SPOILER ALERTS! (Though you should have read the books already… so it’s your own fault).
So after a slight mishap of reading the wrong cinema times that had nothing to do with me (honest!), we finally sat down to watch Catching Fire. It begins with a montage of forest images, and then goes straight to Katniss in the woods with Gale. I found this scene a bit of a drab beginning… it seemed pointless, and going straight into the action would have been much better.
The film captured the adrenaline and fear and fire of the uprising perfectly. They did it quite subtly; the scribbled messages and symbols, the secret videos of fighting and massacres… it really gave a feel of a suppressed nation. And the Peacekeepers had a feeling of ruthlessness about them; killing anyone who happened to show the slightest sign of rebellion. We felt along with Katniss the guilt and sorrow she must feel.
The sexual involvement with Gale was overdramatised. I don’t remember her kissing him as much in the book as she did in the film… but the way she kissed both of them didn’t make her look good. She was like every other generic 21st Century heroine – caught in a love triangle (or pentagon in some cases *cough True Blood cough.*
After Gale is publicly whipped and his back is mended by Prim, a television appearance from Snow announces the Quarter Quell; the 75th anniversary of the Hunger Games. This year, the previous 24 victors will return to the arena. Katniss, her mother, Haymitch and Peeta’s expressions were perfect in this scene. They all reacted exactly how they should, and it brought tears to the eyes. Again, at the Reaping, it is painfully sad to watch (despite the humour of Effy Trinket pulling one piece of paper out of an otherwise empty jar).
Effy herself was a lot more likeable in this film. Her dresses are wackier (and there’s more in her wardrobe than Katniss’), but she’s also a bit less ditsy. Haymitch is his usual drunken self, as the books dictate he should be. Some of his quips about alcohol, and drug induced victors are great, and they light the darkness of the story. For instance, in the moment when Peter announces, “we’re expecting a baby,” Haymitch raises his hip flask to him in the audience.
Unfortunately, as I was watching, I remembered the events that were about to happen from the book. I haven’t read it in well over a year, and Cinna’s death came back to me just before the unveiling of the dress. The reveal of the mockingjay dress was beautiful, and his composure, his knowledge of his own self-condemnation was heart-breaking.
However, when it came to the actual scene, it was a bit of a let-down. When his face hit the glass, I was expecting a really gory scene; enough blood and screams to REALLY upset Katniss, but he just sort of lay there whilst they kicked him and then dragged him off with a little bit of blood round his mouth. I don’t think they did that scene justice.
But one thing they did get right was the arena. It was almost exactly as I pictured it; with the obscure clock face and the different, deadly things in each section. The mist was horrible – they blistered to the touch. The monkeys were genuinely terrifying; so much so that half the cinema jumped when one screeched. I never thought I was scared of monkeys. Suddenly I never want to be near one.
Anyway, away from the monkeys.
The casting was spot on. “Nuts” and “Volts” (or Beetee and Wiress) were awesome, but Johanna Mason was by far the best. It was good to have someone who wasn’t compliant to the rules of the Capital, but genuinely angry and a bit of a loose cannon. Jena Malone portrayed her well, and I found myself liking her more in the film than I did in the book.
Finnick’s relationship with Mags is also lovely. Just the image of this young (and rather good looking) man carrying a tiny old woman on his back was so sweet, and it made it all the more depressing when she disappeared into the mist to save Peeta. You could tell she meant an awful lot to Finnick.
The ending was a bit anti-climatic after the big lightning drama and everything falling apart around Katniss. It was an eerily beautiful scene, and I think it would have been better to leave it there… especially when they’re making Mockingjay into a two parter (like every other move franchise is currently doing). But Jennifer Lawrence’s facial expressions say a lot about Katniss’ emotions at the very end of the film.
So overall, I’d give The Hunger Games: Catching Fire a 7/10. It was good, a bit boring to start with but as the action kicked in, it was gripping. They missed next to nothing from the book which is a rare circumstance in film these days (though it may have had something to do with Suzanne Collins being on the production team). I’d definitely recommend going to see it… and reading the books if you haven’t already!!