Catching Fire Review

This weekend, Catching Fire, the second in the trilogy of movies based on The Hunger Games books, finally made it to theaters. I had been really excited to see this movie, and I liked it enough that I certainly wouldn’t mind going back to watch it a second time. That said, I didn’t love the movie nearly as much as I thought I would.

I was first introduced into this series with the last movie. I liked the first movie a lot more than this one, probably because I watched it before reading its book, whereas here I did the exact opposite. I think that doing this only worsened my opinion of the Catching Fire movie.

Spoilers ahead.

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Something People Need to Remember About The Hunger Games

With the new trailer for the second installment of The Hunger Games trilogy (well, quartet, if we’re counting movies), Catching Fire, released at San Diego Comic Con, a renewed flurry of excitement has arisen for the series, bigger than that which accompanied the first trailer. But with the excitement I’ve noticed that people have forgotten something important about the story. Maybe they never quite realized it to begin with. And needless to say, spoilers for the last book are contained herein.

All that nail polish…

Some people probably remember when the marketing first started for the movie series, how at first it seemed clever that they were taking a leaf from the Capitol’s book. Nothing wrong with using a ready-made, glitz and glamor theme already present in the series, right? But then the grumbles started. Are they glorifying the Capitol’s decadence too much? Are people going to forget that the Capitol are the bad guys? With the new Catching Fire trailer, it’s clear that no one will forget it. Fandom crisis averted.

You'd think Tumblr would be more into Team Peele (or is it Gata?)

You’d think Tumblr would be more into Team Peele (or is it Gata?)

And everyone probably knows about the people who love to remind everyone that The Hunger Games isn’t a love story. “It’s not another Twilight!” they scream, even if it is the same production company trying to make bank off of another popular young adult series. Sure, there’s a love story, but that takes a far back seat to the political drama of the revolution. Heck, the love story is part of the revolution, isn’t it? No more Team Peeta or Team Gale. Katniss cares much more about the revolution than choosing which boy to be with. Another fandom crisis averted.

Actually… no. Katniss doesn’t care about the revolution. Yes, you read that right. Katniss is most certainly the symbol of the revolution. Her single act of desperation and defiance, refusing to “play the Hunger Games” by the Capitol’s rules, spark a fire of political turmoil. Katniss is wonderful! She refuses to be a pawn in the Capitol’s game! But from that moment on, Katniss merely becomes a pawn in the revolution’s game. No one truly considers her needs, her desires, or even what’s best for her. People simply care about how they can best use Katniss for their purposes. Every move she makes, whether in the Quarter Quell or in District 13 or on rescue missions, is tailored to fit someone else’s narrative plan. Does she get treatment for her obvious PTSD? Not until the revolution is over.

After making the decision to eat the poisonous berries with Peeta in her first Games, the only free decision Katniss makes is to kill President Coin. Katniss doesn’t care about the revolution. All she wants is to go home and have enough to eat for her and her family. That’s what we have to remember about The Hunger Games trilogy. The beauty of Katniss’s character isn’t that she is the figurehead for a huge revolution; it’s that despite being cast in such a role, her desires are simple. She just wants to survive.

Trailer Tuesdays: Catching Fire Comic-Con Trailer

While the first official trailer for Catching Fire focuses entirely on the events leading up to the 75th Hunger Games and not the Hunger Games themselves, this one focuses on both. I’ve already talked about the earlier trailer here, and my excitement hasn’t decreased in the slightest.

I’ve always had some grievances with the first movie, but all in all, I thought it was relatively close to the source material, and it’s hard to ask for a better book-to-movie adaptation. So far, it looks like Catching Fire will be just as faithful. However, I am a little disappointed that we barely see the transformation of Katniss’s wedding dress in this trailer, which I’m really looking forward to see as soon as the movie comes out.

For the last trailer, I lamented that we didn’t get to see any of the other tributes, but not this time around. We get glimpses of a whole bunch of them: Finnick, Johanna, Enobaria—whose teeth look amazing, by the way—and a few others. We also get to see some of the arena, as well. This trailer reminds me a lot of the one trailer for the first movie.

They both begin with some dialogue, followed by the reaping, time spent training in the capitol, before ending with a quick shot of the contestants right after entering the arena. It’s not entirely similar, as both books do have differences in their plots, but it’s still the same basic formula, and hey, it’s a formula that works. However, I do have to admit that in some ways I was disappointed with the second book, because occasionally it felt as though I was just reading the first book all over again, except with different characters and stakier stakes. In other ways it didn’t, so I have always been a little torn on how I feel about Catching Fire. I fear that I may have this same issue with the movie. My biggest grievance with both books is that they introduced characters that I instantly fell in love with before killing them—Rue and Mags—but I’d hardly call that bad writing. The audience should care when a character dies. It should mean something.

