Catching Fire movie just as good as the book

Josh Hutcher­son and Jen­nifer Lawrence star in The Hun­ger Games: Catch­ing Fire

The Hun­ger Games by Su­z­anne Collins burst out onto the scene in 2008 and was a huge suc­cess among young read­ers (and, even­tu­ally adults). The movie last year also was a big hit, and the se­quel has un­der­stand­ably been one of the most an­ti­cip­ated films of the year.

Since the first Hun­ger Games, star Jen­nifer Lawrence has be­come an Oscar win­ner for her stel­lar per­form­ance in Sil­ver Lin­ings Play­book. Catch­ing Fire is an­oth­er great dis­play of Lawrence’s tal­ent.

For those not fa­mil­i­ar with the series, The Hun­ger Games takes place in the post-apo­ca­lyptic land of Pan­em (formerly North Amer­ica), a dysto­pi­an so­ci­ety with a to­tal­it­ari­an gov­ern­ment. As part of the pun­ish­ment for the re­bel­lion, cit­izens of the 12 dis­tricts live in poverty and are forced to par­ti­cip­ate in the an­nu­al Hun­ger Games, in which 24 “trib­utes” (one boy and one girl from each dis­trict, between 12 and 17 years of age) are ran­domly se­lec­ted and shipped off to The Cap­it­ol, where only one will re­turn home vic­tori­ous.

Dir­ec­ted by Fran­cis Lawrence (tak­ing over from Gary Ross), Catch­ing Fire be­gins as our heroine Kat­n­iss Ever­deen (Lawrence) has re­turned home safe after win­ning the 74th An­nu­al Hun­ger Games along with fel­low trib­ute Peeta Mel­lark (Josh Hutcher­son). Kat­n­iss and Peeta re­luct­antly em­bark on a vic­tory tour of the dis­tricts where they learn a re­bel­lion is brew­ing in the dis­tricts thanks to the way they took a stand and won the games to­geth­er. 

Pres­id­ent Snow (Don­ald Suth­er­land), un­happy at the way Kat­n­iss and Peeta won the games, is look­ing for a way to make them (es­pe­cially Kat­n­iss) suf­fer. Snow and Game­maker Plut­arch Heav­ens­bee (Philip Sey­mour Hoff­man) come up with the idea to make win­ning trib­utes re­turn to the games for the 75th an­niversary (The Quarter Quell).

This time around, the games make up much less of the movie, and that’s OK with me. Too much of the games would have made it more of a re­hash­ing of the first flick. Still, The Quarter Quell brings the drama and some in­ter­est­ing new trib­utes, in­clud­ing Beetee (Jef­frey Wright), Finnick Odair (Sam Claflin) and Jo­hanna Ma­son (Jena Malone).

The brew­ing re­bel­lion is an in­triguing ad­ded plot device. The love tri­angle between Kat­n­iss, Peta and Gale (Kat­n­iss’ friend back at home) is still a part of the plot, though not really my fa­vor­ite. There is one scene in par­tic­u­lar between Kat­n­iss and Peta that was bor­der­ing on soap op­era ma­ter­i­al for me, but, thank­fully, it’s the only one. Gale also doesn’t really have enough to do.

If you haven’t read the book, the movie’s end­ing may come as some­what of an un­wel­come sur­prise, but it cer­tainly does build an­ti­cip­a­tion for the next movie. Un­for­tu­nately, book three, Mock­ing­jay, is be­ing giv­en the Hol­ly­wood treat­ment and will be split in­to two movies.

Just last week, in my re­view for The Book Thief, I lamen­ted how the book is usu­ally bet­ter than the movie. The Hun­ger Games: Catch­ing Fire is one of those rare cases where the movie is as good, or maybe even bet­ter, than the book. ••

Movie Grade: A-

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