Wednesday, November 20, 2013

'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire' - is Catching On

Review of "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire."
Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks)
and Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence). Lionsgate

 MOVIE REVIEW 

The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins is truly a marvel. While not quite as popular as the Harry Potter books and movies, The Hunger Games has a huge following. So, I still find it amazing that more people haven’t been upset with series’ basic premise – kids hunting down other kids. Why Collins thought that was a good idea for a young adult novel is beyond me. I find the concept as disturbing as Shirley Jackson’s short story, The Lottery and William Golding’s The Lord of the Flies novel, but those are considered classics, so what do I know? With that said, I did enjoy the first movie and weirdly found myself enjoying the second movie even more.

For those who haven’t read the books or seen the first movie, The Hunger Games is set into the future where North America is now ruled by the nation of Panem and has been divided into 13 sections. Because of an uprising of District 13 years earlier, the government decided that the rest of the sections needed a lesson to keep the remaining 12 in line. So, Panem issued a new competition, The Hunger Games where two children from each district are picked by lottery to represent their section as “tributes.” Since there can be only one winner, all the children fight each other and try to survive in a wilderness area that is controlled by the government.

In Catching Fire, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) is both reaping the rewards of winning the 74th Annual Hunger Games and challenged by President Snow (Donald Sutherland) for changing the rules. She and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) basically are doing a victory lap visiting all of the districts and honoring their competitors who gave up their lives for the games. Seemingly for punishment, the capital makes the decision that the only contestants for the 75th games will be drawn from previous winners. The only living winners from the 12th district are Katniss, Peeta and Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson), who served as an advisor for the last games. Of course, Katniss and Peeta are forced to fight to the death. At least this time there are no children involved.

In the first movie, all the characters looked disturbed to be in this bizarre situation but not really upset by it. This time around however, Katniss is having nightmares and  is visibly upset about having to compete again. She also dreads having to say goodbye to Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth), her best friend (?) boyfriend (?) – no one is really sure. She wants to run away with Gale, but he senses that a rebellion is on the horizon and wants to stay put. So, it’s off to the games!

Catching Fire would be more depressing if not for the animated acting of Elizabeth Banks as Effie Trinket, serving in the PR role for the games and Stanley Tucci as Caesar Flickerman, the reality show host presenting the Hunger Games. The costumes are crazy and strangely beautiful. The movie does have a few lighter moments, albeit few and far between, and the films ends abruptly leaving you wanting more.

Some critics have pointed out that the stories have Christian themes including Katnis taking her sister’s place in the first round of Hunger Games and the willingness of some players to lay down their lives for others. Whether meant to be or not, the movies are symbolic of Hitler’s leadership in Germany, George Orwell’s 1984 and our current choices of reality TV shows. The pageantry and spectacle of the Hunger Games masks the real atrocities going around those outside of the Capital.

The bottom line is, if you are a fan of the books and/or the first movie, you’ll enjoy this one too. If you haven’t read the books or seen the first movie, don’t bother. You won’t understand a thing.

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