The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is the second installment of Suzanne Collins’ wildly popular young adult novel series. The film takes place after Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) have come home to District 12, riding the waves of their victory from the Hunger Games. Being home post-games has its fair share of problems and not everything is exactly rosy for Katniss.
On the outside Katniss, along with Peeta and Haymitch, is living a life of comfort which comes with being a victor of the Hunger Games, but her internal life is a mess. She’s exhibiting signs of post-traumatic stress disorder when she hallucinates seeing one of the contestants she killed with her bow and arrow from the first film. Her best friend Gale (Liam Hemsworth) has confessed how he truly feels about her and seals it with a kiss. Peeta won’t talk to her after telling him her display of love for him during the games was all an act to help them survive. Toss in a very polite but tense visit from President Snow (Donald Sutherland) to warn her about squashing this spirit of rebellion she has ignited in the districts with her poison berries stunt or else, and you can see Katniss really has too much going on right now to really enjoy a peaceful existence at home.
When Katniss fails to convince President Snow of her love for Peeta during the Victory Tour and all the districts around Panem are in a continued state of utter chaos, it becomes clear to President Snow that Katniss is a huge threat to the carefully constructed balance of government and law he has enforced for years. To celebrate the Quarter Quell, President Snow announces that past victors of the Hunger Games in each district would be reaped and forced back into the arena to compete for a second time.
Catching Fire directed by Francis Lawrence is a faithful adaptation of the second book. Jennifer Lawrence brings her A game again when she portrays Katniss’ inner conflict with survivor’s guilt and being always on edge over the safety of her family and those she cares about the most. There’s an introduction of new characters who become significant to the story much later, from Phillip Seymour Hoffman as the new Gameskeeper Plutarch Heavensbee to Sam Claflin as the very handsome and charming Finnick Odair, a past victor of the Hunger Games who Katniss is very suspicious of. Where the first film is about survival and being forced to make hard choices, this second film is about people not appearing who they seem to be and knowing who your true enemies and allies are.
What I enjoyed about the film is how the director managed to keep this sense of people knowing more than Katniss does. She’s kept in a constant state of emotional turmoil, holding it together in spite of the single thread of sanity she has left. Paranoia eats away at Katniss as she’s both highly distrustful of her fellow opponents, while back to where she started in the first film, unwilling to kill anyone if it can be avoided. It becomes particularly hard when she encounters more good people stuck in a terrible situation, like Mags (Lynn Cohen) or Beetee (Jeffrey Wright) and Wiress (Amanda Plummer). It’s these kinds of moral dilemmas that remind us how cruel and brutal these games really are.
Some of my favorite moments in the film are the ones between Katniss and Peeta. After getting over the initial awkwardness of Katniss telling Peeta her feelings for him was all an act, they manage to put it behind them and become friends again. There are moments in the film where Katniss nearly goes into a complete breakdown when she thinks Peeta has died or is in danger. Maybe Katniss doesn’t always act in a way that makes her deserving of Peeta’s love, affection, and devotion, but over time, you can see in the book and in the film that he’s just as important to her as Gale is. Whether she likes it or not, she does have feelings for Peeta too, which makes it hard for her to really explore them fully. Even when Gale asks Katniss if she loves him, she avoids giving him an actual answer by telling him she can’t really think of that right now when all she has room for is making sure her family stays alive. Katniss lives in a grim reality and having normal thoughts a seventeen-year-old girl would normally have is slim to non-existent.
Movie critics have said the film ends abruptly and in an awkward spot, just as the story is getting good. This is usually a problem with most middle books/films in a series. There’s really no good place to end it, but at the very least it keeps people wanting more. And if you’ve read the entire book series like I have, things are about to get worse before it gets better for Katniss. I certainly can’t wait until the first part of two films for Mockingjay comes out to a theater near us soon.
