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Catching Fire is fun and exciting, though it could use a more satisfying ending
I specifically held off on reading The Hunger Games before watching the movie adaptation so I could go into it as a blank slate and see how well it was made for newcomers. Overall, I was pleased, though upon hearing some specifics from my brother and subsequently reading the story myself, I feel that a couple of the characters were a little underdeveloped for my taste. Haymitch in particular.
Since then, I've read all three books and I was very much looking forward to the adaptation of Catching Fire. Once you understand and accept the concept of the hunger games themselves, the story and events of Catching fire make it the most interesting of the trilogy, in my opinion.
And I can easily say I wasn't particularly disappointed.
But first, the story
After their rebellious victory in the Hunger Games, Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) are the newest victors in their hometown of District 12 and have been moved to the rather sparsely populated Victor's Village where they are the only neighbors of the constantly sloshed Haymitch (Woody Harrelson). Katniss, however, can't even begin to enjoy her winnings. She's haunted by the violence and death in her past.
Until she gets a visit from a very unhappy President Snow (Donald Sutherland) whose favorite pastime is to throw threats around like bloody rose petals. Now she's also haunted by the specter of a horrible death for her family if she is unable to convince the unhappy districts not to riot. It turns out they've begun to rally, using Katniss and her mocking jay as a sort of figurehead.
If you've seen the first one, you can probably guess at how convincing she is.
Though her acting abilities do seem to be honed enough to cause a lot of heartache for her sort-of-boyfriend Gale (Liam Hemsworth).
She and Peeta quickly get some rather terrible news, which I shan't spoil here. Along the way, they get to know several of the past victors from years past such as Beetee (Jeffrey Wright), Finnick (Sam Claflin), Johanna (Jenna Malone) and District 9 Male Tribute (Actor). There's also the newest head game-maker Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman).
The technicolor Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks) could hardly be overlooked, the flamboyant Caesar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci) is never far from the center of attention, and the quietly independent Cinna (Lenny Kravitz) may be my favorite side character of the series.
Dot dot dot
I know I'm not giving much actual information in those last few sentences, but I really don't want to spoil twists that should be experienced first-hand.
On the whole, this movie is just about equal to the previous movie in terms of film quality and story telling. I think it's a touch more enjoyable with several more imaginative sequences than last time. Add to that the fact that they no longer need to set up the world and can just jump right into the story, and you get a very solid movie.
The action feels to be more consistently paced and there are some very inventive visuals.
I was thoroughly pleased with the results. It may or may not be influenced by my having read the book already, but there it is.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire - Trailer
Where it suffers the most is the fact that it is adapted from the second book of a trilogy. And as is so common in literary-middle-child-syndrome, the story doesn't exactly end. The tale reaches what feels to be a chapter break, but there is certainly an unfinished feel to the story. However, considering that's how the book ends, they do just about as well with it as can be expected.
One thing that does frustrate me is that, last I checked, they planned to split the third book of the series (Mocking Jay) into two movies. Since then, they may have decided to split it into seven. That's the thing you do with movies based on books these days isn't it?
What irritates me is that, as frustrating as the ending of Catching Fire can be, Mocking Jay is by far the least interesting and my least favorite of the series. It's not bad. Just not my favorite. And yet that's the one they decide to split into two movies?
But what can you do about it?
But what do you think of the movie?
For me, I'd have to give this one a somewhat weak 8 / 10. It's well made and enjoyable, but it suffers a bit from an ending that they had no choice but to use. In retrospect, I probably should have rated the previous movie the same (currently rated a 7), but I'm going to leave it alone.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is rated PG-13 for language, violence and intense action, a few frightening images and thematic elements and one scene of holy-cow-is-she-really-undressing-right-here?