Last night I had the pleasure of seeing The Hunger Games: Catching Fire with my partner in crime, Melissa, and within minutes of the beginning of the film, we knew we had made the right decision in braving the pre-opening night crowds. Being the overenthusiastic geeks that we are, Mel and I both channeled The Hunger Games‘ heroine, and newest victor from District 12, Katniss Everdeen. We met at The Strand and took photos with the second novel in Suzanne Collins’ trilogy, Catching Fire (the hardcover edition obviously, because we’re both book snobs when it comes to movie-tie in editions of novels). We’re fully equipped with our Mockingjay pins and Katniss style braids. This photo also serves as proof that both of us own at least one pair of pants that are not leggings. But, back to the film!
I wouldn’t totally say that I had been disappointed in the first film because the beginning half, with the anticipation of the games was done very well and many of the actors shone in their roles, but the second half of the film, the actual games, didn’t even come close to meeting my expectations of what I had been hoping for. Thankfully, the second film, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, more than made up for the lack of chemistry between Katniss and Peeta (we experience them building a meaningful and believable relationship with each other), and the gravity of the themes present within the first film. Catching Fire establishes Katniss as the symbol of the revolution against the corrupted government ruling over the 12 Districts in Panem. Her importance in the revolution is solidified and the other Districts idolize her because they see Katniss as a symbol of hope. Her mere presenece inspires many citizens to take a stand against the peace agents (who kept reminding me of storm troopers). After being personally threatened by President Snow, Katniss does her best to play his game and put on a happy face during the victors tour with her co-victor Peeta Mellark, but the President considers their attempts to be a failure. Deeming Katniss a threat, he does the only thing he can think of; he pulls the next set of tributes for the Quarter Quell from the existing pool of victors from each District (hint: Katniss is the only female victor from District 12). Before re-entering the arena, Haymitch advises Katniss to remember who the real enemy is. Catching Fire is weighted with moments of intense emotion because of the tense atmosphere in a society where an uprising is long overdue. Each actor plays a key role in the film, whether they’re pro or anti rebellion. Two of the newest characters introduced, Plutarch Heavensby (the Head Gamemaker) and Johanna Mason (the outspoken female tribute from District 7) were amongst my favorites for their complexities and motivations throughout the Quarter Quell. Overall, Catching Fire, had a much better sense of direction than the first film, and it succeeded in all of the places where The Hunger Games failed.
I personally love The Hunger Games. It’s a concept that deeply disturbs me, and for the second year in a row I couldn’t help leaving the movie theater and questioning the morals of some of the people in our society. In both of my theater going experiences there have been people cheering when children die during the games, and laughter during scenes where such behavior is completely inappropriate. Here are a two unspoilery examples from Catching Fire, and one societal marketing ploy that made me sick in general:
1) While attending a party in the Capitol, a party attendee offers Peeta a tiny lavender drink for when he becomes full so that he can get sick and then begin eating again. While the people in almost all of the other districts are on the brink of starvation, the citizens in the Capitol are so abundant in resources that they over-consume to the point of making themselves physically ill just so they can continue to consume even more. The drink symbolizes the decadence of the Capitol, the wastefulness of its citizens, and their general ambivalence and lack of concern for the well being of the other districts. For some reason this made people laugh.
2) Haymitch is a drunkard and he is often given lines that allow him to provide the audience with comic relief. While I understand why this is necessary, I don’t find myself giggling over his antics along with other folks. Each time I see Haymitch drink, I think about what drove him to this point in his life. In Catching Fire, we see Katniss experiencing night terrors (another scene in which people laughed and my mind was boggled) and visions within the woods of her District because the Hunger Games are a traumatic experience for a teenager to partake in. Haymitch, an adult now, is obviously still so traumatized by his victory that he uses alcoholism as a form of escapism from his flashbacks.
3) If you haven’t yet seen the Subway commercial for their new sandwich, you can do so here and then attempt to suppress feelings of rage for the remainder of the day. This sandwich is probably the most outrageous movie tie-in marketing gimmick that I’ve ever had the misfortune of viewing. Guess what Subway, standing up for what you believe in and having the courage to stand up to an oppressing government is simply incomparable to a sandwich. While viewing Catching Fire and seeing the scene in the context of the film that Subway chose to include in its advertisement, I became even more upset by their ad that I had been upon my first viewing (which I hadn’t thought would be possible).
If you’ve seen the first film and you’re unsure about whether you’d like to continue the story, I urge you to give Catching Fire a shot. There was a drastic difference between each installment and Catching Fire appeared to nail everything that Suzanne Collins had originally intended the story to convey when she penned the trilogy it’s based on. Have you seen The Hunger Games: Catching Fire yet? What’re your thoughts?