Unfortunately, November is still a long ways off, and this movie cannot be released soon enough.

Trailer Tuesdays: Catching Fire

It’s finally here, the long-awaited trailer to the long-awaited movie Catching Fire. I think I watched this trailer four times before I finally stopped being giddy enough to read the release date, which is still so many months away. It’s going to be a while until November rolls around, and I suppose we’ll just have to find something else to watch in the meantime.

This trailer, oh man. This trailer is epic. It doesn’t focus on the 75th annual Hunger Games at all, and instead pays attention to the time leading up to that in the first part of the book. This means that the only victors we see in this trailer are Katniss, Peeta, and Haymitch. (Unfortunate, because I would have really liked to see Johanna, Finnick, or even Mags.) Katniss herself, however, is still a badass, and I don’t know of many people willing to stare down a man holding a gun and tell him to go ahead and still look like she’s in charge of this situation, even if she doesn’t feel in charge. Katniss now has to come to terms with the fact that, by surviving the Hunger Games, the Capitol pretty much owns her and Peeta. This is not something she accepts.

President Snow doesn’t like that Katniss managed to show up the Capitol during the previous installment and now she has become a “beacon of hope” to the districts, who are rallying behind her in rebellion. This is a problem that Snow now has to deal with.

I think what really captured my attention is what Snow says at the end of the trailer. He says that “her entire species must be eradicated” in reference to Katniss and the other victors. The people of the Capitol don’t view the people of districts as being the same as them. The districts are little more than slaves to the Capitol, and because slaves don’t matter, no one cares that their children are forced to murder each other year after year. Snow takes it a step further and actually thinks of the victors as an entirely separate species from human beings. In some ways, this is probably what the Capitol thinks of them as well.

This is certainly one movie I’ll be waiting impatiently for.

The Odds are Ever in Favor of ‘The Hunger Games’

Lady Saika: So The Hunger Games made its big-screen debut this weekend, and as I am the only member of this blog who’s both read the trilogy and seen the movie, MadameAce has conscripted me into doing a review with her. This breakaway hit story about children brutally murdering each other in an arena translated well to the screen. (PS—Spoilers abound.)

MadameAce: Well, everything she just said isn’t entirely true. I have read the books, or you know, the first two pages of them… Yeah, I wanted someone who knew what was going on to talk about this with me. I personally cannot really comment on how well the translation was, but as an outsider to the fandom until now, I thought the movie did a really good job, and I wasn’t confused by what was happening.

Lady Saika: I’m always worried going into movies about books I liked, because, well, you never know what they’ll change, how true they’ll stay to the story, or how well the actors and the sets and what-have-you represent the images you have made in your head. Case in point: the Percy Jackson movie, the Eragon movie, need I go on? But I was honestly thrilled with the movie adaptation. So much of the stuff in the books happens in Katniss’s head, but the film translated that into actual scenes (for example, we actually see Haymitch talking up the sponsors, or Caesar explaining the Tracker Jackers to the audience).

MadameAce: Being completely new to the story, the presentation of everything Saika just mentioned and more allowed me to both follow the story and get involved in it. Had Caesar not been shown explaining the Tracker Jackers I would have been left wondering how the hell a bee sting can cause hallucinations and swelling that quickly unless everyone in the future is just that allergic. The only other option to this would be to have Katniss do a voice-over, and I’m really glad that didn’t happen. Unlike books, movies cannot be told from one person’s perspective—I’m talking to you, Twilight—and whenever they try to do that it doesn’t feel right. It’s very much a third person omniscient setting. We, the audience, and especially us newer to the story, needed all the scenes with Caesar and everyone else away from Katniss to understand what was happening. I can’t help but compare this to the Prisoner of Azkaban movie, where I sat there grateful the whole time that I had read the books, because otherwise I’d have had no idea what was going on or why I should care about any of it.

Lady Saika: I was personally grateful for Jennifer Lawrence. She really just nailed Katniss. The character of Katniss was one I loved in the books—she’s badass, she’s pragmatic toa fault, she stands up for what she believes in, and she doesn’t really give two shits about relationship drama. She’s a breath of fresh air in the fiction that’s popular among teens, and I was thrilled with her portrayal of the character.

