Age Rating (UK/US): 12A / PG-13
This week I will be looking at the movie adaptation of the second novel in The Hunger Games Trilogy – Catching Fire.
As before, here’s the trailer for the film.
Overall the film is again a very close adaptation of the film and follows a similar plot. After successfully winning at the Hunger Games, Peeta and Katniss now live in the Victor’s Village, made for people who win the Games in District 12. However they now have to go on a victory tour of the other districts before the next Hunger Games start.
Katniss is visited at her home by President Snow who says she must convince him and the people of Panem that what she did in the Games with the poisoned berries was an act of love and not an act of rebellion as some people would see it. On the tour, Katniss and Peeta first visit District 11 and both of them give an impassioned and off-script speech for the two tributes who died and donate one month of their winnings to the district. The people of District 11 respond with a Mockingjay salute and the man who begins the salute is executed. Katniss then reveals to Peeta, Haymitch and Effie, President Snow’s threat.
We then see the rest of the tour where Katniss and Peeta see further people giving them the Mockingjay gesture and Katniss is visibly alarmed in District 1 when a young girl says she wants to volunteer, just like she did. After the tour culminates in a party at the Presidential Palace where Katniss meets Plutarch Heavensbee, the new head Game maker for the Hunger Games. Snow also gives a speech and with a subtle shake of his head reveals to Katniss that she has failed to convince him.
After the tour has completed, Peeta and Katniss return to District 12. Katniss goes to the woods with her friend Gale and says they should leave but after telling him what she saw he refuses, saying that finally the revolution might be starting. Meanwhile, Snow has appointed new Peacekeepers who destroy the black market there and start harassing people. Katniss’ friend Gale intervenes and is whipped for his trouble before Katniss, Peeta and Haymitch intervene. Finally the 75th Hunger Games rolls around with a shocking twist – the male and female tributes will be selected from the surviving victors of the previous games which means one thing: as Katniss is the only female victor in District 12 she is going back into the arena….
As before, there are some subtle differences in the film compared to the book. The books is written in the first person from Katniss’ perspective so there are scenes in the film which do not take place in the book. For example there are several conversations with Plutarch Heavensbee and Snow as he appears to be working with Snow to try to discredit her and quash the rebellion.
There are also various visual flourishes to highlight the growing dissent in the districts, when Katniss is on the train she sees the Mockingjay symbol daubed on the walls with messages, whereas she doesn’t see this in the book. In District 11 in the book the man is actually shot for whistling Rue’s song but in the film the three finger salute is used. This is probably because it is a memorable shot from the first film so by reusing it here it ensures it is a simple way of making the audience know what is happening.
The visuals are again incredible with the Capitol beautifully realised. The Presidential Palace looks amazing and the Capitol people look suitably alien and caricatured. I also like how the scene from the book at the party where the people of the Capitol are taking a pill to make themselves sick so they can eat more is shown, as well as Peeta and Katniss’ disgust at how greedy they are.
The scene where the tributes enter the arena is very memorable as they are on horse and chariot’s and look like gladiators entering the arena with the drummers lining the path showing how grand the occasion is for the Capitol. The arena in The Hunger Games is also beautiful, yet menacing with locations in Atlanta, Georgia being used to great effect. The horrifying traps are also realised in brutal fashion and help engage the audience and shock with the level of depravity the Capitol has (though obviously within the realms of a 12A).
The casting is again top-notch with returning stars all playing their roles excellently. Jennifer Lawrence is again brilliant as Katniss and really shows how her character has grown in confidence following the events of the first movie. The new tributes are also brilliantly cast, including Jenna Malone and Sam Claflin as Johanna and Finnick, Jeffrey Wright as Beetee. Also Philip Seymour Hoffman in one of his final screen roles before he tragically passed away is also excellent as Plutarch Heavensbee.
It also does leave the film on an exciting note for Mockingjay though Hollywood did that thing of splitting the last book into two films.
The only thing I would probably say is perhaps the film takes a while to get to second half and is a little bit slower in the middle though it does need to be in order to build tension and highlight that a rebellion is stirring in the Capitol.
Overall though it is a great film and successor to the first The Hunger Games.
Let me know in the comments below your thoughts on The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and if there are any other films you would like me to review.