Saturday, November 23, 2013

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire Review

And that blog post title is the first and the last time you will see me call this movie by it's actual title. For the rest of this review I will be calling this by the name it should've been called by, simply Catching Fire. Yeah, I get why they did it, so no need to argue that point. But anywho, I am a huge fan of the Hunger Game series. I didn't actually read them until after the first movie came out, but after seeing that movie, I was instantly converted. As it turned out, Catching Fire was my favorite book of the three (check out my review of the book here), so I had really high expectations. Did the movie meet those expectations? You bet it did!

As far as the story goes, Catching Fire picks up right where The Hunger Games leaves off. After Katniss' antics in the arena at the end of the first book, she has become a figure for rebellion in the districts, and of course that has made President Snow really angry. Katniss' every move is being watched by the capital as they try to figure out a way to use her to squelch the rebellion. In the meantime, it's the 75th annual hunger games, which means it's time for the third quarter quell, a special edition of the hunger games, and the capital has big plans to use this to their advantage.

One of the strong points of the movie was how close they were to the book. The story in the book is super engaging. So engaging that I literally couldn't put it down. I'm not a big reader, and it usually takes me a few weeks at best to read a book. The fact that I read this book in two days should say a lot. The philosophy of the movie seemed to be "if it ain't broken, don't fix it." I would argue that this is one of the best book to movie conversions that I have ever seen. There is a lot of drama that happens outside of the arena that the movie in theory could've shown, but outside the scenes with President Snow and new gamemaker Plutarch, they decided not to, thus keeping the surprise-ending of the book in tact for those who never read the books. Now in the final two movies, they will have to go outside the perspective of the book to make the movies interesting, but as far as Catching Fire goes, they needed to keep the perspective of the book and it worked perfectly for the movie.

The other strong point of the movie was the cast. First off, the returning cast was excellent. Josh Hutcherson, Woody Harrellson, Elizabeth Banks, Donald Sutherland, Lenny Kravitz, Stanley Tucci, and Liam Hemsworth all nailed their characters once again. But I especially want to talk about Jennifer Lawrence. In the first movie, she was fairly emotionless, which worked well because that's how Katniss was in the first book. In Catching Fire, Katniss starts to go crazy, having several emotional outbursts, so I was interested how she would do in this one. Jennifer Lawrence showed audiences who never saw Silver Linings Playbook why she won the Best Actress award in the Oscars for that performance as she totally nailed the Catching Fire Katniss from the books in this movie. And that really made me excited for the final movie when Katniss goes completely crazy. I hope that girl wins another Oscar sometime in the next few years, or at the very least gets some consideration.

Secondly, in terms of the cast, I want to mention the newcomers, because they would be the ones to make or break this movie. Catching Fire introduces several new characters that are very important to the overall plot of the series. Thankfully, all the newcomers nailed their roles as well, meaning the entire cast is just perfect. Sam Claflin is Finnick, Jena Malone is Johanna, Philip Seymour Hoffman is Plutarch, and Jeffrey Wright and Amanda Plummer play Beetee and Wiress. Like I said, I thought all of them did great, but I will have to say my favorite newcomer is Jena Malone as Johanna. If you've read the book, you'll know that Joanna pulls off some pretty crazy antics, and is quite the character. Yes, with certain scenes they are true to the book, but honestly I was cheering and laughing the whole movie at everything she did. I loved it! Even when I probably shouldn't have.

Overall, there are a lot more things that I could say about the movie, but I've touched the main points that I wanted to bring up, and I don't want to keep you reading all day, so I will end. But I will wrap things up by repeating the fact that Catching Fire was my favorite book, and so far it's my favorite movie of the two. It perfectly sets up for what should be an amazing and emotionally-draining two-part Mockingjay finale. Catching Fire is also one of my favorite movies this year, and I will give it a very strong 9 out of 10, although I did consider giving it a higher score. I highly recommend you go see it sometime this holiday season if you haven't seen it already! Just make sure you have seen the first movie beforehand, because you will be confused if you don't.

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