The Ninjabot

CATCHING FIRE REVIEW; So Good It Gives Me Hope For MOCKINGJAY

Posted on November 20, 2013 at 4:22 pm by David "Snackbar" Edmundson

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The second part of Suzanne Collins’ immensely popular Hunger Games series has landed at our feet. I was a HUGE fan of the the original book and film, but found the second and third novels to be a sharp decrease in quality. I went into Catching Fire with optimism that director Francis Lawrence (I am Legend) would expand the narrative outside of Katniss’ point of view and speed along some of the novels boring stretches. I am happy to say that Lawrence has done both of these marvelously, and I am excited to see what he can do with the train wreck that is Mockingjay, which is being split up into two parts Twilight style.

Spoilers Ahead

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The Hunger Games: Catching Fire picks up a few weeks after the events of the original Hunger Games, and we are shown a Katniss Everdeen who is very much affected from her time spent fighting for her life. Jennifer Lawrence returns as our heroine and quickly shows us once again why she’s an Academy Award winner. She’s plagued by nightmares of the atrocities she witnessed, and in some cases, took part in. Her sham relationship with Peeta is non-existent, and she’s trying desperately to hold onto the one person she can trust—Gale.

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We all know the story. President Snow is pissed at Katniss for sowing the seeds of dissent in the districts, setting in motion a plan to destroy her and other former winners by forcing them to compete in a very special version of the Hunger Games called the Quarter Quell. The Quarter Quell takes place every 25 years and involves a twist on the usual Hunger Games format. This particular twist involves forcing a past male and female winner to compete again in the games. All the while, President Snow and the new Gamemaker, Plutarch Heavensbee, plot to destroy Katniss and the rebellion she’s become a symbol for.

Perfect Casting

Lawrence brings a presence to her character that we didn’t see the first time around. She’s more in control and focused this time around, and you begin to see what a badass she can be. The supporting cast, though, is where the film really thrives. Woody Harrelson returns as Haymitch, and Elizabeth Banks as Effie, the fighting duo’s drunken mentor and refined chaperone respectively. I really enjoyed seeing Effie’s genuine sadness that Katniss and Peeta were forced to return to the games. Donald Sutherland absolutely crushes it as President Snow, definitely channeling his inner Palpatine. His partner in this film, Gamemaker Plutarch Heavensbee, was played delightfully by Phillip Seymour Hoffman—equal part creep, conspirator, bully, and manipulator.

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The cast includes a new set of tributes, half of whom are throw aways, but there are some standouts. My favorite character in the series was Finnick Odair, and Sam Claflin plays it exactly how I wanted him to. You never really know if you should trust him, but you want to. Jenna Malone joins the cast as Johanna, a mentally unbalanced former winner from district 7 who’s deadly with an axe. Not new, but equally amazing is Stanley Tucci’s return as Caesar Flickerman. He is one part Ryan Seacrest, one part Dick Clark, and 100% pure magic on screen.

More than Just Another Hunger Games

The scope of the film will also surprise most. The filmmakers really opened up the world of Panem, giving us glimpses into several of the districts, as well as more of the Capitol than last time. It really feels like a dystopian world, and people who like practical sets instead of blue screen will love the lived-in feel of the world. The chief complaint leveled most at the Hunger Games the novels is that it’s all told solely from Katniss’ point of view. If Katniss isn’t there, or if she’s incapacitated, then we don’t get to see what’s going on. For the most part, that’s the case here as well, with one big difference. The scheming exchanges between Snow and Plutarch are a recurring motif, and arguably the best scenes in the film.

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Let’s not forget the games themselves—twenty four people put into an arena and told to fight to the death until only one remains. This time around, it’s a lot more intimate because most of the former victors know one another, and in several cases, genuinely like each other. This leads to alliances, counter alliances, and betrayals. Think Survivor, but with axes, bowes, and tridents. The arena becomes a character of it’s own, and the environment is just as deadly as the combatants.

Catching Fire is weird in that it’s long, and feels it. The movie is 2 hours and 26 minutes; and though it feels long, it never drags or leaves you bored. It’s a weird phenomenon to have a film feel long but never cease to be engrossing. Having read the book, I knew where in the story we always were, but never wanted to mentally fast forward. Fans of the book will bitch for sure because of slight tweaks here and there, but the movie hits all the high notes from the source material overall. I found myself significantly more emotional at times than when I originally read it.

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Long story short, if you liked the first movie, liked the book, are a 13 year old girl, have a soul, like ass-kicking chicks, or just love a good film, then this is for you. I cannot recommend this film enough. It expands upon everything you liked from the first movie while introducing characters that you actually want to root for. Run, don’t walk, to the movie theater.

Snackbar’s Grade – A

I would love to hear what you thought of the film. Please leave your comments below. It makes our day when we get to read them—good or bad.

Follow Snackbar on Twitter @snackie_cakes for all your Geek News. Also, don’t forget to check out our Kickstarter for the Feature Film Non-Stop to Comic-Con.

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    • Judith

      I loved the movie as well. Mom

    • DarthShiva

      I have now seen it twice. I waited to read your review because I wanted to experience the movie for myself and draw my own conclusions without bias. I have to say that I absolutely agree with you. This movie was brilliant and beautiful and sad. Everyone definitely brought their A game! I hope that the last one will be as exceptional as this was.

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