Reviewer Rating: 10/10
9 thoughts on “Movie Review: The Hunger Games – Catching Fire”
I saw Catching Fire last weekend and loved it. I was on the fence about it since the first movie was kind of blah to me, but Catching Fire redeemed it. I need to go back and reread Catching Fire now. It was my favorite in the trilogy.
I never really had any problems with the first film, but I do believe the second book is by far the best in the series too. This is why I’m extremely happy with how the film handled the second book. I’d love to reread it again to compare it with the film.
I absolutely looooooooved this second movie (I actually preferred the second book to the first, too) and thought they did a magnificent job of translating it to the screen. While some people I know found the build up to the games slow–the time spent in District 12, Katniss’ and Peeta’s journeys through the various districts, the wedding prep–I instead appreciated the growth in the bond between the two leads. Of course, the arena is where the movie really takes off and shines; the whole clock set up is pretty awesome put into visuals and I loved seeing Jena Malone act as Johanna. Overall a solid film! Now I’m just dreading the fact that the last book is cut into two separate films 😦
It’s true that the meat and potatoes of the second book is the Quarter Quell itself, but I did like the build up leading to it though. It’s hard to translate on film, but the stuff in District 12 and the Victory Tour really allows you to get into Katniss’ head more and it gives us more room to see her relationship develop with Gale, Peeta, Haymitch, etc. in that first half of the book. It really isn’t only about the action, but about the characters themselves.
I definitely agree that Jena Malone did a wonderful job with Johanna. I think she had the best scenes in the movie. 🙂
**Minor book spoilers below**
Catching Fire was my favorite book in the Hunger Games trilogy, and the movie adaptation didn’t disappoint in the slightest. I was slightly bummed that Katniss’ interaction with Bonnie and Twill in the woods was cut out, along with the electric fence scene. But I guess you can only fit so much into a movie. I also think they wanted to keep District 13 a surprise for the end of the film. Otherwise, those who had not read the books would have felt underwhelmed leaving the theater. Some still did, but whatever, it was a great movie.
Also, I kind of wish that they kept the Quarter Quell a secret, and left it out of trailers. The first book had it so greatly ingrained in my head that once you win the games you’re out for good and live a solid life in Victor’s Village. When the Quarter Quell scenario was announced, it was easily the biggest surprise for me in the book, and I wish moviegoers who hadn’t read the books could have experienced that same feeling.
Yeah, that’s the problem with a lot of book to film adaptations…something is bound to get cut out. I do agree that the whole Quarter Quell thing came as a huge shock when I read the books before the second film came out. I didn’t think it was possible they could go back into the arena again, but it did bring an interesting dynamic by having past winners compete against each other this time around.
I’m guessing when they did the trailer for the movie, they had to show something enticing to make those who haven’t read the books want to see it. Kind of hard to keep the Quarter Quell a secret when all the action happens in the second half of the book.
Nice review! It was good to hear your thoughts on Katniss’s inner turmoil, since I didn’t read the book before seeing the movie. I also loved this film! I love the relationship between Katniss and Peeta as well, especially since there are no traditional gender roles being displayed. They have to save each other at different times and in different ways, and they rely on each other like that too. It’s an interesting emotional bond forged from their experiences together.
Also, I like that people can kind of follow along with Katniss’s emotions through the story. As in, she doesn’t immediately jump into the revolution — she’s just trying to survive, and it takes a while for her to find that spark and direct her anger. At the end of this movie, I felt just as upset as she must have over all this!
And I actually liked the cliffhanger ending. Now I’m going to read the second and third book before the next movie… =)
Thanks! You really get so much more of what Katniss is thinking and feeling in the books than in the film. It also explains where her concerns are and how difficult it is for her to really focus on her feelings for Gale and Peeta. Still, it gives you some insight of how she feels for each guy, even if she can’t express it openly.
That’s what makes the Hunger Games a really great series overall. It reverses gender roles a great deal and I love that it’s nearly always Katniss who is saving everyone else. Including the guys!