If you’re looking for a film with answers, move on. But if you’re looking for a clever dystopian vision of reality TV, dictatorship states and the façade of celebrity culture, book your tickets now.
The second film in the Hunger Games trilogy, based on the novels by Suzanne Collins, Catching Fire follows Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), victors of the last Hunger Games, forced to obey the Capital’s (the top dog state) twisted laws and continue performing their roles of celebrity lovers; living up to the Capital’s ideals of strength and purity.
Katniss’ bravery and suborn defiance against the Game’s rules, during her last game, have marked her as an icon of hope for the people; hope symbolised in the image of the mockingjay. But the Capital’s henchmen – who look an awful lot like the illegitimate children of a stormtrooper and the Stig – are violently determined to smash any signs of rebellion. And amidst the growing tension and fear, the Games are due to start again.
Overall, the plot of the film is significantly well explained and is fairly straight forward to follow.
Being a sequel and an adaptation, the film poses two concerns: do you need to have seen the first film? And do you need to have read the books? Answer one: yes – firstly, the back-story which, for all dystopian imaginings, is highly central to the plot is explained best in the first film; the second film is concerned with action and assumes the audience’s knowledge of the fictional world. More importantly, most relationships have been built up in the first film and your memory of these relationships impacts strongly on the enjoyment and empathy in this film. If you hadn’t seen the first one you’d be wondering why the image of a cute little girl with frizzy hair keeps popping up and why it makes Katniss go crazy sad.
As to the second question: no, on the whole, you do not need to have read the books to understand this film. Novel adaptations have a tendency to become merely illustrations of the novel (Harry Potter certainly succumbs to this fate) and frequently brush over incident or relationships which, in the novel, took up about 30 pages of description and embellishment. Overall, the plot of the film is significantly well explained and is fairly straight forward to follow. However, a few moments – clearly added to make the book fans happy – seemed very randomly placed and lacked elaboration; for instance, the mention of Annie: oh by the way that guy is in love with a crazy girl who we never see. So what?
Another plotting issue, or perhaps a scripting issue, is the Katniss-Gale relationship: it has no backstory, no progression and isn’t given the screen time to allow them to become the tragic romantic couple they are supposed to be. I’m sure the book explains their relationship very nicely but on screen you never see enough of Gale (Liam Hemsworth) to learn who he is. Plus the actors lack chemistry doesn’t help. I’m more concerned about Katniss and Peeta’s relationship than Katniss and Gale; sure, he’s a nice guy, but we know Peeta so much better.
Catching Fire certainly caught my interest and it will certainly, undoubtedly, leave you wanting more.
Nevertheless, the film is a triumph; entertaining, fast paced and engaging. Jennifer Lawrence is truly spectacular, as always, she must be the first actress in a teen franchise who is actually a superb actor! It’s extremely difficult to play a character whom in a novel shares their thoughts and feelings with the reader but Lawrence manages to portray Katniss’ rage, fear and sadness through her incredibly expressive face.
The overall look of the film is excellent: the Capital costumes are sensationally bizarre and flamboyant – best-worst-fashion prize goes to Effie (Elizabeth Banks): expect tissue paper and candyfloss dresses. The environment, in between the States, is worth noting as the result of some beautifully detailed designing.
Catching Fire certainly caught my interest and it will certainly, undoubtedly, leave you wanting more. This is a part two setting up for part three.
Eve Wersocki Morris