Hilary Legge, ‘Doah Managing Editor
December 4, 2013
On Nov. 22, Lionsgate released the second installment of The Hunger Games series with “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.” In its first weekend, the film crushed the box office competition taking in more than $158 million in the U.S. alone. Last week, during the Thanksgiving holiday, it showed no signs of slowing down, bringing it to $296 million domestically and $572 million worldwide. After having seen the movie, the reason for this is blatantly obvious as the film is fantastic.
Picking up after the events of “The Hunger Games,” “Catching Fire” shows victors Katniss and Peeta attempting to live somewhat normally despite being haunted by what occurred in the game. As they begin their victory tour around the rest of the nation, Katniss is dismayed by the fact that her actions have helped stoke rebellion within the districts. In order to put a stop to these rebellions and apparently crush the spirit of every one of his citizens, the President of Panem for the 75th Hunger Games to be made up of former victors, effectively pulling Katniss back into the fray along with an eccentric new cast of characters.
As far as book to movie adaptations go, this is by far the best I have ever seen. I’ll admit it’s been a while since I read the series, but all of the scenes that were significant and important to me were not only in the film, but done incredibly well. One such scene was towards the beginning of the movie, when the victory tour stops in District 11, home of Katniss’s friend in the games, Rue. This was such a tragically beautiful scene in the books that always made me tear up, and the film version was no disappointment. Not long into it I was cursing myself for putting on mascara that day because it was undoubtedly getting ruined.
The film, which runs almost two and a half hours long, is intense for the vast majority of the time. There are not many moments of calm, and you’re likely to come out of the movie with a bit of an adrenaline rush going. However, unlike movies such as many of the Harry Potter films where there is so much action smashed into the runtime that no scene is given any room to breathe, “Catching Fire” allows moments to play out and have the emotional resonance they need.
“Catching Fire” introduces a whole host of new characters in the collection of past victors. One of the things I loved about the way these characters were presented in the books was that they were all very different. Considering they are an assortment of victors from various years gone by, they are all different ages and have different skills. It’s refreshing to see a young adult series that isn’t solely made up of young, gorgeous stars.
Of course, there has to be some of that which we got with the supposed playboy Finnick Odair. A fan favorite, many people were wary of the casting of British actor Sam Clafin in the role. I’m not sure if knowing that he was a British actor impacted my thoughts on his performance, but personally I couldn’t stop watching the way his mouth moved. Besides that slight distraction, I am overall satisfied with having him in the role of Finnick. He played the charismatic charmer well, while still giving us hints of the more complicated character Finnick is underneath. I’ll be very interested to see how he does in the third movie where we get to see much more of his internal pain.
Another new character fans seemed apprehensive about was Johanna Mason, portrayed by Jena Malone. Malone is a relatively slight woman, and some weren’t sure if she would be able to pull off the angry, ax-wielding victor. To that end, I must say Malone killed it. She was perfect as Johanna, she was as angry as ever and not afraid to let the Capitol know it.
The end of “Catching Fire” is set up to immediately move into “Mockingjay,” which we will only get to see the first half of in November of 2014. “Mockingjay – Part 2” will not be released until November 2015. What began as a necessary storytelling tool for the final Harry Potter installment has been adopted by the film industry as a way to stretch out franchises and make more money. The third book of The Hunger Games is not really any longer than the first two, so the splitting of it into two movies seems like nothing more than a money-making ploy. Even so, these filmmakers have so far been very respectful to the source material and I am excited to see what they do with “Mockingjay.”