The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is a scintillating and subversive must-see


‘The Hunger Games: Catching Fire’ is the near-perfect sequel, fast paced and leaving you wanting more.


The fragility of modern society is a common theme utilized in many pieces of fiction, but chief among them is the science fiction genre of dystopian futures. The Dystopia, contrary to the idyllic Utopia, presents a dark, twisted version of our current civilization in various degrees of horror. The first Hunger Games movie presented one such world, a country ruled by fear and death, where advanced technology is used to maintain the status quo of a new world gentry. But one thing was there, an undercurrent amidst the children killing each other, the vague feeling of humanity and hope in a world surrounded by seemingly nothing but despair. The protagonist, Katniss Everdeen, a capable if emotionally drained hunter from a poor district, wins despite impossible odds and manages to keep another friend, Peeta, alive using a classic trick: Lying.

They manipulate the rich with a falsified love story, because that’s exactly the sort of emotional manipulation that works, because they (and the modern audience) gain pleasure from the underdog story and from tragic romances. Subverting the system was the only way to win an unwinnable game. It is not difficult to see parallels to our modern society here, from the excesses to the pleasure in the pain of others, here magnified just a bit. The celebrity, the government disinformation, the utter belief that they know what’s best. It seems achingly, subconsciously familiar throughout a fairly simple story of someone outliving others. But the movie wasn’t perfect; the characterization of Peeta presented a milquetoast, boring nothing who was hard to root for (despite what the legions of fangirls say), and it just made things a bit too clean, a bit too easy. So then the sequel has a monumental task: being a better movie than the first one.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire continues where the first movie (and book, presumably) ended, with Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) back in District 12 and about to leave on a “victory tour” of the other districts, where the people who have lost competitors may be a bit … peeved. And although Katniss just wants to be with her beloved mother and sister and boyfriend Gale (Liam Hemsworth), such things are not so easy. The leader of the country, President Snow (Donald Sutherland) worries about possible insurgencies and with good cause; the fact that somehow two people survived the Hunger Games due to Katniss has made her a symbol of secret (and not so secret) rebellion. So Snow tells them that their little love lie had better continue … forever. But when even that fails to quell the riots, Snow and new Gamemaster Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman) have a new plan: a Hunger Games with all 12 living winners. So, yeah, classic escalation of stakes. Katniss must somehow get over her taciturn nature and paranoia and make uneasy allies with other competitors if she hopes to survive, all the while everyone else seems to have some other secret plan.

Of course, Jennifer Lawrence is fantastic here, although it may not be apparent until she shifts effortlessly from the cold steel the character shows the world to bursts of emotion, fake or sincere.

I really liked this movie, and one of the reasons why is that it was shown right after a boring hour long red carpet show that just heightened the actual interesting content of the film. Obviously there is a level of talent here that is ridiculous, from the people I already mentioned to Woody Harrelson, Stanley Tucci, and Elizabeth Banks in smaller roles that manage to be complex enough that they seem exceptionally well considered and thought out. Josh Hutcherson’s Peeta has a more interesting, expanded role from the first movie, although there are a few times where the movie basically tells you that “oh, this guy deserves praise because he’s so good” instead of showing you. And of course, Jennifer Lawrence is fantastic here, although it may not be apparent until she shifts effortlessly from the cold steel the character shows the world to bursts of emotion, fake or sincere. The movie may not have the most interesting plot out there — it is in many ways a rehash of the first one. But there’s enough setup of the world that the ending and resolution feel deserved, and has a ending that will definitely make you want to see the next one.

The movie was two and and a half hours long, yet it moved briskly, building up characters and showing that sometimes even simplistic characters had hidden depths. And naturally, the movie didn’t skimp on the darker perspectives and subversive take on society. It’s nothing particularly brilliant, but it isn’t shown this bitingly in such a broad setting, and maybe some of the legions of fans will actually let some of the non-love triangle ideas penetrate. It’s a nice idea, anyway. The movie looks great, shifting between the drab poor districts, the sumptuous and colorful rich ones, and the wildness of the game arena. I guess I didn’t really know what to think, but I’m happy to see anything that is exciting and interesting, that doesn’t lag and treats its characters with respect.

You know, I think that Jennifer Lawrence is going places.


Photo Credit: Lionsgate

One Comment on “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is a scintillating and subversive must-see

  1. One of my favorite aspects of the sequel was how hilarious it was – not because the acting or writing was bad (far from it), but because the message and allusions to our culture in terms of celebrity and media and the way we treat the disenfranchised were so on point. Stanley Tucci so perfectly represented that and I also thought Elizabeth Banks did a great job of showing someone who was raised in the system and is only just now realizing how troubling it is. The humor in the film is just so dark and so apt and I found myself laughing through a lot of it.

    Of course it helped when the victors made it clear during the interviews how 100% done they were with everything going on around them. Best part of the movie in my opinion.

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