The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Catching FireWaiting for the second instalment of The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, to come out was reminiscent of waiting for Christmas as a kid—I was so invested the wait was excruciating and interminable.

The agony was alleviated slightly by the social media-led arrival of Sesame Street’s The Hungry Games: Catching Fur, a genius-ly entertaining and educating spoof of the masterful ilk only Sesame Street could manage.

The spoof featured (and nailed) the three things I vaguely remembered from the book (it’s been a while since I read the trilogy, and even then I binged on them rather than taking time to fully absorb their content): fog, monkeys, and ‘tick tock’.

Catching Fire was probably my favourite of the three Suzanne Collins books. The Hunger Games hooked me in and laid out the foundations, but it is in Catching Fire that you really get to see the nuance and fraught complexity come in to play. Especially when it comes to the other tributes who, with the exception of Rue, are little known to and little understood by us.

In the Catching Fire, we see the long-term effects of ‘winning’ The Hunger Games as well as the selflessness and bravery of people working together for a greater cause. Catching Fire is dark, but it’s also grippingly hopeful.

Things are frosty in the beginning of the film—literally and figuratively. District 12 is cloaked in winter (I couldn’t help but think ‘winter is coming’) and Katniss, Gale, Peeta, and Haymitch are struggling with the aftermath of the games.

‘Lethal lovers’ Katniss and Peeta are learning the games don’t end when you get home, that you never win, you simply survive. They will be forced to play-act an epic love affair for eternity, something that sits awkwardly with them and that grates Gale, the original love interest who rounds out the triangle.

Katniss, Haymitch, and Peeta are together but so incredibly alone, trapped in their own heads (and nightly bad dreams). It is in this film that you truly appreciate why Haymitch self-medicates with alcohol.

I might be too wholly invested in this story, but I cried buckets throughout, kicking off at seeing an image of Rue broadcast behind her family. I continued when the first person, an older man, gives the three-fingered mockingjay salute and is punished brutally. The forced attendance by both Katniss and Peeta and the districts’ people during the victory tour were tense; ‘The odds are never in our favour’ graffiti was eerie. All of it was near-reality real.

The film does manage to wedge in some brief moments of comedy to take the edge off the darker mood. ‘Don’t invite him over, he’ll drink all your liquor’ Haymitch warns Katniss about one of the other tributes; ‘I never said she was smart’ he quips to a peacekeeper when she intervenes in a flogging.

I was intrigued, though, that some people laughed in the cinema during the reaping scene when it’s clear Katniss’ name will be the only one pulled out of the female pool. I found it not funny but bleak. But that’s a small and personal note not central to this review.

As with the first film, the costumes and characters are OTT without being OTT—we see a softer side to Effie and the on-stage interplay and stands against the Capital are goosebump-inducing. Katniss’ dresses are, as always, spectacular, and the vest she wears in the first few scenes is likely to spawn a fashion trend.

MockingjayThe ‘peacekeepers’ outfits are suitably imposing and austere. And the arena outfits are functional and full-body swimsuit-like, but suit the script. It reminds me that this series doesn’t go for the sexy options wherever possible, and I respect it for that.

That said, it would be remiss of me not to mention that Sam Claflin, who plays Finnick, is exceptionally cute. He’s a brilliant actor, more measured than the arrogant character in the book, which makes it easier for us to relate to and believe in the character. Excellent (eye-candy) casting right there.

I will say that the final shot that closes the film wasn’t strong and bordered on corny, but it does suitably set up the third book, the film adaptation for which we’re now going to have to wait another apparent eternity.

Although the filmmakers have stayed true to the books in the first two films, my hope is that they’ll deviate from the book for film three. Mockingjay lost the plot a bit, likely because Collins had never expected to need to stretch the story out to a trilogy.

Either way, I’ll pass the time re-reading the books and re-watching the two films. And also getting onto the next Richelle Mead book, Fiery Heart, which was just released and arrived at my house today.

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Fiona Crawford

Fiona Crawford is a freelance writer, editor, blogger, proofreader, and voracious reader. She regularly appears as a book reviewer in Australian BOOKSELLER+PUBLISHER magazine. Fiona is also (unfairly) known as the Book Burglar due to her penchant for buying family members—then permanently borrowing—books she wants to read herself.