Out of the three books in The Hunger Games trilogy, my favorite one was Catching Fire. Usually, the second book or film in a trilogy is nothing special, since it really has no beginning, and definitely has no end, but I thought that the book was the more action-packed of the three, and had the most exciting version of the Games.
The film version of Catching Fire, however, left a lot to be desired in my mind.
The majority of this film serves as a build up to the 75th version of The Hunger Games, or the third Quarter Quell, which is a special event to mark every 25th anniversary since the Capital put down the revolution many years ago. With President Snow aware that what Katniss and Peeta did at the end of the first movie/book was an act of defiance towards the Capital, and aware that the people of the 12 districts are becoming restless and craving a revolution, he knows that Katniss must die. But she cannot simply be killed, as she has already become a symbol of hope for the people.
So they come up with a fancier plan to have her eliminated.
They decide that this quarter quell will be a battle between the victors of previous games, meaning that as the only female winner from District 12, Katniss will have no choice but to participate once again.
The best part of the book was the second battle ground, in which the contestants must not only face one another, but the grounds themselves, which provide dangers in the form of a ticking clock, where every hour another calamity is released in a specific region of the map (I won’t bother stating how this is another mild rip off from Battle Royale, the far superior, and more original version of The Hunger Games).
The problem with this movie is that too much time is spent building up to the second games that we know are coming. We are treated to too much repeating from the first film. There is the trip to the Capital, the training, the interviews, the parades, the fancy costumes. I get it, that all of these things should still be included, but for the duration of it, I felt that it could have gone by faster. We know how it all goes. Throw it into a montage or something, and get to the killing.
Or perhaps, even elaborate on some of the other characters a little bit.
We are treated to a new cast of people that will stand in the way of Katniss living or dying, but we know very little about them, turning them into very one-dimensional characters. This is too bad, as it would have been good to know a little bit more about the character played by Jena Malone (one of the highlights of the film). Instead, all we know is that she is a little bit crazy. Also, the game felt a little too predictable. Yes, we know Katniss is going to live, because this is not the final installment of the films. There are more to come, therefore, we know she is going to live. But it still felt pretty over-simplified, and I feel like they should have used more time to build up some tension in the arena. As it stands, there is very little of it.
As expected, everything is set up nicely for the two part finale of the series, what will be Mockingjay Part 1 and Part 2 (as the weakest of the books, I don’t like how they have split these up, but this is the popular thing to do, so so be it, I guess).
The acting is pretty wooden in the film, which is odd, considering there is a pretty strong cast here. Jennifer Lawrence, who I love, is actually fairly wooden, and doesn’t really present much depth to Katniss in this installment. She sheds the occasional tear, and will sometimes scream, but there doesn’t seem to be much behind it. Too bad. As I mentioned, the inclusion of Jena Malone in the cast is great, but she is underused, and her character is paper thin to begin with, not providing the talented actress much to work with.
As with the first film, there are some good special effects, and some pretty cheesy ones. While the mist looks pretty cool, the flaming clothing again looks pretty B grade, and it is surprising that a trilogy that will rake in such massive amounts of cash isn’t able to generate a bigger budget to make its effects look really great.
In the end, Catching Fire plays out like most second books do: kind of disappointing. There are long parts that are dull, and the best part of the book felt skimmed over too much in the film. There is depth to this story, but it is lacking in this adaptation. While the movie made tons of money and received generally positive reviews, I think fans of the book can only hope that the adaptation of Mockingjay provides us with a little more depth, a little more suspense, and a little more fun than Catching Fire has to offer.