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Page to Screen: Catching Fire

Updated on July 24, 2015

Film Poster

Source

The Film

The film adaptation of said book was released in 2013 and it continued the success of its predecessor. It follows the story told in the book well with some minor omissions (largely from Katniss's thoughts) to inclusions that are only allowed to a third-person perspective. The film suffers a little from various unexplained things (such as Katniss's 'pregnancy,' Haymitch's Hunger Games and previous Quarter Quell rules, and practically any mention of District 13) which makes this film geared more towards the reading audience. It's a style the film series appears to follow.

The Novel

Suzanne Collins' Catching Fire is the second work in her Hunger Games Trilogy, taking place almost immediately the the first titular work ends. It continues to follow the main character and one of the two victors of the 74th Hunger Games Katniss Everdeen. Despite winning the competition, Katniss is forced into a new world of politics where she must live a lie in order to protect her family. Still, the world after the Hunger Games is even more dangerous than it was before.

Book Cover

Source

The Changes in the Adaptation

Continuing from the First Adaptation
There are a handful of traits in the first film that are kept that mark changes in the adaptation, namely Perspective and PG13 rating. In the book, we're given Katniss's perspective while in the film it's third person, allowing us to witness scenes implied to have happened in the book while restricting what we know about Katniss's thought process. Also some of the kills and gore focus are toned down such as letting Gloss dying from an arrow to his chest in the film as opposed to the arrow Katniss puts through his skull, or especially the necrosis from the fog in the book compared to the boils inflicted on the skin in the film.

Relationship Focus
This might be a personal opinion, but I felt the novel Catching Fire put a heavy focus on Katniss and Peeta's relationship. While the film technically touched on all of the high and important moments of the book pre-Quarter Quell, it mentions Katniss's relationship troubles and frames it without getting into heavy details. It carries the appropriate level of emotion to the relationships within the love triangle unlike the first film that seemed ambiguous if either Katniss or Peeta were interested in the other or not.

Plutarch's Introduction and Lack of Watch
Plutarch's machinations are what carries much of the plot for Catching Fire and the possibility of any sequel material. Plutarch proposes the new Quarter Quell rules, the arena, and is directly responsible for gathering some of the most important members of the new resistance that follows in Mockingjay. In the film, he serves the same rules but without some important distinctions. Both in book and film, Plutarch says a handful of things that seek to dignify Katniss and make her feel like she has a friend but she's in so much despair and, like Katniss always is, believes him to be mocking or vapid.

However, there's a big 'A-ha!' moment completely lost in the film. During the dance Plutarch has with Katniss, much of the conversation is devoted to his timepiece adorned with the symbol of a Mockingjay, something done to help Katniss identify him as an ally. She misses it, but the watch also serves as inspiration to help Katniss identify the new arena as a clock face with divided dangers. Because of the lack of the timepiece, Wiress's revelation seemingly comes out of nowhere when Katniss catches it.

Katniss's 'Pregnancy'
During the pre-game of the Quarter Quell, it becomes very clear that every contestant is trying their best to draw out sympathy from the audience in order to stop the 75th Hunger Games. Many call it an injustice, drawing out the sympathy from their fans, and so on. However when it's Peta's turn, he drops the bomb that not only was their wedding cancelled but also that he and Katniss had conceived a child, one that was sure to die in the arena. And, for the rest of the film, that's it. No more mention, no more posturing as if Katniss was pregnant, nothing.

In the book those around Katniss subtly remind her that she's supposed to be pregnant. Why? In order to draw more donations from the sponsors of course. After the spigot was received in the film, there were no more mentions of sponsored gifts which allows the audience to completely forget about the theoretical baby. It's mentioned only once more in Mockingjay Part 1 but in the books it's mentioned quite a bit more although the 'fate' of the child is largely the same.

Peeta's Kill
There is a substantial difference between Katniss and Peeta that was drawn in the original book and film. One of those was how the two react to the pressure the Games put them through. Katniss kills a great many opponents; however Peeta kills only one, Brutus, during the Quarter Quell. Even then, it's off page. You don't see Peeta kill anyone leaving him more as, for lack of a better word, pure which serves him as the 'damsel in distress.'

In the film, there is no mention of Peeta killing Brutus (and no confession to it in the sequel film). However, there is an instance where Peeta is struggling for his life with another tribute in the water at the bloodbath. While Peeta almost certainly killed this opponent, there's no clear 'kill shot' as the other tribute merely died underwater. While this may be a stand-in, the moment is more of a tense moment for Peeta's life rather than the realization that Peeta might have just killed someone (also, Peeta doesn't know how to swim in the book).

*There's also the implication that Peeta might have killed the girl who started the fire back in the 74th Hunger Games, but it's arguable whether she was already mortally wounded by Cato, the cannon was slow to fire, or that Peeta performed more of a mercy kill. Still, compared to Katniss or the revolutionary fighter Gale, Peeta's hands are relatively clean.

Trailer for Catching Fire

Closing Thoughts

As with the first film, the target audience of this film is devoted to those who read the book. It's not as though newcomers to the series (that is, those who haven't read the books) won't enjoy the film as it has most of the story intact. However, there are dozens of little nuances that they won't get that the readers will.

That being said, the film brings much of the scenery described in the books to life in the flesh. Characters are cast very well (even if Jennifer Lawrence is much more likable than Katniss is in the books) and new additions to the series continue impress. The arena was also much more visually impressive this time around although that can be attributed to the fact that the 75th arena is far more structured than the 74th was.

Still, the film does suffer a little from the adaptation process. Lots of scenes feel a little clipped and put together, skipping dozens of little scenes between the bigger overarching story. Readers will notice them and newcomers may notice some things are a little off or the pacing is a little choppy. However this is only a slight flaw for an otherwise wonderfully adapted film from its source material.

Book vs. Movie

For those of you who read the book and watched the movie, what did you prefer?

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Further Reading

Click if you want to read the commentary on the first adaptation of The Hunger Games or commentary on the sequel Mockingjay Part 1.

Also, you can read more Page to Screen adaptations if you click here.

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