Hi everyone! We’ve got another review from FlixChatter’s newest contributor Ashley Steiner. Check out her bio if you haven’t already.
To make a long story short, I loved it! Wired.com is calling The Hunger Games: Catching Fire the The Dark Knight of young adult films. Let me liken it in a different way. Catching Fire is to The Hunger Games as Deathly Hallows Part 1 & 2 were to the Harry Potter films. This is the point in the series were the themes, actions and motivations of the characters make the “young” in young adult, disappear. Gone are the poignant heartfelt scenes (e.g. Katniss singing Prim to sleep after a nightmare, Katniss volunteering in Prim’s stead and Katniss’ reaction to Rue’s death). This film means business. It’s darker, grittier, and meatier.
Now that Jennifer Lawrence is an Academy Award winning actress, I had my reservations about how her performance would live up to her newly acquired title. I wasn’t disappointed. She greatly improved upon her character from the first film and really dug deep to pull off the tortured, traumatized and, quite frankly, pissed off character that is Katniss Everdeen.
The film gave a respectful nod to the world Gary Ross built in The Hunger Games; however, new director Francis Lawrence wasn’t afraid to bring his own interpretation—and it paid off. I think fans of the series will sleep better knowing Lawrence (director) will be returning to finish his work for the remaining two films. It’s truly regrettable they couldn’t secure him from the start.
One of the biggest critiques from Ross’ direction was the lack of a love story between Katniss and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson). Plus, let’s not forget the not-so-wise shaky camera syndrome. I agree wholeheartedly. I’ll admit; I’m Team Peeta, but watching their chemistry, or lack thereof, unfold in the first film was a joke. Ross didn’t help Lawrence and Hutchinson foster enough of a relationship for the audience to even understand there was an internal struggle for whom Katniss should love. That’s not the case in Catching Fire. Gale (Liam Hemsworth) definitely gets a run for his money! Attaboy, Peeta!
I understand the director’s choice to be cognizant of children killing children, but the novel already laid out all of the horror this entails. Out of the dark, darker and darkest themes from the novel, it just seemed Ross was afraid to really show the inhumane corruption of the government, and, instead, chose to focus on the themes of poverty, hunger and deprivation. To be fair, his tributes were all noticeably much younger children; whereas, in Catching Fire, we are dealing with previous victors, that are mature adults (some well into their 60s), with the exception of Katniss and Peeta.
I could tell the other audience members had a great respect for Lawrence’s (director) choices as well. There were no, “That wasn’t in the book!” shrieks from 15-year-old girls, or squeals whenever Gale (Liam Hemsworth) came on screen. People were watching this movie with such anticipation and anxiety, almost as if they were watching a stand-alone non young adult film. There was drama, intrigue and perfectly timed comic relief. However, once in the arena, it was almost hard to catch your breath after repeatedly getting hit over the head with roadblocks and new psychological challenges.
Now let’s talk about the brilliant editions to the already rock star cast: Phillip Seymour Hoffman (Plutarch Heavensbee), Jena Malone (Johanna Mason), Jeffrey Wright (Beetee), and Sam Clafin (Finnick Odair). The first film primarily cast no-name actors—and it worked. However, this film covers significantly darker subject matter, and I’m not sure that’s something inexperienced actors can pull off in a film of this magnitude. Nonetheless, this cast was amazing! A special shout-out to Jena Malone, who, if she’s anything like her character, needs some serious mental help.
While we were introduced to the bizarre and frightening world of the Capitol in the first film (e.g. crazy neon hair, skin mutations, out-of-this-world makeup, and Oompa loompa-ish costumes) the makeup and costume designers went above and beyond. Katniss’ hair was purposely darker (almost jet black) and her makeup was more bold and daring to match the darker themes of the film. It was almost as if you were watching a fashion show of nightmares.
All in all, Francis Lawrence and the cast really hit this one out of the park. I encourage you to see the film—even if you aren’t a HG fan. I’m already planning when I can see this again.
4.5 out of 5 reels
So folks, did you see this movie? Would love to hear what you think!
63 thoughts on “FlixChatter Review – The Hunger Games: Catching Fire”
I had a ball watching this film. Especially for Jena who is my favorite actress. She’s a bit wild but not that crazy but man… she made the whole film so fun to watch. If they went the Rated R-route or even NC-17, I probably would be in jail right now for…
That’s cool that Jena is your fave actress! I only saw her in Pride & Prejudice and I thought she was great. Hopefully she’ll get more prominent roles after this!
