SOD: The Hunger Games, Catching Fire
Title: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson
In the second installation of The Hunger Games trilogy, we see Katniss dealing with the aftermath of the double victory of the Hunger Games that made her and Peeta famous. The districts around the capitol have become dissatisfied with the status quo, and Katniss has become a symbol for the disquiet. The story follows the struggles to keep peace into the beginning of a revolution.
The Hunger Games was not what one would call a feel-good flick for the holidays, but it was a movie that made you feel. I’ve heard numerous criticisms of it, from white-washing to the idea that it’s romanticizing violence. There are truths in those criticisms, and some of them are extremely important to talk about (white-washing in particular), but the movie as a whole creates the perfect mood of dystopian fear that you need to fall into the story and lose yourself.
For me, the star of these movies is always the sets and the costumes, particularly those in the capitol. They’re lush, they’re ridiculous, and they’re beautiful in their own way. Particularly when placed against the sets of the districts, they create the proper amount of discordance to illustrate exactly what’s wrong in this world (and to make a comment about our own). Ironically, before the show started they included an advertisement for Covergirl Capitol makeup and apparently did not recognize how horrible they sounded. Perhaps the advertisers should actually watch the movie.
Another positive element was that there was a good balance between familiar and futuristic. There were devices that weren’t familiar, the whole arena for the games was quite impossible, but many things still felt the same: fireworks, watching TV, and touchscreens, to name a few. In addition, the movie found a good balance between the lush sets of the capitol and the desolation of the districts and the arena, satisfying both our action/adventure urges and our sci-fi itch.
Jennifer Lawrence was strong as usual, although a bit reliant on breathing as an acting technique. Most of the acting was solid, although not standout. Those that truly popped were actually some of the smaller characters: Elizabeth Banks as Effie Trinket, showing a surprising amount of depth for a capitol character, and Stanley Tucci as Caesar Flickerman, the flamboyant emcee of the games. Both of them captured a familiar shine that we see on TV today, but also let themselves betray flickers of deep and real emotion.
For those who are worried about an adaptation of the books, Catching Fire does a good job of hitting the major plot points and retaining the feel of the book. It doesn’t come across as clunky and the characters feel mostly the same. This is a difficult thing to pull off, but it’s one of the more successful book to movie transformations I’ve seen in a long while.
The movie wasn’t perfect though. In truth, it is a fairly whitewashed series, and for as much as I love Jlaw and Josh Hutcherson offscreen, they are not the best actors in the world. The mahogany joke was tired by this movie. The arena scenes felt repetitive and dull against the splendor of the capitol. The characterizations of the tributes felt rushed, particularly when compared with the first movie. However if you want a movie that will grab you, leave you a little teary at moments, and take your breath away, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is for you.