Author: Jay-Rey (@jay_rey)
This weekend, the number 1 movie in box offices was The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. The sequel to the 2012 film adaptation of The Hunger Games, it is hitting the world by storm. The internet is full of Jennifer Lawrence (affectionately dubbed as J-Law by my brother, and a bunch of other internet dwellers), who has been out promoting her latest film endeavor. After her big win last year for Silver Linings Playbook (which was a surprisingly awesome movie), audiences are ready to see this young actress continue to wow us. But let me stop gushing over her, lets review.
The Hunger Games Trilogy is a series of books written by Suzanne Collins. The story follows the story of Katniss Everdeen (Lawrence), a 16 year old girl living in a post war society separated by by districts. Every year, the Capitol organizes the Hunger Games, where two tributes (usually unwilling children) are selected to enter the games. These 24 kids are pitted against each other in a free-for-all combat. Only one survives, and the tyrannical rule of the Capitol stays in tact.
Sure, the plot sounds oddly familiar to the 1999 manga and the 2000 film Battle Royale. But they are different enough to merit the existence of both.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire hits a lot of marks and moments that the original film missed. While the books are pretty short, and created for young adults, its easy for movies to skip over important plot points. The HG franchise has two benefits in this: 1) The book series was complete by the time the first film was in development. So unlike Harry Potter, things that seem unimportant, but come back big later won’t be ignored. 2) Hunger Games was a test of the waters for the series. Unsure if the American audience would want to watch a movie about kids killing kids, they toned down the violence with super quick cuts, and stumbled a bit by telling the whole story. By the time the sequel was being started, they knew that America was in for the ride, and they can take more risks.
Now, I wrote an article last month about the elite mentality of people who read the source material. That being said, this movie will have haters. To which I quickly say, just read the damn book again. The biggest difference between the movie series and the books is that the story takes place inside of Katniss’s head. The entire trilogy is narrated from her point of view. The first film was full of quiet moments and forest sounds. These are moments where Katniss is planning, hoping, and internally screaming. Think of Tom Hanks in Castaway. He did an awesome job portaying a man who was alone on an island. While Katniss isn’t exactly alone, she does spend much of the first Hunger Games hiding and watching from a far. While Castaway had time to develop that lonliness, the first film felt like it rushed through a lot of character development to get to the big action scenes.
The second movie has a lot more interaction, with the actual games taking up the last third of the story. But it all feels really well paced. The movie starts off with the Victory tour, where the winner from the previous year visits each district and shares they experience from the last game. Out of the 12 districts, they progressively get nicer, though it isn’t until District 3, where you see people actually happy about their situation in life. While the Victor Tour progresses, Katniss and Peta (Josh Hutcherson) witness the general dispair of the other districts. Not only that, but the controversial win from the previous year has started mumblings of a rebellion. And Katniss is the face of this rebellion (You can watch the movie to find out why, or read the book, or the wiki. I don’t wanna spoil it for you here).
The second Act takes place after the announcement that the next Hunger Games will feature winners from the previous games. This is a big twist, since victors are guaranteed a lifetime of clemency from the games. An interesting new dynamic arrises during this part of the story, as all of the victors are angry about this new change in policy. Instead of immediate enemies, loose alliances are formed. These people are much more interesting than the scared kids from the first movie. And it offers much more interesting interactions. (Look for the elevator scene with Jena Malone).
Lastly, the games themselves. The action is a bit bigger, the stakes are a bit higher, and the circumstances are crazier and all around more interesting. Because the film does so much justice to the first two parts of the book, the games do get a little skimmed. The emphasis is often placed on the survival from other tributes, and not from living in such a hostile enviornment. The books go over dehydration, extreme temperature fluctuations, starvation (Hunger Games, get it?) and battling your surrounding. The movies skip some of that in favor of focusing on running from stuff, the fighting, and the real struggle against the capitol.
Look, if you’re gonna compare it too the book, sure the book is better. But this movie is awesome. Its a huge step up from the first film, and it really sets up the next two movies in a way that has got me really excited. And to those who haven’t read the books, you should know its a franchise designed to be a cultural phenomenon. It has the inklings of Twilight, with your “what boy should Katniss choose” question being presented every so often. You have seen it every where. Posters in the mall, the actors on TV, internet advertising, and promotional items to buy at every book story, electronics store, and super market. It is made to be a movie for everyone from teenagers and young adults, to us creepy old 20 somethings. If it annoys you a little bit, thats okay. But I think in general, its a great pop corn flick that does decent service to the source material. For the most part, the review is over: Its great, you should watch it, lots of fun, who doesn’t love Jennifer Lawrence.
BUT, now I would like to quickly comment on a plot point I hated in the books, but am so far enjoying in the movies. The Peta, Katniss, and Gale (Liam Hemsworth) love triangle. Reading this story line was a headache and almost vomit enducing. The apathetic, fickle 16 year old hero “loves” both guys, but can’t choose one out of fear of loosing the other. Its a huge point of importance in the books, and I feel like it over shadowed the more interesting dynamics of the general rebellion to be had. Much of that internal monologue I talked about above does bounce from time to time about missing Gale, who isn’t involved in the games, and her general concern for Peta, the helpless, peaceful partner in both Hunger Games that takes place during the course of the books. But you know what? Teenage girls are annoying. And honestly, the death of thousands of people around you, as well as the threat of harm to your loved ones should take precedent. But the story jumps back to this too often.
The movies, however, do not do this. Katniss isn’t ever really a hero in the books, she is a lot more selfish than she is in the movies and just a symbol for the people. The movies seem to be making her into the hero she never was. And I won’t complain. If they make the final two movies about the issues of things to come, I will be a happy camper. Not for nothing, but its just a more interesting story. The people versus the Government. Not the who should my boyfriend be story. I am complaining again. Sorry.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is out in theaters now. Production on The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Parts I & II have started and will be out in November 2014 and November 2015, respectively. Have you seen the movie? What do you think? Let us know down below!