THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE Review

Don’t worry, you’ll still get your reaction post! It just so happens that we’re all so busy seeing the movie, we can’t find a time for all three of us to get together and TALK about it. It’s a good problem, no?

In the meantime, we’re going to give you a conventional SPOILER-FREE review to go alongside the reaction post to come!

Effie, bigger and bolder!

Effie, bigger and bolder!

Let’s start from the very beginning (a very good place to staaaaart)! When Katniss and Peeta win 74th The Hunger Games and return to their new home, broken and distant. They’ve survived, but they’re tentative friendship turned showmance is tepid at best after Peeta learns Katniss’ true motivation. Not to mention that they’re both plagued with PTSD.

It all leads up to The Victory Tour, which is where Francis Lawrence really gets to sink his teeth in and show us what this movie is made of. We don’t see much of the individual districts, but we’re offered a few shots that serve as shining examples of the bigger budget and Francis’ eye for detail.

Gale gets his rebellion on

Gale gets his rebellion on

This movie is mostly character driven, which we found super refreshing. Without adding significant film time (THG and CF are actually the same length), we see Peeta, Gale, Haymitch, Effie, and Show’s roles expanded. It’s not just extra lines– the characters seem richer, with deeper personalities and more individual significance outside their relationship with Katniss and Peeta. Some people weren’t thrilled that other scenes were fast-moving, but we think it was worth it to get some character development in there.

It’s at the end of the Victory Tour that we meet Plutarch Heavensbee, portrayed with gusto by Philip Seymour Hoffman. You can’t help but marvel at his unprecedented political savvy and manipulations. He doesn’t lose his cool for a single moment and meanwhile, we were totally freaking out.

Chemistry-wise, the relationship between Katniss and Peeta seems more organic and palpable this time around. It goes without say that Jen and Josh are both extremely talented actors and dear friends in real life, which translates beautifully. That being said, Catching Fire is significantly more Gale-centric. Jen and Liam have presented a strong case for Kale/Gatniss/whatever else we want to call them. Their relationship plays off as a look at two friends falling for each other, brought together by the stress of impending rebellion, but still plants hints of what’s to come in the Mockingjay films.

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Family feels

When the Third Quarter Quell is announced, we finally get some new victors! And what a group they are! Sam Claflin is our Finnick. He embodies the character’s dramatic preening and sensitive soul with a stunning fluidity that we doubt we could have gotten out of many of the laughable fan suggestions that came out during casting. And it doesn’t hurt that he is really, really, ridiculously good-looking. Jena Malone is able to capture Johanna’s anger with such ease and honesty that you know it’s her true spirit, not just an act. Jeffrey Wright gives a master class in acting as he transforms so perfectly into unusual techie extraordinaire Beetee, but Amanda Plummer gets the scene-stealer award for her zany portrayal of Wiress. And Mags? Forgetaboutit! We all want to adopt Lynn Cohen as our new grandma!

With a more appropriate level of violence this time around, the Career pack actually felt menacing. Bruno Gunn’s guns and his expert snarl were intimidating. Meta Golding has the Enobaria growl down to a science. And despite being living barbies, Cashmere and Gloss were surprisingly badass. However, this group did feel a bit under-utilized given that they were meant to pose an immediate threat to Katniss’ life.

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We feel you, Johanna!

The ending is heart-breaking and devastating and everything we ever wanted it to be after reading the books! We’re not saying the movie was perfect down to the very last detail. There’s a lot to consider and we’re sure everyone will find a little something to gripe about (Don’t we always?), but this movie is an extremely faithful adaptation and for us, the clear winner of the franchise so far. Though we loved Gary Ross’ work, Francis Lawrence provided us with a smart, pulse-pounding, emotional journey that had us thanking him by the end.