MadameAce: In a world dominated by male protagonists, Katniss really is a perfect example of a strong female character. All too often I see female protagonists having no qualities outside being female, and yeah, the authors, writers, directors, etc. will try to make them badass, while missing the mark. Yes, Katniss is capable, she can take care of herself, she looks out for others, and she can sure as hell loose an arrow and hit a target, but that’s not what makes her a strong character.

Katniss doesn’t lose sight of the big picture. When Haymitch tells her to play up the romance, yes, a certain part of her grows to like Peeta, but she doesn’t give into it in light of everything that’s happening. She sets her goals and then she goes toward them. What I love most about her is that she doesn’t give into the game and she finds a way to beat the system. After watching her go through all of this, I couldn’t help but wonder how things would have changed if Rue lived, because knowing Katniss, she’d save her too if she could.

Lady Saika: Speaking of Rue, her backstory was one of the few things they left out that I was sad about. Although her character is still certainly relatable and likeable in the movie, the book’s glimpse into her former life in agricultural District 11 helped you sympathize more with her as a well-rounded character who dies (rather than just being the cute kid who dies). However, just as in the books, Rue serves as the most constant and poignant reminder that the Hunger Games are a barbaric, unfair, brutal, and cruel institution.

MadameAce: The world at large seems to have a very mixed view on the Hunger Games themselves. Katniss needed to be from a poorer district in order for the audience to sympathize with her. We don’t like the idea of children being forced to fight to the death—or at least I don’t, and I hope most of you agree with me—and it’s the people from the poorer backgrounds that truly see and fear what the Games are. They struggle to survive, and one of the ways they can do that is by putting their names into the draw more times in exchange for food. And when they’re called as tributes, it’s a death sentence. The looks on everyone’s face just lets you know that they don’t expect the tributes to come back alive.

The Capitol itself seems all but oblivious to the woes of the districts. Yes, some districts, like 1 and 2, train their children to fight and don’t have to worry about having their names put into the lottery numerous time due to their wealth, but the people in the Capitol don’t even view the tributes as people. They treat it very much like a show for entertainment, because to them, that’s exactly what the Hunger Games are. At one scene, when Katniss first enters the Capitol, she sees two little children playing with swords, and it’s all fun and games to them. The really hideous woman whose name I cannot remember tells both Katniss and Peeta to be happy because they get dessert and the other tributes don’t. Very few people seem to realize just how cruel and barbaric this practice is, and the ones who do are either survivors from previous years or their personal trainers who have to watch their students die over and over again.

And the people at the Capitol say numerous times that this is to remind the districts of their failed uprising and stop it from happening again. But in actuality, it’s been so long, the Hunger Games probably do more harm than good to the country’s unity.

LadySaika: MadameAce is spot-on. Katniss’s respectful treatment of Rue’s body shows the Games’ viewers that she thinks of her opponents as people worth mourning rather than targets. The Capitol refuses to re-air that scene in reruns because it does incite the viewers in the districts to greater discontent (although it’s not like they were excited about the Games anyway) and as far as full-out rebellion (particularly in Rue’s home, District 11).

Furthermore, although the Capitol uses the Games as a trump card over the districts, guaranteeing their loyalty, after nearly seventy-five years of Games they are out of touch with their victims. The movie also did a good job of showing the brutality of the kids killing each other without it becoming too horrifically gory, but in a way that still shows the disconnect between the rulers and the ruled and forces the viewer to feel objectively uncomfortable (I’m reminded of Katniss watching old Game footage on the train and Caesar’s voiceover saying “Here’s that magical moment when a Tribute becomes a Victor”—as a boy finishes braining another kid with a brick.)

The districts as they stood after the original rebellion had no choice but to let the Capitol take their children; however, their resentment towards the Capitol has grown stronger just as they have recovered their strength over the years. By the end of the movie they stand strong enough to rise up against the Capitol. All they need is a spark—and now they have the Girl on Fire, who spit in the face of the Capitol and refused to play its Game. The ending of the movie is final (the film could definitely stand alone if the producers were to decide, perhaps because they hate money, to discontinue the series) but it is also uncertain—even Peeta and Katniss don’t know what will happen when they get home, and the adults are certainly on edge, because nothing like Katniss’s victory has ever happened before.

The next installment in the trilogy, Catching Fire, doesn’t start filming for a while yet. But they’ve done a tremendous job adapting the first movie, and I now trust them enough to say I look forward to seeing what they do with the next two books.