The Scoop: 2013 PG-13, directed by Francis Lawrence and starring Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, and Liam Hemsworth
Tagline: Remember who the real enemy is.
Summary Capsule: Katniss and Pita Bread navigate dystopian politics and the Hunger Games 2.0.
Justin’s Rating: Zero shaky cams out of 10 shaky cams (and that’s a GOOD thing)
Justin’s Review: From my vantage point, the Hunger Games trilogy seems to be two stories in one. The first story is a pretty awesome tale of post-apocalyptic dystopian America, where slave districts feed the whims and needs of the powerful central Capitol, and how the Capitol exerts control through fear and annual hunger games. The second story is a strangely bland and shoe-horned love triangle between three teens, because you can’t have a successful YA series without a love triangle. In my opinion, the books/films could have entirely lost the romance stuff with a couple of changed lines and would have been much stronger for it.
Anyway, the second part of the Hunger Games series picks back up with Katniss as a game victor and how that’s really hard on her now that she’s got enough food and money to take care of her family. Sure, there’s some PTSD and survivor’s guilt, but why dwell on that when she’s got two fetching men who are both vying for her attention? Pita Pocket and, um, that other guy both chase after her for reasons far beyond my ken, because Katniss is still a fairly emotionless, personality-free, sour-faced object of desire. Maybe they hope that when you remove her outer layer, she’s solid milk chocolate to the core. That would be the best Easter ever!
Catching Fire spends time showing how awful life is and how oppressed the people are, despite having a clear advantage in numbers and access to heavy machinery. Evil President Snow realizes that Katniss has ensared this generation with hope and rebellion because she was going to eat poison berries, which is a great message that I can’t wait see spread throughout the world. Romance and a path to victory means being prepared to consume deadly poison at any moment. Hey, it worked for Romeo and Juliet, right?
So Snow comes up with a special Hunger Games that calls back former victors to play, which is a nice twist on the first movie’s games. The stakes are upped and alliances form and before you know it, they’re back in the woods fighting for their lives. Fortunately, Katniss has her constantly replenishing quiver of arrows that never seem to run out, even though I counted just three in there in one scene but it was back up to a good 20 in the next. Maybe she hit an NPC vendor or something.
Catching Fire is a good example of a series taking a popular if lackluster first entry and doing it so much better the second time around. Gone is the annoying shaky cam and put into its place is a genuine sense of technical accomplishment. This movie looks great, from the action to the sets to the costumes, and it’s not afraid to show it off. There’s more time spent understanding the dire situation that the world is in and how much more dangerous the games are this time around, and having adults step in to be the fighters instead of a group of forgettable teens raised the acting bar considerably. Even if the dialogue still had its wooden moments (especially between Pita Power and Katniss), moments with Snow or Effie or Woody Harrelson or that wickedly over-the-top game show host made it worth it. And how much of an accomplishment is it that this movie actually takes Effie and makes her a sympathetic and likable character, despite being one of the “enemy?” There are layers here, is what I’m saying.
I don’t quite buy into the movie’s premise that Katniss is this great symbol of the revolution or even worthy of being maneuvered into such a position, because her one redeeming quality is that she can shoot a bow fast. Jennifer Lawrence is an excellent actress but this series seems to box her in with a character that’s only a few steps up from the mouth-breathing Bella of Twilight.
I can see why teens like this series, since it speaks to rebellion against authority while laying on the message that there isn’t just one person out there for you, but most likely two and you’ll get to kiss both of them in the same two-hour running time while looking mildly conflicted over which one you’ll choose. Oh, if only there was some sort of brutal deathmatch arena where a single victor could arise! We could call it the Hunky Games.
- Was the highest grossing film of 2013 in North America. It was also the first film with a sole female lead to top the annual box office since The Exorcist.
Johanna: My stylist is such an idiot. District 7, lumber. Trees. Ugh. I’d love to put an axe on her face. So what do you think, now that the whole world wants to sleep with you?
Katniss: The whole world doesn’t…
Johanna: I wasn’t talking to you.
Johanna: Hey, how does that sound Snow? What if we, what if we set your backyard on fire? You know you can’t put everybody in here! What? He can’t hurt me. There’s no one left that I love.
Haymitch: Remember who the real enemy is.
Haymitch: I want you guys to forget everything you think you know about the games. Last year was child’s play. This year, you’re dealing with all experienced killers.
Haymitch: Nobody ever wins the games. Period. There are survivors. There are no winners.
Katniss: It must be a fragile system if it can be brought down by just a few berries.
If you liked this movie, try these:
- The Hunger Games
- Battle Royale