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Posted on November 24, 2013, in Actors, Books, Characters, Fandom and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. I agree that CF is more GalexKatniss centric but in the exterior obvious way, but I don’t see it as two friends falling in love at all. In tumblr there is an excellent analysis that I want to share

    SPOILERS AHEAD
    “First off, I think it’s pretty clear at this point that the powers that be want a love triangle until the very end. We’ve known for months now that they had a very specific goal to amp this all up, so unfortunately, things ARE going to be changed to make it more of a love triangle than it actually was in the books. It’s ridiculous, but you kind of just have to go with it.

    Now, with that said, this is what I gathered from both Galeniss and Everlark in the movie.

    To me, they were presented to the audience as a duality, but not as the one that the actors or even FLaw really even mentioned. They were big on saying that this movie focuses on Katniss and Gale not understanding each other anymore whereas Peeta and Katniss do understand each other. I guess there was a little bit of that, but not nearly as much of it as everyone made it out to be.

    The duality for me was more in what each relationship represented as a whole through the movie.

    With Gale and Katniss, I really felt like their relationship was the physical manifestation of the quote, “Gale is mine and I am his. Anything else is unthinkable.” And what I mean by that is that it’s an empty declaration. It’s a statement Katniss makes but never quite fulfills, and there were so many of these between Gale and Katniss in the movie. The two lines that you mentioned (“It was all an act” and “You know how I feel about you”) are perfect examples. Because, no, it was not just an act and NO we do not know, nor does Gale know, how Katniss feels about him. They were empty declarations in order to get Gale to back off and to pacify him so she didn’t have to think about her feelings for either Gale or Peeta. And as much as that goodbye scene bugged me today, I think the absolute best possible thing we got from it was Gale’s line, “I should have gone when you asked me”. I feel like that sums up soo much about Galeniss even beyond this movie. They may have talked, they may have said things, but did anything actually come out of it? No. They did nothing. They continue to do nothing.

    With Everlark, it’s a little different. Without Katniss’s inner monologue, I will admit that things are a bit murkier where her feelings are concerned. Again, though, I feel like that was purposeful. And I don’t like it, but it’s something I have to accept because this is what TPTB apparently want to have happen. But anyway..

    …Everlark is the physical representation of the conversation between Katniss and Snow right in the beginning: “I’ll convince them/No, convince me.” — this is what we see happen throught he movie. Snow’s granddaughter, Gale, Finnick, Snow himself. They are all convinced by the end (not sure how they will represent Gale in MJ, but book Gale knew).

    Katniss and Peeta don’t have those empty conversations that end with a generic statement by Katniss to pacify Peeta. They don’t need to have conversations like that. They are more about the emotional response they have to each other. It is about the ACTIONS that they take to protect each other, just like the book.

    Things like Peeta running into Katniss’s room when he hears her having a nightmare. The way he soothes her and stays with her and the sleeping arrangement carries on through tour and picks up again in the Capitol, and Katniss immediately looking for Peeta when she comes up from the tube in the arena. These are perfect examples of this. As is her terror when she sees him go under water with the other tribute, and her terror that is so raw and real that she cannot stop shaking when Peeta hits the forcefield.

    Peeta, going back into the fog to help Katniss get out after she fell and killing the monkey mutt that has her pinned under water are two more examples. They are what Galeniss is not. They are emotion and action where Galeniss is empty words and broken promises. I suppose if you want to look at it as a failure to understand each other, then FLaw and the others were right, but I think it goes beyond that.

    I know that this is a lot for the average viewer to really take in. It’s unfortunate and leads to a lot of confusion, but I’m not really concerned with them. I mean, there are people who read the books several times and still can’t see these things, so it’s more important that I see these things and I notice them, because if I don’t, then that’s a problem. It’s when the movie truly fails like the first one. While this one isn’t 100% perfect and flawless, things have come a long way from what we got from Gary Ross…”
    -Mellarksloaves

