“Every revolution begins with a spark.”
The last time we saw Katniss Everdeen (aka the master at archery and screaming) and Peeta Mellark (aka that other guy) was when they had outlived twenty-two other tributes and been crowned the victors of the 74th Hunger Games. Instead of returning to their families, they must go on a Victory Tour across all of Panem, district by district. But before she goes, Katniss meets up with President Snow (aka the bad Santa guy), who tells her that her defiance of the Capitol (aka Richpeople Land) has brewed a rebellion among the districts, and Snow wants these tensions soothed and simmered.
When Katniss fails to do so, it triggers the 75th Hunger Games, or the third Quarter Quell. These occur every twenty five years, and this Quell’s special rule is that all tributes will be selecting from the existing group of victors. Katniss’ mentor Haymitch (the drunk guy) believes that alliances are the key to survival, so she teams up with district four tributes Mags and Finnick. But little does Katniss know that Snow wants her dead and done, and the Quell will do nothing more than push Team Mockingjay’s limits as new obstacles are thrown at them by the hour. And as usual, anyone can die. “Tick tock.”
I think this movie followed the novel way more closely than the original. I watched the original Hunger Games film sometime back and was rather disappointed upon seeing that it took over an hour for the actual Games to begin. I mean, the Games didn’t start automatically in Collins’ version, but at least she kept it interesting! Catching Fire gets you straight into the action as the violent undertone of the film is tenderized with lots of public action and drama before the Quell starts. And when it does start, we get thrown into a great big thrill fest with people dying left and right and the brand new environments of the Arena. I was particularly near the edge of my seat for the whole shebang, especially when stuff starting getting emotional nearing the cliffhanger ending. Character development went by strongly and maturely.
But here’s my biggest pet peeve with the movie–it introduces new characters that you have absolutely no idea who they are unless you’ve read Catching Fire or done some wiki research. C’mon, does it kill to include a little exposition? The most challenging part of a film series is the midpoint, because you have to top the previous film while setting up the next film. When you fail to do this (à la Saw, The Santa Clause, Cars, etc.), you have been diagnosed with sequelitis. But when you go out of your way to do this (à la Empire Strikes Back, Two Towers, Aliens, etc.), you manage to sidestep the disease. Catching Fire definitely avoided sequelitis; while still containing the emotional grip and thought-provokers of the original, the Quell adds something new to the dinner table. And boy, does it taste good.
Presentation: From the nasty blisters Katniss receives from the poisonous fog to Katniss’ Mockingjay dress, Catching Fire‘s visuals are very proficient and spot-on. It looks so realistic as Team Mockingjay is attacked by mutt apes and tossed around like ragdolls on a spinning Arena. There’s a lot of glamour and spectacle during the interviews, and all of this makes for some very sweet eye candy. (★★★★★)
Acting: Let’s see, Katniss does a lot of screaming and gets hurt a lot, Peeta almost dies several times, Effie still has an ego almost as big as her hair, Cinna speaks a couple of sentences, Haymitch is the drunk comic relief you can’t help but love, Caesar has that annoying laugh, Mags doesn’t talk at all, Finnick becomes the new Peeta, Peacekeepers don’t like big scenes, Johanna speaks her mind, Prim’s a bit more mature now, Snow is vague as usual, and Wiress may or may not be insane. Yeah. (★★★ 1/2)
Writing: When it comes to a well-written story, Catching Fire delivers that more or less. But is the screenplay Oscar-worthy? Can you follow along without even trying? Well, it’s not necessarily Oscar bait, and you have to read the book to really follow along. Other than that, the script is actually pretty good. We can feel for Katniss each time she begins one of her emotional downfalls (which happens very frequently), but if you haven’t read the book Snow and head Gamemaker Plutarch Heavensbee will be very vague characters to you. You probably won’t know their grim plans for Katniss if they danced in front of you on fire wearing Christmas lights. At least the Quell scenes are pretty well-scripted. (★★★★)
Now if you do the math (12.5 stars divided by 15 total times out of 10) and some rounding, you’ll know that I give The Hunger Games: Catching Fire an eight out of ten.
THREE WORD CONSENSUS: Follows book better.
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Video of the Week: “VIRAL SONG” by Tobuscus. It teaches you how to make a viral video in music form! Over a million views in under a week. Impressive, and also kind of ironic if you watch the ending. “Did you know that cashews come from a fruit?”