I hope so too as I’ve already managed to get a script finished 2 years ago that I wrote just for her though financial reasons are preventing me to copyright it and other things as well as other reasons as I’m also working on another script w/ her in mind as part of a trilogy.
WOW really? That’s awesome Steven! I’d love to read an excerpt of that if you wouldn’t mind sharing. I did a few ‘pitches’ a while back, one of them I’d love to develop into a script one day. Do you mind taking a look at ’em? I’ll send you the link 😀
Here’s one: http://wp.me/pxXPC-21r and my latest one from last year: http://wp.me/pxXPC-4Oi Let me know what you think 😀
Thanks for your comment. When I first heard she was cast as Johanna, I was unsure if she could pull it off, but I was pleasantly surprised! I wish they would’ve given her a little more back story, but I think she absolutely nailed her role.
I loved this film so much! I absolutely agree with your point that the previous director somehow seemed afraid of showing the extent of the political cruelty in the first film. It was refreshing to see this second one so capably tackle those themes. I can’t wait to see what he does with the third book!
Thanks, Anna! Yeah, like I said, I can understand why Ross might’ve held back, but I feel like other films have covered grittier topics (e.g. Doubt and Little Children) without suffering the repercussions.
I’m excited to see how he tackles the last two films!
Good review Ashely. First still ranks a bit better in my mind, but this one definitely had its moments and overall, gets me pretty excited for what’s next.
Thanks for your comment! Interesting…don’t get me wrong I still liked the first film, but I felt a little disappointed after viewing it for the first time. What was the deciding factor for you?
Heh, I’d compare this more to The Dark Knight Rises than The Dark Knight, seeing as they’re both complete and total messes, IMO. I will agree that Jena Malone was great in this, though.
Hi Chris, I think so far yours is the only negative review I’ve read so far (amongst bloggers), but hey that’s ok, can’t always agree on everything 🙂
Thanks for your comment, Chris. I agree with Ruth, it’s been hard pressed to find hardly any negative reviews about the film. In your opinion, where did the film go wrong? We can both agree Jena Malone was excellent!
It went wrong in just about every aspect, though none more so than the pacing. This movie was a bore of a chore to sit through, IMO, and that’s really what kills any movie more than anything for me. I can’t accept boredom in my cinema, lol. 😛
Yeah, I’m definitely finding myself in the vast minority on this occasion, but dammit I stand by my views on this movie, lol. 😛
I thought just the opposite about the pacing, but your POV is interesting, nonetheless. And I totally respect that! 🙂
Wonderful review, Ashley. This was so much fun. I actually thought what Ross did with the first installment was mighty impressive, though I agree about Katniss’ conflict with falling “in love” with Peeta vs. Gale.
Also, a little wind was let out of my sails when I read that line about wired.com describing this edition as The Dark Knight of young adult books, seeing that I came up with a very similar description of my own in my review. lol. Oh well. I suppose that was inevitable. 😛
Thank you, Tom! It was hard to edit myself when there were so many positives about this film. I can’t wait to see how the next two films turn out. Great minds think alike! 🙂
Nice review Ashley, enjoyed reading. Haven’t seen this yet but enjoyed the first one enough to give it a go at some point. Good to hear there are improvements.
Thank you! I’d love to hear your comments after you see it. Well worth the movie theater price!
Great review! And completely agreed!
Thanks for sharing! I’m glad you enjoyed the film as well!
Nicely done Ashley. Hoping to catch this one very soon as I really enjoyed the first one. The more Jennifer Lawrence, the better!
I haven’t seen this either Chris! Glad I’m not the only one, ahah. Hoping to see it next Sunday after my hubby n I back from traveling. I LOVE Jen Lawrence too!
Thank you! Agreed. This is probably really cheesy, but Jennifer Lawrence really is the girl on fire!
