sympathetic character in this film, and Cinna is great in and his final moments are truly sad :(
And President Snow is even more wicked in this movie. I thought it was an eerie touch to show his granddaughter with him in this movie(since she's mentioned in Mockingjay), since, for me, it really hit home exactly why the Capital was okay with sending children to slaughter each other(since, really, most people in their right minds would be horrified and do what they could to stop it if it were to happen in their country). It's because, like this little girl, they are desensitized to the violence. They were shown it from a young age and most likely don't see these people as human, just like a lot of people don't see the citizens in the countries we fight with as human(which has always been a problem in this world, ever since ancient times).
Now, as readers of the book know, we meet several new characters in this movie- the most notable being Finnick and Johanna, who are definite favorites of mine.
At first, when I heard of the casting of Sam Claffin as Finnick, I was a little wary. Finnick is one of my favorite characters of the trilogy and, when I first saw images of Mr. Claffin he just...looked wrong to me(I imaged him being a bit younger).
However, I really shouldn't have worried, since these casting directors definitely know what they were doing, and he was AMAZING in the role. Finnick was just as lovable as he was in the book and I immediately liked him- he really does care about others, is loyal, which is quite remarkable, considering how young he was when he fought and won in the games(only 14). Finnick, in a lot of ways, reminds me of Katniss, and I liked the tenuous bond they formed in the books and movie. His relationship with Mags(the old woman who also won from his district) was very sweet(I loved how determined he was to protect her- carrying her around everywhere) and it was heartbreaking when she died(I kept waiting for it to happen). All in all, I was blown away by Sam Claffin's performance and I'm very much anticipating seeing more of him in Mockingjay!
Jena Malone as Johanna was another pleasant surprise! I didn't know much about her, but she greatly impressed me with her acting of the character, playing that 'pissed-at-the-world' persona expertly, as well as giving her a vulnerable, yet heroic, side which I very much enjoyed seeing. She definitely made me laugh(along with Haymitch) quite a few times in the mostly serious film, especially when she cussed out the Capital(haha, loved how they sneakily got the F-word into a PG-13 movie XD). Also, her stripping in the elevator, as well as Katniss's face, was pretty priceless XD. Basically, she was definitely a very intelligent casting choice and I look forward to seeing more of her :).
The rest of the tributes were well acted and filled in their parts well. I don't think there was a weak performance in this cast :).
P.S. - I loved the Tick-Tock this is a clock! XD That part was a favorite of mine in the book(though it went on a whole lot longer) so I kind of grinned when they started saying it.
On a side note, I was also glad that the romance was toned down and the story was more focused on the plot and what was going on. Many people obsessed over the love triangle, and I'm glad the film makers are not among these people, since I REALLY do NOT like love triangles(but this is one of the more okay ones).
As one would expect, there were a couple of flaws in this film, like there is in anything made.
First of all, the time they were in the arena was only a few days in the movie and, if I remember correctly, it was a bit longer in the book(around a week). This time discrepancy was something I found pretty odd. Also, there were a few things left out, but that is understandable, though I do wish they'd kept Haymitch's backstory in there, since it was a good part of the novel.
Another thing, that really doesn't have to do much with the movie itself, is some of the merchandising that has come from this film- for example, there is this whole make-up brand thing which seems strangely like the Capital- did the media completely miss the entire point of the movie!?(of course they did, the media pretty much has a skewed vision of things :P). I just found that a little disturbing since we shouldn't WANT to be like the Capital.
All in all, if you loved the series, or are interested in the story at all, I definitely recommend going to see it. Just make sure you don't take your children to see it(under 12 shouldn't go see it) since this isn't a kiddy film. Also, on a side note, Catching Fire, along with Frozen, are both doing very well in the box-office(as did Gravity earlier this year)! See, female-led films CAN do well! Now, let's make some more! :D. Like, how about a female superhero film!! :D Or another science fiction one! :D
Now, here are some great pics! :D (there were some more, but I couldn't find them).