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The Hunger Games, Catching Fire (2013)


 
Reading The Hunger Games left me with mixed feelings mostly of the irksome reaction, then watching the film adaptation made me see there was “more” to the story so when a follow-up sequel was announced, I had been sufficiently intrigued.

Haunted. Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) rarely has a moment’s peace from the memories of the Hunger Games she was a part of. Her family may live better now but her life will never be the same, particularly her relationship with best friend Gale (Liam Hemsworth) who has distanced himself emotionally believing that Katniss’ act of love with her fellow 12th district competitor Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) was very real. Arguing against it, Katniss assures Gale that it was for show – to survive, just as she’s about to make the Victory Tour with Peeta, Katniss discovers that unless she makes the diabolical President Snow (Donald Sutherland) believe in her love for Peeta, bad things will happen to her family and those she loves.

Angry over the spark of rebellion Katniss has stirred, Snow believes he can make an example of her by reminding the distracts who is in charge. Unimpressed by Katniss’ attempts to prove she’s in love with Peeta, he enacts a Quarter Quell, a version of the Hunger Games that can happen every 25 years that pits past winners against each other. Reunited with their mentor (Woody Harrelson) for another training tour, Katniss and Peeta soon learn they aren’t the only two devastated over what their president is forcing them to do.  
 

It’s really too bad I didn’t get a chance to read the book prior to seeing this film because I remember how much “fuller” it was to read The Hunger Games before watching its adaptation. Alas, every good intention does not get a book read and while I could have put off seeing the film, who knows when I’ll get to the book and I really wanted to watch the next chapter. So I did. I came away with a much better feeling and as a result, that alone did make for a more rewarding cinematic experience. With that in mind all of the conclusions I walk away with will be based solely on the film – however I can say that friends have said this is an awesome adaptation and I trust that explicitly.

I’m not really sure it’s accurate to say we “enjoy” these movies as that implies a more lighthearted experience. The film does draw us in with pretty notions though underneath there is a darkness to it that has been the norm in the young adult genre of storytelling. Following in the wake of the Twilight movies and now competing against the Divergent series, this franchise has a lot of work ahead of it in order to live up to its producers and distributers standards. Fortunately it has a running start and is surpassing many expectations (it was the highest-grossing North American film of 2013) – my own included. Before I gush too much about any one element, let me start off with this, this film is magnificent. By my eye, it went above and beyond its predecessor and built off of that while still growing and shaping how it will (presumably) climax. Designers, cast and the director really deserve more credit than they probably get for these. They may only be “entertainment” and as such not fit into the mold of Oscar-worthy cinema but dang – ‘Catching Fire’ is definitely a spark that cannot be ignored.


Costuming is gorgeous – from everything Katniss dons to Effie’s (played by Elizabeth Banks) wacky creations, costumers deserve a grateful hand of applause. Oddly instead of distracting from the picture – because of its’ “bigness,” it adds to the atmosphere, characters and the “emotion” of the scene. Speaking of those characters, can I just give a little shout for joy…! I actually felt something for Katniss’ predicament, felt her emotions, felt for what she was going through. When I read the first novel, I remember thinking the girl was a board which in turn bored me so to finally feel like a character I want to like is coming to life, is capable of feeling makes this a far more pleasant thing to watch. What is more interesting is how she is changing towards Peeta (who, by the way, is as "cute" as ever. Like, seriously… who doesn’t like him?). She feels a pull towards him because both of them know what the other is trying to live through yet she is afraid of anything more between them. Also thrown into the mix along with returning favorites are newbies Sam Claflin (Snow White and the Huntsman) and Jena Malone who turn in epic performances.

Certainly, I’m not a girl who can judge this on its book, however as a cinematic performance, this was beautiful. I loved the imagery, performances and the build up to its climax - one that is finally going in a direction we can stand up and root for, something that the leading lady played with grace, passion and intelligence. This sequel was on fire and then some. 

