There will be spoilers in this review, you’ve been warned.

I had a conversation with someone before going to Catching Fire, and they were complaining that the previews kept referring to it as The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. I pointed out a lot of people wouldn’t know the name on sight and would be confused unless you said you know, in The Hunger Games. I proved this by saying to my parents I couldn’t wait to see Catching Fire. They looked me blankly until I explained. Not every book thinks ahead and has every book titled Harry Potter and ___. Or Game of Thrones, that didn’t bother with titles of seasons. Now I’ve rambled on enough. I was a fan of the first Hunger Games movie, although yes there are a few things they had to change from the book, but I mostly approved of them. Not everything from a book translates well on screen. Jennifer Lawrence is without a doubt a better actress than I think anyone could’ve hoped for; Katniss is a very difficult character. She’s much more introverted and distant than most protagonists, which I appreciate about her, but when your character has a lot of inner thought but not a lot of outer expression, that can be hard for an actress. Not JLaw. At this point I think she can do anything. Catching Fire is my favorite of the books, so I went in with high hopes. I was not disappointed!

The great thing about this sequel is that they don’t waste time telling you exactly what happened in the first one. It flows naturally into the narrative. Because of that I’m not really going to give you much of a ‘previously on.’ Watch the movie! Or read the books (highly recommended). The Hunger Games are over, and for the first time there were two victors: Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark. Katniss became famous for volunteering to go instead of her sister, and then had a true love story with Peeta, in order to get people to sponsor the lovers. Of course she really felt very little for him, but the plan worked, and when the two decided to commit suicide rather than kill each other, the game master decided to save them both. Peeta’s feelings for Katniss are genuine, but he’s well aware now that she lied in order to survive. Cry me a river, Peeta, you’re alive. Little did Katniss know that she was slowly becoming a symbol of revolution and defiance. President Snow himself shows up at her house to tell her about it. HeĀ  believes – rightly – that she really wanted to live and she didn’t intend to sow discontent. And yet that’s what she did. He tells her to keep pretending to be a girl in love and keep things quiet, or he’ll kill all of her family, especially the boy she has real feelings for, Gale. During their victory tour, Katniss tries to follow the cards, but when she shows emotion after talking about Rue, the girl she cared about who died, people start fighting back. President Snow is unimpressed, even when Katniss and Peeta put on a pretend engagement to keep selling the message.

There’s a new game master, Plutarch, who suggests to Snow that the only way to end this is with the new hunger games coming up. They push fear and discord throughout the Districts by executing and whipping people, destroying their homes, and teaching them the Capitol is still in power. Snow declares that the next hunger games, which is a special quarter year, will pit the former victors against each other. This is unheard of and infuriates the victors, who were told they’d live the rest of their life in peace. Some of them hate Katniss for causing it, others become her allies later on. Katniss and Peeta return to the arena and meet Finnick, Johanna, and Beetee, who are all victors and help her … but they have a plan of their own. Secretly they’ve made plans with Haymith and the rebellion to get them out of the arena, and start the war for real. They need Katniss to be the Mockingjay, the symbol of the rebellion. Plutarch was on their side the whole time and breaks her out. Unfortunately Peeta is left behind, leading Katniss to lose her mind temporarily in fury. She is told at the end by Gale her home has been destroyed, but her family is safe … for now. The movie ends focusing on Katniss’ face as JLaw does some serious acting. Emotions cross it quickly, including sorrow, terror, and then finally, fury.

What a great movie. It deepens the story, furthers the character development, has a lot of great action and nightmare fueled scenes, and ends on a huge cliffhanger. I wondered how closely they were going to be to the book, and I was pleased to see very, very close, even taking many exact quotes from the text. It’s frustrating to me to see the love triangle hyped up, because this series is about so much more than that, and the love triangle isn’t your typical ‘which boy will she choose.’ Katniss has a lot more to worry about than choosing a man, she has a damn war she doesn’t want to be a part of. The actors seem insistent on focusing that way, shrugging off the love triangle. What I love about Katniss is how she’s a reluctant hero. You hear that trope a lot, but she’s a strong version of it, meaning she is dragged kicking and screaming (sometimes literally) into being a hero. She just wanted to live, but there were a few signs of her defiance, something in her she probably didn’t know she had. You can easily see how she’s become a symbol, but also how it’s all just a big manipulation, not just by the Capitol, but by the rebellion too. I’m really excited to see the next one. The action was better in this one due to lack of a shaky cam. The new actors were all great, especially Philip Seymour Hoffman as the subtle and brilliant Plutarch.

I personally can’t think of any criticisms outside of the marketing campaign being obsessed with the love triangle. Believe it or not, people, plenty of people read and love the books and don’t care about that aspect. It’s about oppression and dystopian future and the rise of hope. I’m on Team Katniss. I’m not sure yet how they’re going to split up the next book into two, there’s no real spot I can see that is an obvious break, and it’s really unnecessary. I’m a little worried it’s going to seem intentionally bloated just to force extra money out of it. We’ll have to see. Overall, I loved Catching Fire, and I look forward to owning it.

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Comments
  1. […] thin to have two parts. But they knew that money maker needed to be bled dry. I wrote a review of Catching Fire, so check that out before I continue on to Mockingjay Part […]

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