"You ready to work?"
Director: Francis Lawrence
Written by: Simon Beaufoy and Michael Arndt (based on the book "Catching Fire" by Suzanne Collins)
Featuring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson
Technical: 146 minutes.
Note: I read The Hunger Games trilogy just before the first film was released, so it has been a long time since I read the books. In the review I will be comparing the film to the novel minimally, and focusing on film itself.
After winning the seventy-fourth Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark return home to District 12. They go back to their old routine (kind of; they now live in the Victor's Village, and possess terrific wealth) with Katniss and Gale hunting together, Peeta baking and isolating himself, and Haymitch getting very drunk. Katniss shows major signs of post-traumatic stress disorder.
President Snow pays an unexpected visit to Katniss' house. Apparently, because her and Peeta broke the rules to survive the Games, they have ignited rebellion in the Districts, against the Capital. Snow threatens everyone Katniss loves, and tells her that on the upcoming Victory Tour, her and Peeta need to convince the public they are in love. This will show the Districts that their stunt with the berries was out of love, and not in defiance of the Capital.
The Victory Tour is a disaster. The Peacekeepers are murdering and terrorizing innocents, and Katniss and Peeta can only helplessly watch it all, forced to praise the Capital. When they get back home, the violence and repression against the population only escalates. Then the bombshell: for the seventy-fifth Hunger Games (a special "Quarter Quell" Games is held every twenty-five years) they will reap from the pool of past victors. Katniss and Peeta are both chosen, and so they are going into the Games a second time, in a new arena, with a murderous batch of past winners.
I saw "Catching Fire" in IMAX during a pre-screening, and then again in IMAX the following evening, on opening day. I had been looking forward to the film for months, but I kept my expectations low. I am unhappy to report that "Catching Fire" is not the success that the reviews would have you believe. In the end it was a really, really lousy movie.
When I saw the initial previews for Catching Fire, the teaser trailer and the first theatrical trailer, I was aflame with excitement. But the film itself was flavourless, too tame, too watered down, and too rushed. For a movie about teens locked in an arena, forced to fight to the death... I don't think I saw more than a cupful of blood, drawn by a weapon. This is absolutely unacceptable, because the violence plays a very critical part in the source material's themes: the glamorizing of violence, present day desensitization to violence, and the sensationalism of modern entertainment, among others. But instead of exploring these and other ideas in the film, the gamemakers - sorry, I mean filmmakers - just watered down the politics, and everything else that might have induced too much thinking, to appeal to the widest audience possible. (I was speaking with someone about the film after we saw it, and he put forth the idea that perhaps the thinning of the material was fiscally strategic. He suggested that maybe if the film was too complex, it just simply would not translate well into other languages. Since overseas gross is a gigantic portion of blockbuster film revenue, I thought this was an excellent point, and true to some degree.) Among the other simplifications was the story of the rebellion, and even, just the barbarism of those in the Capital. These two things, detailed extensively in the novel, had barely any depth in the film.
The film was severely brought down by the godawful music, which was very poorly integrated. I lost count of the number of scenes, where it would have had much greater emotional impact without the added music.
"Catching Fire" was overproduced and rushed. The CGI in the film looked very phony. But they filmed on location in Hawaii, and had a massive budget ($130 million-double the budget of the first film) so why are huge chunks of the arena made of obvious-CGI? Other than for, say, the baboon creatures, there is no reason why this film should have the amount of CGI it does. The excessive effects took away from the film's authenticity, and feeling. "Catching Fire" looks like a expensive, overdone Hollywood product.
The same thing that happened with the first film, is happening with "Catching Fire". The first film was highly anticipated, released to critical praise, and made boatloads of cash. Then as time went on, people's opinion of the film went down. People started to admit that it wasn't that amazing. Meanwhile, the studio pocketed the profits, and fast-tracked the sequel. The hype for the sequel was insane, and then it was released. The second film received even more critical praise than the first film, had a bigger budget, and made more money. And I can guarantee, time will go on, and once people are not high on the hype, they will realize that the film isn't so fantastic. But it doesn't matter, because the studio is pocketing the profits, and now pumping out two back-to-back sequels....
Sound like a familiar pattern? Yes. Yes it does. It sounds a little bit like... "The Dark Knight Rises" (2012)? And so many other ballbusters. Sorry sorry, I mean blockbusters. This happens really, really often, and it annoys me.
All one must do to learn the truth about "Catching Fire", amongst all the biased, bought-and-paid-for, bullshit critics, and the delusional mooing public, is to observe. The truth can be gained from simple observation.
"Catching Fire" is slap in the face to any fan of the book. The sad irony of it all is that the crowds stuffing sold-out showings of Catching Fire strongly resemble the Capital citizens eagerly awaiting the latest Hunger Games battle. Meanwhile, the Capital elite - woops, I mean Hollywood - make obscene profit from it all, doing everything they can to make sure the current system stays in place...