Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire in Theaters Now

Though I've been excited to see Catching Fire, I find myself, surprisingly, with little to say after having watched it. I feel like I need to watch it again to fully absorb it. I really enjoyed it, but another pass or two might help me to fully appreciate it.

In some ways, this sequel didn't grip me the way the first movie did. Nothing has really changed; just the newness has worn off. But I don't think it is inferior to the first movie. I thought this new director would change the feel of the movie, but he manages to capture the weight of the first movie while also adding his own flair nearly seamlessly.

As for keeping close to the book, I don't remember well enough. I read it years ago and purposefully did not read it again so that I wouldn't compare too closely. But now that I have seen the movie, I can say this: it felt right, and it just made me want to read the book again, which I will now allow myself to do. If a movie adaptation can be entertaining and make you want to read the book again, I'd say it's done its job.

One change from the first movie to the second that I thought was well-done, and perhaps even an improvement from the first, was the layout and action in the arena. Granted, the second movie had more to work with from the book. The 75th Hunger Games are special and meant to be extra "exciting." Catching Fire captures this change with a more fascinating, tighter arena and heart-pounding suspense. Although I loved the first movie, the arena itself didn't seem all that high-tech and other-worldly. It didn't matter so much because the focus was on the characters and their fight to the death. (SPOILER alert) In Catching Fire, the dynamics between the characters are much different than in The Hunger Games, less cutthroat, so you almost need that special arena to heighten the stakes.

Another change I heard about was that Peeta was going to be a little tougher in the movie than in the book. I thought that was kind of a cheap Hollywood thing to do, but somehow the movie actually keeps his character intact. Having not read the book recently, the change was not blatant to me. Peeta is still soft and caring and protective in his own way--everything that makes him who he is. If he's now also a little more handy with a small weapon and a little more sure of himself, I don't think that takes away from his significance.

One thing I do love about the movie, as I did in the first, is its characters, all played with so much feeling. I can't list them because then I'd have to list all of them. No one really felt off to me. And the way those characters interact...well, that's really the author's doing, but the movie captures it poignantly.

Catching Fire is rated PG-13 for, obviously, violence, disturbing themes, and some language, apparently. I think the language is probably a low concern next to the violence. A boy, probably ten years old, was sitting behind me in the theater, telling his mother he was going to "literally die" as he waited for the movie to start. Ironic...but more importantly, he was only ten. This is a mature book and movie series, whose popularity, unfortunately, has probably created something of a culture the author was actually speaking against. Readers and viewers don't always use their best judgment and sometimes seem to mindlessly absorb whatever they see. My blog is a teeny tiny revolution against that. (And I bet you thought I had nothing in common with Katniss.) I do believe there is value in such books and movies, even as entertainment, but they should be approached thoughtfully and with a concern for discerning right from wrong, something that does not come as easily to those younger viewers. (Cue stepping off soapbox.)

I would like to see this movie again. I would like to own it. I am very pleased with how this series has been adapted to the screen, and I'm curious as to whether or not they will be able to keep it up with the controversial last book.

Four stars.

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