Catching Fire

"Remember who the enemy is."

Welcome back, I hope you all had a good Thanksgiving if you live in the US and like to do that kind of thing. Otherwise I hope you had a nice Thursday I guess? As promised, today I will (belatedly) deliver my Thanksgiving gift of murder, though granted it is perhaps not as exciting because this installment doesn't involve the savage killing of small children. That's right, today I will be talking about the recently released Hunger Games: Catching Fire, sequel to 2012's Hunger Games film both of them adaptations of YA novels written by Suzanne Collins. To recap, see my review of the first Hunger Games here, go ahead, I'll wait for you, take your time. Okay, so after surviving the Hunger Games, Katniss and Peeta have to make a victory tour. The problem is that Katniss made a big show about how in love she was with Peeta, but they haven't exactly been honeymooning since they got back, and that makes President Snow (Donald Sutherland) really upset because they're his OTP, and he's hoping that if he ships them hard enough to Districts will stop rioting and he can prevent a revolution from toppling the Capitol (this revolution having been sparked by Katniss' defiant actions during her time in the Hunger Games arena). In an effort to remove what he sees as the root of his problems, Snow arranges a special 75th Hunger Games (which already would have been especially horrible as it was set to be the 3rd "Quarter Quell", special games every 25 years used to extra remind everyone of how whipped the capitol has them) where all the tributes will be the former victors of other Hunger Games. Katniss is understandably not thrilled at the prospect.

Are they.... heiling the crowd?
One of the interesting things about this series (to me) is that while each book involves mostly the same characters (and the same main characters) and feature the same antagonist and similar dangers, they are all very different in their structure. The film adaptations are likewise very different in terms of what kind of movies they both are. With the original Hunger Games film, the arena segment makes up most of the action in the film. It occupies a large portion of the plot as well, and so it's reasonable to say that the arena portion of the film makes up the larger part of the film. It is a movie mostly about how a young girl thrust into a nightmare situation copes and survives through it. In comparison, Catching Fire is a more nuanced and complex plot (bear in mind I'm just talking about the plot. Both are filled with complex characters, but the plot to Hunger Games was a very straightforward one of survival). A comment President Snow makes to Katniss, about the difference between the games and a real war, is very relevant to considering the film as a whole. Outside of the arena (and even inside it this time around) friends and foes are much more ambiguous, and the scenes inside the arena make up the climax of the film rather than the bulk of the action. There is a lot of important stuff going on outside of the ring, in fact MOST of the important stuff is happening outside of the ring. We as the audience are following along from Katniss' point of view, so a lot of the behind the scenes things only start to become apparent as the movie nears its conclusion.

This movie is very much a middle child, and I think that despite that it has a stable and coherent plot arc. That's partly thanks to the author, whose background was in play-writing, which influenced the way she structured her novels, and i suspect also influenced how she structured the overarching plot of all three books. That being said, the movie does introduce things in medias res (though it does give a decent amount of exposition) and the movie ends on a pretty killer cliffhanger. I expected it because I'd read the book, but it's still awful to have to wait for another movie before reaching the conclusion of the plot. By which I actually mean waiting for TWO more movies before reaching the conclusion. As seems to be the new cool thing to do with young adult series adapted into popular movie franchises, Mockingjay will be split into two movies, and I have kind of mixed feelings about that. On the one hand, Mockingjay is a pretty dense book full of violence that will no doubt lend itself to lots of exciting movie sequences. On the other hand, I KNOW they could have shot it as one movie, and are mostly doing it as two because they know they can get away with it and make a whole ton of money. Which is not the right reason to split the conclusion into two parts. I still think it might work out, but it feels excessive. It always does.

You best kill me fool, you best kill me.
The casting for the film I thought was absolutely spot on. Sam Claflin portrays Finnick Odair (He was William in Snow White & the Huntsman) and is every bit the disarming gent he was supposed to be, and Jena Malone portrays Johanna Mason, and was my favorite part of the movie because she is so angry and just gives zero shits about what anyone thinks of her, and kills people with an axe. I think that makes her a pretty desirable lady, but then again maybe I'm just very disturbed (I am very disturbed). There apparently was controversy among racists because Jeffrey Wright was cast as Beetee, and they think that Beetee is like a member of their master race or something. I thought that Wright did an awesome job as Beetee, though it is difficult to divorce him from some of his past roles in my mind (it is a long way to travel from his role in Shaft to Beetee in Catching Fire that is for damn sure). The point is, you guys are racist, get the fuck over it, Heimdal is black and he is awesome, and he pilots a giant robot and blew himself up to save us from Kaijus. So there.

She looks ready to chop something, and I don't think it's wood.
The tl;dr is that Catching Fire was a better movie than The Hunger Games in every way it could be. The shaky cam wasn't necessary because there weren't 10 year olds hacking each other to bits, so everything was shot smooth and full of bloody detail. The scope of the movie is really breathtaking, the plot is paced well, and everyone turns in an outstanding performance. Go see it already.

That's all for today, join me again on Thursday for sexual awkwardness!

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