Catching Fire Movie Review
The scene is winter: Katniss is out amongst the woods hunting game for family and barter when she is greeted by Gale. The two have an exchange and she takes down a deer that, as an arrow pierces its skin, becomes a human in her eyes. The scene inspired by her post-traumatic stress from the first installment of the trilogy kicks off what turns out to be a heavy film, as The Hunger Games: Catching Fire takes viewers into the next chapter of the saga that is Katniss’ life.
In this round of “Hunger,” Katniss and Peeta are sent on a trip around the districts (the re-branding of the territory that is the U.S., under a new country named Panem, after a civil war), to quell the bubbling rebellion. While on tour, the pair is meant to sell their half-hearted romance from the first film as the real deal. Failure to do so is a promised death for their families by President Rose, our antagonist.
Those that return from the first film have taken the time to grow into their characters nicely. Jennifer Lawrence has somehow further fine-tuned her stubbornness, while balancing the apathy and passion in one character. Josh Hutcherson brings Peeta to live as the perfect puddle of pity, pining for a heroine who is torn between he and Gale (Liam Hemsworth), the other semi-love interest, who we still have yet to see fully develop as a character. Woody Harrelson as Haymitch, the duo’s trainer, masters the drunken slob while keeping his banter with Katniss sharp and witty. Donald Sutherland as President Rose is unfortunately not noteworthy, coming across as a run of the mill malevolent figure. The stylistic choice to leave out the constant bleeding might have been part of this, but he just seems like any other villain; an evil chortle here, a malicious grin there.
The two stand-outs amongst the new members of the cast are other tributes facing Katniss: Jena Malone, the fiery Joanna Mason, and Sam Claflin as Finnick Odair, the trident-wielding hunk. The two embody their roles perfectly, bringing the characters from the books to life.
The cinematography of the film is engrossing; scenes of depressed cities interwoven with lush tropical war zones are eye-candy and the shaky camera from before has disappeared. With sparse words, the film conveys the growing frustration felt in the districts, and tastefully portrays the rebellion – an incredibly violent act that can be hard to capture in a PG-13 film. At times the lighting inhibits details but the ideas are clear. It seems as though the film crew as a whole came into their stride.
The film struggles with pacing at the beginning; the first half hour seeming almost uncomfortable, as it dances between Katniss’ awkward swooning and Rose’s tired threats, but by the end of it you’re craving more of the action. It feels as though it took too long to get to the scenes in the arena, and that they had to rush it over to not push the movie too close to three hours, as it already runs in at a long two hours and twenty six minutes. By the time the action is in full swing we’re brought to an abrupt end with questions raised, and jaws dropped, but I guess that’s how a series works. The first half of the final book, Mockingjay, has it’s bow drawn and aimed for a theatrical release at the later half of 2014. Let’s hope we’ll have some of our curiosities cured in the next expanse into the Hunger Games universe.