Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire Movie Review

I saw the new Hunger Games movie - Catching Fire - last night and have a few thoughts on the film that I would like to share.  WARNING - THIS BLOG CONTAINS SPOILERS!
Okay...Catching Fire, the second Hunger Games installment in film form.  It has been a while since I read this book.  I wrote a review for it in April 2012!  Wow, I have had this blog for a long time!  I have seen tons and tons of feedback for the film and all of it has been positive.  Besides hearing about the amazing actors and the awesome soundtrack, the review I saw the most was that this film was practically 100% like the book.  Is it true?  I wish I could remember...
That is the first thing I want to talk about.  Going into this film, I thought it would all come flooding back to me but the truth is, I forgot a lot of plot events.  This could be because Catching Fire is to the Hunger Games book series as Order of the Phoenix is to the Harry Potter book series.  It introduces a whole load of new characters and a whole new complex story that, in my opinion, is not easy to get in just one read.  It has to be read more than once.  I would love to reread Catching Fire but right now I want to read new books and have just started reading the final book, Mockingjay.  In other words, I don't have time.  Anyway, when it came to the actual Hunger Games, I forgot most of the events in the arena and was like an average movie goer unaware of what was coming up next.  When I left the theater, my first thought was that the movie was a bit overwhelming - the content was on overload and sometimes certain things felt rushed.  Then a thought occurred to me - for the fans who had read Catching Fire and had looked forward to every single event being portrayed on the big screen, this must have been their heaven on earth.  The movie truly seemed to keep every event from the book which is why I may have felt like it was overwhelming and rushed.  Usually, I am on the other side of things.  Usually, I am a nerd who can point out every single deviation from book to movie.  Now that I have been on the other side, I have a sense as to why movie directors and writers have such a hard time keeping every single book event in the movie. For book lovers, this movie will have been an A+ and possibly movie goers who haven't read the books but love the Hunger Games will agree.  This film stuck to the book and that is a rarity in Hollywood.  But now I understand why so many book to movie adaptions don't stick to the book.  Because this film stuck so close to the book, it did a lot of things that don't work for films and that I believe is why the film felt overloaded with content and felt rushed at times.  I don't believe this film would or should win any academy awards (which isn't saying much because I don't think the academy awards do a great job at choosing the best films to represent the industry and are very biased) nor do I believe this film will be held alone as the best in it's own right.  I think it is a film that Hunger Games fans will love (and I sure loved it but I still love the first film and first book the best).  The average movie goer may not feel the same way because as a film, there could have been improvements.  Regardless, the filmmakers did an excellent job and that is what I also want to talk about in this review - the things I loved, liked, and didn't care for.
Let's start with the things I loved about the film.  First - Jennifer-freaking-Lawrence!  I love that girl way too much!  When she was first announced as the actress to play Katniss, I had never heard of her and didn't know what to think of her.  When I saw the first movie, I found her to be refreshing because I had never seen an actress quite like her.  Her acting style was really unique.  Then I saw her in Silver Linings Playbook, watched a bit of interviews she had done that not only are genuine but funny (including the hilarious Academy Awards question and answer speech) and finally began to understand why everyone loves this girl.  She is freaking awesome!  Which brings me to my point that she did a perfect job at portraying Katniss Everdeen.  To make her portrayal possible though, the film needed some great writers and a great director to convey the psychological effects the Hunger Games have had on Katniss.  These scenes which focused on Katniss's psychological well-being were well written, well shot, and well acted.  My favorite was in the very beginning when Katniss is sitting calmly by the water with her bow and suddenly she hears a sound and instantly reacts as if she is still in the games but before she releases her bow, she realizes it is just Gale coming up from behind and she is no longer in danger.  Besides Jennifer Lawrence, the other actors did a spectacular job as well.
The other scenes I loved in the movie outside of a theme were when Katniss's wedding dress transformed into the mockingjay on stage and when Katniss went to enter the games and Cinna was taken away.
Now for the things I thought were not so great.  First - and this is no fault to the movie as much as it
is the book - I still believe, as I said in my original book review, that the end of the story is a cop-out.  The ending is too easy.  Now for the movie itself I found a few faults but two stand outs that I want to talk about.  The first was the elevator scene where Katniss and Peeta meet Johanna.  Johanna steps on the elevator, complains about her outfit and then begins to strip out of it until she is completely naked.  Was that in the book?  I don't think so.  It just felt awkward to me.  Second - was it just me or did I notice an inconsistency when it came to the clock events?  When Katniss, Peeta, and Finnick run away from the poisoned fog, they tumble down a hill and as the fog approaches them it hits an invisible force field wall.  Later in the film Katniss and Finnick run into the section of the clock where there are jabberjays and as they try to escape, they hit the force field and they can't get out until the hour is up.  How come they couldn't get out of their section with the jabberjays but they could get out of the section with the poison?  Just an observation I have made.
There are also two things missing from the film that I had looked forward to seeing.  One scene I missed was the scene where Katniss has to jump the electric fence.  The electric fence in District 12 is usually never on but when the Capitol learns of Katniss and Gale's trips into the forest, they turn the fence on suddenly while Katniss is in there and she must jump over it to get back home.  The other big thing missing is that we don't get to see Haymitch in his Hunger Games.  I would have liked to see that but I know they are splitting the last book into two films so they will probably bring it up then.
I see that many people more prefer this movie to the first.  I think everyone involved did a great job and I can agree that in terms of little details, this movie did a better job but I still prefer the first one.  Many people disliked the shaking camera movement but I disagree.  I liked that because it felt much more realistic and scary - like if you were the one running near Katniss in the Hunger Games.  I also like the first book better than the sequel so that is another reason I prefer the first film.  Overall, it was a great experience watching it and I know I will be watching it time and time again but I do not feel this film is necessarily better than the first.  I believe they are equally good and work well together though the first movie is my personal favorite.
Although much of this blog is criticizing this film, check out this blog post written by another person who feels that Catching Fire fixed everything that the previous film did wrong.  I agree with most of the blog even though some of it clashes with my view of this film. Check it out HERE!

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