Catching Fire Review

CatchingFireI went to see The Hunger Games: Catching Fire in theaters with my local Harry Potter meetup group on opening night. I liked the first movie a lot, but I thought Catching Fire was even better. There’s more character development, some phenomenal new characters portrayed well, and the depiction of the arena really brought it to life for me (I had trouble picturing a few aspects from the book, like where the beach was exactly). The pacing, drama, and action were well done. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

Spoilers below! BEWARE!

I thought the settings were spectacular in this movie. The desolation of the District 12 Victor’s Village, the decadence of the Capital’s parties, the little nods to the uprising and Snow’s increasing awareness spread across the districts during the Victory Tour, and of course the Quarter Quell arena. The arena was spectacularly done, showing how the divisions between sections worked and laying out out like a clock but in a subtle way so it didn’t hit the first-timer. I had a hard time really visualizing it from reading the book. I pictured it more as a single island with the beach on the outside. But this movie representation made a whole lot more sense than whatever my mind had come up with (where I must have missed some important details).

I was definitely a fan of the new characters. Finnick Odair. Oh Finnick. I love that guy. But when we first meet him in the movie, I really didn’t like him. That egotistical, showy, sugar cube-having jerk? That wasn’t my Finnick! Ugh! It wasn’t until the game started and he showed his true nature that I recognized him as the Finnick I knew from the books. Of COURSE he couldn’t show himself to be on Team Katniss when they first meet! He was spectacular. The Hufflepuff in me wanted to put all my trust in him. Johanna Mason was fantastic. At any given moment, I didn’t know where she stood. She was strong and 3-dimensional and she came close to stealing a lot of scenes. The ensemble dynamic during the game was exactly what I was hoping for. I absolutely adored Beetee and Wiress. I just wanted to hug Mags all the time. Katniss was torn between wanting to trust only Peeta and having to depend on the others at various moments. And Peeta… sometimes you got the sense that he had a master plan playing out, and other times it truly looked like he was going completely on board with Katniss’s views. Plutarch Heavensbee was even more than I had pictured; like Johanna, you had a sense about him but were never entirely sure what side he was playing.

The love triangle. There’s been a lot said about it elsewhere, so I won’t go into that. It isn’t as annoyingly strong as in a lot of YA, but it does detract from the greater story at times. Personally, I’m Team Katniss; I’m good with her choice. And, personally, I like both Peeta and Gale and thought they both have their strong points. Neither character was depicted as fully or strongly as Katniss, but both Peeta and Gale finally get a lot more screen time and character development in this movie. Gale stepping in to take the beatings from that Peacekeeper was a great, heartbreaking moment. Peeta’s pregnancy cleverness on the broadcast was something I was glad they kept in. I loved seeing Katniss bonding with Peeta (aww, the hurt/comfort nightmare moments). And I definitely still felt that she had strong feelings for Gale, even when she wasn’t quite play-acting her feelings for Peeta.

Politics usually bore me in overall plots (and, definitely, I like the arena battles in the first two books/movies more than the overall political storyline). But there was a great balance as the reality of their situation creeps into Katniss’s life, whether she wants it to or not. I just wanted to punch President Snow in the face. All the complications the uprising has, all the double-speak and secret agendas, all the cleverness that allows the movement the catch fire… it was all depicted well in this movie.

Lastly, I really didn’t expect to cry during this movie. Yes, I cry at everything, so it’s probably not at all surprising that I cried here. But when I think of heartbreaking moments, I think of Rue in the first book. I didn’t think anything would hit me that hard in this movie. I was so, so wrong. I burst into tears at least a half dozen times. Just seeing Rue’s family and Thresh’s family did me in, even before Katniss’s message to them and even before the salute. Seeing Peeta’s painting in the training room just about killed me. And then there was Mags–I was crying from the start with her, every time Finnick carried her (such a great guy). And the JabberJay scene was so creepy, especially Finnick’s reaction when he heard Annie’s voice and at once thought he realized what it meant.

All bets are off in the third movie. It was my least favorite book. I even read it twice, hoping the pacing and story would be better. I suspect I will be crying quite a lot, though, especially if the movie is as good as Catching Fire.

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