Like so many of you probably already have, I spent my Saturday night at the movie theater watching The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. After being overall disappointed with the books, I went into the first movie extremely skeptical, but I came out of the theater delightfully surprised. I’m sorry to say that the sequel did not generate the same effect.
Clocking in at just under two hours, Catching Fire had ample opportunity to introduce the other tributes that would be competing for their lives with Katniss, but somehow the writers and the director managed to make sure that without reading the book, I would have no idea who any of the side characters were. Another issue I had with the writing was that nearly no creative liberties were taken with the script. I understand wanting to stay true to the original story, but taking lines from a novel that is written for children, and inserting them into the script verbatim just seems like a cut corner to get this movie into theaters before everyone forgot about it.
Once aspect of the film that I was a fan of was the coupling of high quality visual effects, and heart-pumping action. Most of the killing of humans is done off-camera (this is a PG-13 movie after all), but standoff fight scene between a few of the characters and a bunch of bloodthirsty monkeys doesn’t shy away from the violence that these teens are experiencing in their unbelievably dystopian world. Another scene that conveys the horror of what is actually going on behind the shallow love triangle at the forefront is one where gas floods the forrest where the same group of characters previously mentioned are sleeping. The resulting blisters from just a second of exposure to the gas are absolutely disgusting, and that brought me as a viewer back to earth.
The most disturbing scene in the film, however doesn’t involve the actual games at all. Peace Keepers roll into District 12 and start lighting everything on fire and killing people for seemingly no reason at all. Emotional pretty boy Jacob Bla… I mean Gale Hawthorne runs in and tackles their leader and is then whipped in the center of their town. The lead Peace Keeper is actually one of the best characters in the film because this is the only scene I can think of that really drives home the point of how bad the government in this world actually is. The light tone is quickly brought back though because Gale is up and walking despite having his back torn to shreds in just a couple of days.
My biggest takeaway from The Hunger Games: Catching Fire was that nobody who hasn’t read the book should see this film, even if they’ve seen the first one. Looking back on the film, I don’t understand where the longer-than-average two hours went. There was so much potential for some truly emotional characterization, but it was ultimately lost to the (again) paper-thin love plot.