(Parental review; some of the deaths are more brutal than others,  soon as the contestants enter the arena, fighting breaks out – arrows, spears and any form of weapon is used to get “kills.” At various points in the film, they are also “tortured” by number methods [they’re attacked by birds or fire], a lot of which is psychological. The film is rated PG13.)
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Rissi
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21 comments:

  1. This is my favorite book of the three. My favorite character is in this one. And I LOVED the movie.

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    1. Wonderful! I've heard that this as an adaptation is excellent and that 'Catching Fire' is the best book, so I'm eager to read it - I'll for sure have to read CF as well as Mockingjay prior to seeing "part 1." :)

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  2. I echo what Dawn said- this is my favorite book and I am VERY, VERY, pleased with how the movie turned out. It's probably the best book-to-movie adaptation I've seen in a while. Glad you enjoyed it, Rissi! I hope you have time to read the book before too long. :)

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    1. This makes me really happy, Rosie - I've been told this adaptation is complimentary to the novel and having watched it, I can easily believe that. Reading THG prior to the movie made it all the "better" so I cannot wait to see what this book-to-screen adaptation is like. :))

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  3. I really enjoyed this one (if "enjoyed" is the right word...) much more than the first one. It was a great adaptation, and I was SO glad they got rid of the saky camera that plagued the first movie.

    Oh, and I thought Sam Claflin looked familiar...now I know why. :)

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    1. Me, too, Hayden! I'm much more in tune with the direction the story is going (i.e., characters coming together to work with each other rather than against - to fit an enemy) and felt like the entire film was beautifully produced. You know I didn't notice the difference in camera work while watching it though now you mention it, you are so right! Far and above, it was better in this instance.

      Yes! Sam was SWATH, and it's fun to figure out where else we've seen them. :)

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  4. Great review Rissi! I'm so glad you enjoyed this one (er, well, felt more positively towards this one -- "enjoy" does seem to be a too frivolous descriptive) so much more than the last. It was just gorgeous, and powerful, with better acting, better costumes, better adapting... just better. Better than I had thought would be possible. :)

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    1. Thanks for reading, Sarah - always appreciate your perspective.

      Yeah, I'm not sure we can say "enjoy" with these just because, well, they are "dark." That being said, this follow up was ten times better for me - the story is progressing nicely and in a direction I can root for, the production is also beautiful - those costumes are just... wow. Wonder what Mockingjay will bring!? :)

      Super glad this was a nice surprise for you - same here!

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  5. These two films are the most accurate and faithful book-to-film adaptations I've ever seen. :) While I would definitely say I would have rated the books in descending order when I read them the first time (I "enjoyed" the first the most, really liked the second one, but the third one was my least favorite), I think that I prefer the Catching Fire film to the first film. It was just really amazing. Basically my only complaint was that Katniss and Gale kissed too much. :) Yeah...I love Peeta. {I think they added one extra kiss that wasn't in the book, but they made one of the others initiated by Katniss in the movie while in the book it was all Gale. Tiny little thing, but I don't like love triangles.}

    The Hunger Games is one of the most memorable trilogies I've ever read, and I'm glad the films are doing them justice. :) Can't wait for Mockingjay, even it was my least favorite book of the three.

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    1. From various conversations and reviews I've had/read, I have gotten that MJ was the least favorite of fans. Given how well I liked CF (the film), I'm wondering what I'll think of MJ as a film considering so many thought it the least interesting of all the books. I'm going to finish reading the novels - with any luck prior to the film release, and am hoping to find a similar "betterment" as I did in the HG movie. I like Peeta best too just because I don't feel like I know Gale well. When I read HG then saw the film, it was like I didn't have opportunity to really understand who he is. Plus unless I hate him, I usually root for the "new guy" because normally the girl chooses the childhood sweetheart. Like you, I'm not a love triangles biggest fan - the only one I'm putting up with is The Selection. Or those that are unique. ;)

      I'm happy to know a book fan is pleased with the films, Kristin - makes me all the more anxious to read the final novels. Bring on Mockingjay I say. ;) As always, glad you shared!

