Let the Games Begin
By Adam Sturrock
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)
Director: Francis Lawrence
Writer: Simon Beaufoy, Michael deBruyn
Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Donald Sutherland, Philip Seymour Hoffman
It was one of the shocking moments of cinema (not really) when a teenage-fiction book adaptation was actually…pretty good.. (unless you suffer from motion sickness and/or have an undying hatred of handi-cam footage). The Hunger Games, led by a stellar cast of experienced actors and relative newcomers took the world by storm and further put the lead actress, Jennifer Lawrence on the map if the Indie-flick, Winter Bone and summer-smash, Xmen: First Class didn’t do so before hand. Without ruining much of the plot, basically the Hunger Games revolved around a darkly serious take on gladiatorial combat except the gladiators haven’t been trained to fight. It’s more or less a high stakes version of helplessly watching your drunken friends hit each other and deciding who will win except there is only going to be one survivor out of 24. Cue Katniss Everdeen (Lawrence) and Peeta Mellark (Hutcherson) who break the hunger games and assume the role of love-struck puppies in order to stay alive. Cue pissed President Snow ( Sutherland) who is now hell bent on making an example of the two for not following the rules.
This is where Catching Fire picks up, Katniss has been told that she must continue her love-struck shtick in order for her to breathe air and not start a rebellion across the 12 districts of Panem. The really awkward bit is that she kind of has her lips attached to Miley Cyrus’s ex, Gale (Hemsworth) and kind of dislikes her arranged boyfriend. This element of the story is what annoys me first and foremost as the writers try and pander towards the Twilight crowd and make a Lautner/Patinson love triangle 2.0 – stop it.
If you have seen the predecessor, you have a rough idea of what is to come; it very much sticks to the original formula except with more pouting and less backstory. I felt in general that the script is a bit too blunt, especially from Snow with the classic line, “I want her dead” being an inclination that a more subtle approach should have been taken instead. The first, maybe, 30-45mins is set mainly around Jennifer Lawrence and Co going on their victory parade except everyone who comes out to see them is either devastatingly sad because they killed their brother/sister or are angry because Katniss and Peeta are being docile and in line with the Capitol (in which aggressive stigs/angry white power rangers appear and beat the protesters up).
To punish the two in a very public way, Snow and his new game-keeper, Plutrarch Heavensby (Hoffman) come up with the Quarter Quell, a hyped-up version of the normal hunger games except the competitors are all former winners which ratchets up the stakes and greatly improves the chances of death for the competitors. Stanley Tucci is back as the over the top host, Caesar Flickerman – one of my favourite movie characters for some reason- and he lightens up a very sombre first half of the film.
Skipping ahead a little bit, I felt the set pieces in the eventual hunger games are a notch above the previous film with a mention to the quietly ominous white smoke that they face earlier into the arena. I felt that the same themes have been reinforced, but the new realization that Katniss will have to buddy-up with others does add something new to the mix. The film deviates a little bit away from the first film in that it keeps closer to the source material -which is great- if you’ve read the books you’ll know which bits I’m talking about.
I think overall the film isn’t a massive revolution in the series, as most second films tend to be but rather an assured continuation of what is expected from the fans of the original. Hopefully the next film will continue and improve on new elements to the story and keep things fresh rather than just a rehash of the same situation as the first two films have done.
What did you guys think? Have you read the books, how does the film compare? Let me know in the comment section below.