    PS: I think this person gives a valuable interpretation of “the love triangle” the movies are looking for and just like in the books Katniss shows how she really feels with her actions, no with her words. But general audiences are lazy and don’t notice this kind of things with a simple viewing….this is just my opinion, but I really wanted to share it. i honestly believe that SPOILER the added goodbye scene between Katniss and Gale was TOTALLY unnecessary, I hated it and always will, confuses the audiences even more..But I don’t agree on what you say about katniss falling in love with Gale in this movie, she does loves him but to me is more Katniss falling in love with Peeta, during the victory tour and the quarter quell

    PS 2 : Sorry for the long post
    Bye

    • In my opinion, this whole love triangle thing was portrayed a lot better in this movie than most other movies with the same concept. It wasn’t the central focus but you understood that there was some conflict. A lot of people really wanted to see to this epic romance between Peeta and Katniss like the books but you realistically can’t. First off, we can never read Katniss’ thoughts and know what she thinking so you can never feel that tension. Plus, there is WAY too much going on CF to really have time to fully develop their relationship. The controversial ‘roof top scene’ would have taken away from the movie’s pacing (I’m pretty sure they shot it based on Trish Summervile’s comments about Katniss’ orange dress….)

      Everybody that I saw the movie with (who didn’t read the books) 100% knew that Katniss had a growing affection for Peeta than Gale. The Goodbye scene just showed the monologue that Katniss was thinking when she thought she would say goodbye to Gale but couldn’t. I loved that the movie developed Peeta and Gale as characters not just as potential suitors. I even feel like Gale got a lot more character development in the movie than the books especially with the peacekeeper scene.

      As much as i love Katniss and Peeta’s relationship in the books, I have resigned myself that they won’t really be translated like that on screen. I’m ok with it and I’m more happier with the political and social commentary they added in this movie.

  2. I think the film suffers from a tell, not show, approach to the relationships. It’s as if they substituted kisses for actual development, and I think this skews Katniss’s and Gale’s relationship more romantic than my impression from the book. Also, when you think of all the Katniss/Peeta scenes that are abbreviated or eliminated, and we’re just told that she wants to save him at the expense of her own life, I can see how that rings hollow for some viewers (#firstmovieleftoverprobs). I do think many scenes felt incomplete or rushed which made it hard to feel invested/immersed at times, but Francis Lawrence said they trimmed nearly 40 minutes, as it is. Despite the big budget, some of the cgi sequences were oddly still wanting.

    Having said that, I did really like the film, mainly because I felt the characters so much more closely parallel the book versions (Peeta, Haymitch, Cinna), and those that were slightly altered or introduced (Effie, Wiress, Beetee, Johanna, et al) made a great impression. Overall, my expectations were a bit more realistic this time around, and that allowed me to suspend some disbelief and just enjoy. I, too, am resigned to the fact that we won’t really be getting the Everlark, as I read it, from the book, but (and I’ve posted this elsewhere), I think the film depicts well their growing dependence upon each other. We see Katniss discover who Peeta really is in D11, during the individual assessments, with the morphling, etc. She asks him to stay nights with her. From the moment they agree to be friends, Peeta never pressures her or oversteps. It’s worth remembering that he, too, thinks/knows she loves Gale. I think from her reaction to his electrocution (and Finnick’s, Snow’s, and the granddaughter’s reactions), through the beach scene (in which Katniss is as open as she can be and features the only “hungry” kiss of the film), we see the real shift for both of them. Their goodbye scene is so organic. Their concern and unease palpable. The kiss completely natural. It’s a subtle, steady progression that culminates in Katniss’s wild reaction on the hovercraft.

    I agree, that tptb look to really want to play the triangle. From a promotion and romantic perspective, it may be an angle that they don’t want to neuter with 4+ hours of story left. It also makes for a whole lotta melodrama towards the end. I still think/hope they will highlight the metaphorical significance of the characters and relationships as Mockingjay progresses, and the themes of social justice, fair government, limited warfare, etc. take center stage.

  3. Apologies!!! I just realized how SPOILERY my above comments are. Feel free to delete if necessary!

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