After their victory in the 74th Hunger Games sparks a rebellion across the districts of Panem, Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark return to the arena to fight against other surviving victors in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.
I just have to start by saying this was a great movie and a pretty decent book to film adaptation. I personally enjoyed it more than The Hunger Games and I found it was a lot closer to the source material. Obviously, there were things left out but a majority of what is in the film was in the book. That was a big breath of fresh air. Especially after The Hunger Games had so much missing and had a lot of new things incorporated into the plot.
Starting off with direction, I think Francis Lawrence did a much better job than Gary Ross. The movie itself had a much better flow and it was a lot smoother than The Hunger Games was. I also think the actors had a lot more purpose than they did before.
As far as acting goes, I thought some people did a better job while some people floundered a bit. I thought Josh Hutcherson, Elizabeth Banks, and Woody Harrelson were fantastic and much better this time around. I'm not saying they were bad in the first movie, but they were more enjoyable and just better this time around. Jennifer Lawrence was the confusing one for me. She was great in The Hunger Games and had her moments in Catching Fire as well, but I feel like she wasn't really trying during the first half of the movie. I don't know if it was intentional to show how damaged Katniss had become or if she is just one of those actresses that has elements she is good and bad at. It was a bit off. I also want to take the moment to say that I cannot stand Liam Hemsworth. They could have cast a much better actor as Gale. I feel like he was cast based on physical appearance and the fact that his brother is Thor.
Regarding the new characters, I thought a majority of the casting was marvelous. Sam Claflin, Jena Malone, Jeffrey Wright, Amanda Plummer, and Lynn Cohen were such great choices, specifically Malone and Wright. I thought Beetee and Johanna were portrayed beautifully. Sam Claflin surprised me a bit, too. I won't say that his portrayal is exactly how I envisioned Finnick Odair when I read the books, but it wasn't necessarily bad. Another newcomer is Philip Seymour Hoffman who I thought did a great job as Plutarch Heavensbee, the new gamemaker. He was very believable as the character.
Now I want to talk about aspects of the movie that have spoilers, so if you haven't seen Catching Fire yet and/or didn't read the books I encourage you to come back once you have. You don't want it ruined for you.
Let's start with my main gripes... The things that were in the book that didn't make the movie.
1. Katniss doesn't encounter the runaways from District 8 in the woods.
In the book, Katniss runs into the woods and encounters two women dressed as peacekeepers. It is revealed that they are two runaways from District 8 who chose to leave after the rebellion broke out. They inform Katniss they are headed to District 13 and Katniss argues that the district doesn't exist. They point out that the Capitol reuses the footage and believe the district is fully functional and free. Katniss gives the women, Bonnie and Twill, food and teaches them to hunt. On her way back to the village, Katniss falls and breaks her foot causing the tail end of the Victory Tour and her and Peeta's "wedding" plans to be postponed until she heals.
This bugs me for the sheer fact that they made Katniss' discovery of the rebellions across the districts a bit too simple. Instead of her meeting these women, she just happens to see footage on the train of the rebellions and then blabs to Gale after she returns to 12.
2. There was a severe lack of parachutes during the games.
We see in the movie that the group receives a parachute from Haymitch with the spile so they can drink the water from the trees and that's it. In the book, Haymitch sends quite a few gifts. Along with the spile, the group receives medicine for their wounds and a loaf of bread. The movie implies that washing the poisonous fog off in water (that magically appears in the middle of the jungle) is what cures the blisters and all the group ate was the small amount of fish Finnick captures in the sea water. It's a very minor gripe, but it did get me.
3. They didn't explain how Haymitch won his game. It is a great story and explains a lot about why Haymitch is the way he is.
Like I said, most of what was in the book was in the movie. At least for the most part. It was a much better adaptation than The Hunger Games was, that's for sure.
Another main gripe I had that doesn't really have anything to do with the book is the fact that I found it extremely obvious that everyone was protecting Katniss. I don't know if it was due to the fact that I knew what happened already or if I am just more observant, but I thought the characters gave a lot of hints that they were in it to protect Katniss which was the whole idea.
Plutarch did what he had to so it looked like he was trying to kill her for President Snow, but he also have Katniss a lot of valuable information going in and implemented the force fields to keep anything from being lethal. He was the most believable for me when it came to this. On the other hand, I found Johanna, Finnick, and Beetee were very obvious with their intentions to do all they could to protect their Mockingjay. When Beetee wants Katniss and Johanna to take the wire and Peeta tries to take Johanna's place, the facial expressions they give to each other gave away that it was long pre-planned to split Peeta and Katniss up so she could be easily protected.
Along with this, the reveal that Haymitch had been a longstanding member of a group planning to overthrow the Capitol was brushed over. It is more implied than explained. If it's going to be explained at all it might happen at the beginning of Mockingjay - Part 1, but I wouldn't hold your breath.
Even with the minor bugs, I thought Catching Fire was a great movie. It was well executed, well adapted, and just plain enjoyable. If you have never read the books I strongly recommend them. Catching Fire was the best book for me and so far it is the better movie. We will see how it matches up next year when The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 is released.
May the odds be ever in your favor.
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