With The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part One (ugh) about to be released, what better time is there for me to get around to watching the previous film in the series. I think I reviewed the first film just before Catching Fire came out too. I dunno. I don’t follow these things. What’s a Divergent? What’s all this about running around mazes? I dunno. Here’s my review of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, or some shit.
In Catching Fire Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) keeps getting called Katnip by her boyfriend who is that Hemsworth that isn’t Thor. I think it’s cute. Because he can’t resist her. Like cats can’t resist catnip. Do you see? My cat didn’t care for catnip. Much like I didn’t care for that romance subplot. I mean, we all know Katniss is gonna fall in love with her not really boyfriend Peeta (Josh Hutcherson). He is good at making icing for cakes so he could pretend to be a rock in the last film. Remember that? That was weird. Anyway, Donald Sutherland likes seeing kids die so he decides this year’s Hunger Games will have the winners of the preceding games. That’s the plot device for this happening again to the same person. She’s starting a rebellion you see. It’s cos she was nice to that one little girl in the last film and then put her fingers in the air.
So, I think I’m done with the snark. How is the film then. It’s alright. That’s kinda about it. I quite liked the first Hunger Games as, despite hugely ripping off Battle Royale, is was at least attempting to tell a story with it’s own characters and did a decent job of juggling a number of simple films. Basically, it was a little more polished than I was expecting. Catching Fire still handles the themes of public image vs reality, of exploiting the poor for the gain of the wealthy and so on, but it does so much less and with no new way of looking at those themes. The majority of the focus is on building towards the inevitable endgame of the series. This involves Katniss being threatened that if she continues to inspire the people to rebellion, something she didn’t even try to do, her family and her followers would suffer. She’s then thrust into the games and a bunch of stuff happens until the film just ends and we’re told there was a big plan all along that she couldn’t know about.
Yeah, Katniss has no idea about the big plans all her friends have for her. Which means she doesn’t have a goal which is tied to the plot progression leading to the next film. Sure, she’d like to overthrow the Capital, but she’s more concerned with letting Peeta win. Why, I’m not sure. I know it could all be down to her wanting him to live, figuring if she’s dead her family will be left alone. But surely she’d know that if she died during a Hunger Games designed entirely to trap her she’d become a martyr for the people? Surely Donald Sutherland… President Snow, rather, knows this? I guess, er… plot spoilers… the games show runner… whatever they call them… Plutarch Heavensbee…ugh… Jesus Christ… Where was I? Yeah… Philip Seymour Hoffman is running the show and is secretly part of the plan to rebel against the capital, so he’s convinced President Snow to run the games this way. But that then infers that President Snow is too foolishly trusting of someone that’s an active part of a rebellion. You’d think he’d have tabs on everyone working for him.
I think the main problem with Catching Fire is that, really, there’s no plot arc or character progression for Katniss. Any potential direction is held at bay for a two part sequel we’re yet to see. Well, Part One is out this weekend, but you get what I mean. She starts off not liking the Capital and The Games. She wants nothing to do with them and certainly doesn’t want to be a leader of a rebellion. By the end she still hates the Capital and The Games, which is understandable, but is about 5% more inclined to inspiring rebellion. The film even ends (again, spoilers) with one of them “we did it all so you could be the one” endings. You know, the sort of plot device that usually happens earlier in a film and then the character starts trying to be the one or whatever. I dunno if I even what to get into the amount of luck required for the film’s finale to actually work. Sure, everyone else was in on a plan but it was a plan that could have gone a million different ways wrong had Katniss done even the slightest thing differently.
The thing is that, production wise, the film is pretty damn solid. It’s shot well, which has never really been an issue for director Francis Lawrence, but it also looks identical to the previous film. You’d think a change of director would have some effect on the appearance of the film, but it really doesn’t. Narrative is the real issue, such as the contrivance of getting Katniss and Peeta into another Hunger Games because you need them to be in the film if it’s called Hunger Games. Like the silly set up for Battle Royale 2, these sorts of sequels always rely on a certain amount of acceptance that you’re gonna see pretty much the same scenario. It doesn’t help that everything that actually goes on during The Games this year means nothing until the last few minutes. It’s not about endurance and gradual elimination. It’s just about the right people happening to still be alive to carry out the plan Katniss is no knowing part of. The Games takes up half the film. There isn’t even an attempt to make Katniss the leader of the group she’s with, hinting at her ability to lead. She’s just there to shoot arrows when needed and be tortured by the traps in the jungle. They get attacked by monkeys at one point. I’ve got nothing to add to that. It’s just a thing that happens.
Really, the film just feels flat and pointless. I get that it’s moving onto something else in the future but there’s no reason why it can’t be a solid story on it’s own. Empire Strikes Back effectively had the same goal and it knocked it out of the park. The template has been laid down before. I’d probably be fine with Catching Fire (the film, not the act of) if it managed to at least get that template right. But it doesn’t. Instead we have a film that fails to leave a mark, fails to be memorable and, worst of all, fails to get me hyped for the next film. Basically… meh.