On Saturday, Feb. 15, the UR Cinema Group played “Catching Fire”, the second installment of the “Hunger Games” trilogy. Here we go, back into the arena…
“The Hunger Games: Catching Fire,” directed by Francis Lawrence, combines personal struggles of love and survival with the terror of revolution against tyranny. It picks up where the first movie left off, with Katniss and Peeta trying to come to terms with the aftermath of their previous victory in the arena.
Jennifer Lawrence stars as Katniss Everdeen. Josh Hutcherson stars alongside Lawrence, playing the part of Peeta Mellark. The chemistry between these two is evident on screen, for they play the part of Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta’s (Josh Hutcherson) complicated relationship perfectly. Katniss clearly cares about Peeta, even if she doesn’t think she loves him. Lawrence and Hutcherson navigate this with ease, illustrating the complex emotions that can be involved following traumatic life or death situations, particularly the struggle of living with post-traumatic stress disorder. Although this is not normally portrayed on screen so realistically, the lead actors bring awareness to the reality of PTSD. The choice to highlight this in the movie is important in light of the problems that American soldiers have been having with the disorder.
The movie’s focus is not only on the traumatized characters but also on the love triangle between Katniss, Peeta, and Gale (Liam Hemsworth). This concept has been done to death in various books and movies, which is one of the only downfalls of the movie as a whole. The movie spends more than enough time focusing on Katniss’ choice, which could be used to build up the rebellion brewing within the districts. The rebellion is a primary motivator for a majority of the plot, and the director makes the choice to limit the audience’s knowledge of it. While this is an interesting choice by the director, it’s almost frustrating that the audience is in the same boat as Katniss. This is mostly a complaint against the plot from the book carried into the movie, but it still can frustrate a movie goer.
The average movie goer may also feel no attachment to the characters, but when the movie follows characters to whom many have gotten close to over the course of three books, deaths are bound to create reactions. When one reads books, the deaths of characters in the books can be created in the reader’s mind. Watching the deaths of beloved characters as they are played out on screen can be simply heart-breaking (and horrifying, depending on the nature of such death). It is arguable whether or not such a thing is good or bad for a movie, because a movie that evokes no emotion is usually very bad. “Catching Fire” does a good job of balancing the sadness of the deaths with other emotions in the story. This allows the viewer to experience being sad without being overcome by it. This is a good directing choice, because it parallels the necessity for characters in the movie to quickly move past deaths of loved ones in order to survive.
Even though there is darkness in this movie, there are lighter moments, such as instances of humor, that allow the audience to breathe. These moments occur through the dialogue and actions of two characters in particular. Woody Harrelson is hilarious in his portrayal of Haymitch Abernathy, who is always there when one needs a quick laugh, especially in his endless pursuit of alcohol. Furthermore, Stanley Tucci as Caesar Flickerman brings entertainment to the film in his reactions to the tributes of the 3rd quarter quell. These two actors, in addition to moments of directing brilliance, enable this movie to be one of hope rather than pure darkness.
Other good directing choices include the reduction of the “horribly annoying shaky camera.” In the first movie, this feature was over-used and distracting, especially for those viewers who are unfortunate enough to experience episodes of motion sickness. The change can be attributed to director Francis Lawrence, who was new to the “Hunger Games” team for this movie. He replaced director Gary Ross, and he did a good job of bringing his own flavor to “Catching Fire” without making it seem as if it were from a completely different series than the first “Hunger Games” movie.
Overall, “Catching Fire” expands on the issues explored in the first movie. Yes, the districts are treated unfairly. Yes, it is a struggle to survive. This time around, the characters take their struggle to survive and turn it into a fight against the authority of the capitol. The oppressed are standing up for themselves. Now we can ask ourselves, what message is the average teenager (defined as someone who is not sent into an arena and forced to fight to the death) supposed to take away from this movie? Perhaps the message is that homework is not as big of a problem as twenty-three other kids actively hunting you down to kill you. Or perhaps it is to fight those responsible for the terrible internet connection that made it incredibly hard to do the research necessary to write this movie review.
Either way, “Catching Fire” is definitely a movie that should be seen by all, especially since it was one of the last projects done by Philip Seymour Hoffman. Hoffman played Plutarch Heavensbee, Head Gameskeeper of the 3rd quarter quell. He excelled in his portrayal of the role as he often did in his previous movies. Rest in peace Philip Seymour Hoffman.
“Catching Fire” will be available on DVD and Blu-Ray on March 7th.
Weisenberger is a member of
the class of 2017.
Mourey is a member of
the class of 2017.