Friday, 29 November 2013

film review: catching fire

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)
Director:  Francis Lawrence
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth
Genre: Dystopian Drama/Action
Rating: 8/10

Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark become targets of the Capitol after their victory in the 74th Hunger Games sparks a rebellion in the Districts of Panem.

I've seen Catching Fire twice now and it is definitely true that I have thoughts and feelings about it but as with so much with this series my feelings are kind of a mess! It follows then that in true cop-out style I'm going to make lists and not really synthesise my thoughts. If you're a sucker for punishment and enjoy watching normally very rational 25yr olds spiralling over fictional teenagers I suggest you wander over to my THG tag on tumblr!


Things I liked (Katniss and Gale edition):

  • The movie begins and ends with Katniss and Gale. More than that, the first hour did a real great of streamlining the first half of the book without screwing with their dynamic. The movie really made a point of stressing how important Gale is to Katniss and how that relationship will come to shape a lot of what comes later.
  • The whipping scene and its aftermath deserve a mention of their own because they were almost perfect. I was a little disappointed that we didn't get Katniss being hysterical and having to be forcibly removed from the room but otherwise it was right on point.
  • One of my favourite things about K/G is how tactile they are. So much of Katniss' narration of their relationship in the book revolves around their bodies; Katniss is particularly obsessed with his hands. Obviously that inner monologue isn't really a feature of the movies (a blessing and a curse!) but man, THEIR HANDS! In pretty much every scene but the first one they are touching. In that first scene they're still trying to 'go back' and the distance between them is startling and painful. But then the rebellion begins and that distance closes. There are no words for how delighted I am that the movie managed to depict that so well!)

Things I liked (other characters edition):

  • JHutch did a great job with Peeta again and I was glad that the script had a slightly better handle on his charming snarkiness. (See * however)
  • Jena Malone and Sam Claflin were great as Joanna - I have no strong feelings about them in the books but I enjoyed them a lot here.

Things I liked (production aesthetics edition):

  • The soundtrack was lovely. In parts it very eerily channels 'Lily's Theme' from Deathly Hallows Pt2 - that did not help my emotional state.
  • There were some gorgeous visuals. The close-ups of Katniss in the last few minutes were very striking (JLaw is pretty phenomenal at conveying pure emotion with her face). My favourite visual of the film however is just after the lady morphling dies - in silhouette against a sunset we see Katniss standing, Peeta kneeling in the water with a dead body floating between them - it's striking and terrible and a fairly accurate depiction of their relationship.
  • The original music that accompanies the film is a bit of a mixed bag tonally (they've decided to move away from the broken-down country/folk feel of the last one) but there are a couple of great tracks and perfect lyrics. I like Sia's 'Elastic Heart' a LOT!

Things I wasn't crazy about:

  • *I'm still not convinced by the movie version of Peeta. They're happy to cast him in the damsel-in-distress role but they don't seem to know how to incorporate his skills at emotional manipulation in to that and when that's important to the story (i.e. the pregnancy announcement) it never feels authentic because elsewhere he's depicted as being unswervingly good.
  • I think the movie needed to do more to ground the origins of the rebellions; it needed more about starvation and slave labour, it needed more about decades of suffering and destitution. The districts aren't just angry about the deaths of their children in the Games, they're angry about the ongoing deaths of their children at the hands of a tyrannical state.
  • The movie is pretty long and I think it could have done with less of the Games. I know why Peeta has to be such a liability but it became almost farcical - drowning, forcefield, poison gas, monkeys etc.) I think the message could have been adequately conveyed with a couple fewer 'Peeta's died again!' moments. I like Peeta, I like the inversion of traditional gender roles but it ended up being blackly comic.
  • Finally and most problematically, the movie didn't do much to assuage my anxieties about how the movies will deal with K/G/P in Mockingjay. This movie really downplayed K/P in the first half in its service of K/G. I'm worried that the movie producers view this relationship as existing in a standard either/or love triangle (this has not been helped by recent assertions by Francis Lawrence). I prefer to think of their relationship as a triumvirate but it's difficult to talk about that without ranting about MJ so I'll leave that there!

In short, I have feelings. They are intense and complicated. If nothing else the movie starred some very attractive people doing some excellent things with their faces and it could be recommended on that basis alone!

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