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  6. Ahh Catching Fire! I was SO pleased with the movie. This was also my favorite book out of the trilogy and like everyone else said, I thought it was the best book-to-movie adaptation I've ever seen. The cast is incredible (love Jennifer Lawrence!) and I loved all the sets and costumes. I'm looking forward to the next movie. Great review, Rissi!

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    1. Hooray! I'm getting even more excited to read CF then. Cannot wait to see what I think - then, of course, I'll have to rewatch the film. ;)

      Love this cast - Jennifer Lawrence deserves all of her acclaim as do those costumes. Oh, my! The creativity that goes into them... stunning.

      Me, too! Bring on Mockingjay. Thanks for reading, Jillian. :)

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  7. I actually like the movie better than the book. I think that's because they skim over so much of the violence and craziness - I mean they only have two hours to get everything in. I actually didn't love the books either. So dark, and crazy, and depressing. It practically made me depressed for a few days. The movie I thought was really well done and I'm partly looking forward to the last one - partly because I know what happens.

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    1. Good to know, Tressa. I much preferred THG movie to the book as well and suspect that it'll be similar with CF, however I liked being able to get the full "scope" of the story that reading the book then seeing the film can provide. Cutting a film down to size has to be hard but I admire the filmmakers when they do this well - one of the best examples of this in the 2005 Pride & Prejudice. I don't envy them that task. What I liked best about CF was the better direction it was going. Now instead of fighting each other, they're starting to form a rebellion against the real enemy.

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  8. Catching Fire is one of my favorite movies of all time. The acting was phenomenal (JLaw deserves an Oscar for that performance!) and it was one of the best book to movie adaptions! I am too too too too too excited for Mockingjay Part 1! (Except why did they make the third book into two movies?? I have to wait a couple years to see them all now!) Loved your review, Rissi!

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    1. I would say that, too, Bekah - it's far better than THG film just for its better storylines.

      Jennifer really does "carry" these movies brilliantly - I wouldn't argue her getting recognition for this role at all, and of course, I'm happy to hear from all of you what a good adaptation this was. Other than just dragging the franchise out more (not only will we have the wait, we'll have to deal with - presumably - a horribly cliffhanger in part 1!) I'm not sure why studios think it's cool to split the final book in half. That's a trend in YA book-to-movie adaptations. It was just announced that Allegiant would be two films also.

      Thanks for reading! :)

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  9. I loved Catching Fire. I hated the ending because it was SUCH a cliffhanger, but I guess that's to be expected so we're suckered in to reading and watching Mockingjay. I love what you said about Peeta. He's totally swoon-worthy. I never liked Gale much, even when I found out he was going to be played by the delicious Liam Hemsworth, it didn't really sway my opinion. I think maybe it's because we learn so much about Peeta's backstory and how he's pretty much always cared for Katniss and has never really wavered from that that he's my favorite. :-)

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    1. Oy! That ending was an awful cliffhanger, Renee! I wasn't expecting it honestly because THG was tolerable. Just wait 'til we see the end of Mockingjay, Part 1, right!? ;)

      I'm in agreement with you about Peeta - that's why I've always leaned towards him. I don't feel like I "know" Gale. It's not that I don't like him (so far), it's just... he's undeveloped. (Liam does help a little in the films... I must admit. ;D) I'm definitely pulling for Peeta (although I pried the spoiler out of a friend) and think anything less is cheating us. Bring on that part 1...

      Glad you like 'Catching Fire,' it was a gorgeous film!!!

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  10. Catching Fire was my favorite book of the three, and the movie definitely lived up to my expectations by surpassing the first movie. Mockingjay was so depressing... I'm hoping that the movie version will give me a new perspective and redeem the book somewhat for me. It's insufferable that we have to wait this long between adaptations!

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    1. This is fabulous. You've no idea how thrilled I am to know this was a well made book-to-screen adaptation, Kate. Cannot wait to see what comes of my experience once I do read the novel. That's my wish too. I've not read MJ yet however from what everyone reports, it sounds like the trilogy didn't end well in regards of being the best novel. Three cheers for a better film adaptation - given the beautiful-ness of 'Catching Fire,' I have faith!

      Boo to the wait. It's just not fair. ;)

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