I agree with you wholeheartedly. And I love the fact you’re in “Team Peeta”, I’m too but then again, I’ve read the books, so I know how things roll out. Have you read them? It’s interestin to hear/read opinions of those who don’t know what’s gonna happen (because these films are very true to the novels). I wrote a review last week, you can check it at my blog fairytalepictures.wordpress.com. 🙂
Thank you for commenting! I DEVOURED the books way back when; although, I’m chastising myself for not rereading the books before seeing the film. I have the itch to now! I’ll have to check out your review 🙂
Welcome to Flixchatter Ashley! Nice review, you didn’t give out any spoilers, which is always a plus in my book. And since I’ve never read the books, I like to go into the movie with a clean slate. I’m going to see it later tonight, hopefully I’ll enjoy it like I did for the first film.
Thank you, Ted! I was trying to be cognizant that not everyone’s a geek like me and wouldn’t necessarily see the movie pre-pre-opening night 😉 I think, as a whole, the franchise has done a nice job of portraying the novels in a way where you can understand what’s happening without having to read the books. (They are fantastic, if you do decide to pick one up.) You’ll have to let us know what you think when you see the film!
So I saw it the other night, I liked it. Although I felt like I was missing something from the story since I didn’t read any of the books. The scope of the story is much bigger than the last film but somehow I liked the first one more. I’m looking forward to the next two films since this one ended with a cliffhanger.
BTW, if you’re going to see it again, try to go see it at a real IMAX theater. I don’t know where you live but if you’re in MN, go see it at Great Clips IMAX at the Zoo. The last 50 minutes of the film were shot with IMAX cameras so you feel like you’re in the game once the their in the arena. It’s pretty cool!
Thanks for the follow up, Ted! I’m glad you liked it. I thought the film followed the book very closely, but, like any book-turned-movie, it’s always hard to convey the exact emotions and details. The cliffhanger was exactly the same in the book, so you can imagine everyone’s rush to read the final book! Out of the series, I felt like Mockingjay was the weakest; however, I’m anxious to see how the last two films are as well.
I’m jealous! I originally wanted to see it at the IMAX, but was deterred by the price. It does sound like it would be a pretty incredible viewing experience, though!
Yeah my girlfriend is actually going to read the books after we saw this movie, she wanted to know what happens next and doesn’t want to wait to see the next film till next year. LOL.
Oh I know, the ticket price at the IMAX is way too high but studios paid quite a bit of money to transfer their films to IMAX so they have to charge more to get their money back. You should follow Great Clips IMAX on Twitter, they give out free passes for new films all the time. I’ve gotten free passes to see movies there for a over a year now. 🙂
You should both read them! They are awesome books.
Good to know–thanks for the tip! I didn’t realize the process to transfer films was so expensive. I might break down and buy IMAX tickets for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. I mean, who wouldn’t want to see Richard Armitage spanning six stories? I know Ruth will agree with me!
I might read the books once all the films came out, I used to love reading books but just couldn’t find the time to sit and read them anymore. Maybe I’ll just go the easy route and buy those audio books, lol.
Yeah, the process of getting films to IMAX is quite expensive. In order to transfer a certain movie to IMAX, they have to print them on actual film, which is very expensive. That’s why so many movies these days are going digital, it’s cheaper and faster. The reason I love IMAX so much is because I still love seeing films being shown on actual film and not digital disc.
Well, if you do decide to read the books, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. They were a very quick read!
The background on converting films to IMAX is very interesting! Everything always seems to come back to the film vs. digital debate, doesn’t it?
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Great review, Ashley! I loved it just a bit less than you did but I agree this was better and meatier than the original. Had a lot of fun!
Yes, it was definitely a step in the right direction. Thanks, Fernando!
Hoping to see this soon. Jennifer Lawrence sure does have some good roles lately. I just couldn’t find any bad reviews about it yet ahah. Nice write up!
Thanks for your comment! I think this type of film series would be any young actor’s dream and nightmare, but J.La has definitely proven she can’t be written off as a typecast actress.
Nice review! I was pleasantly surprised by the film. I liked The Hunger Games, but I loved Catching Fire.
My feelings exactly!
I forget how young Jennifer Lawrence actually is…. she’s so good and look a little more mature than her age. The film seems to be gaining universal love. It seems that I just have to see it in theaters then…
I agree. For someone so young, so can really convey mature emotions on screen. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed!
I adored this just as much as you. Such a beautiful realization of book to film. Jennifer Lawrence can do no wrong at this point. Needless to say expectations for American Hustle are quite high.
Thanks for your comment, Mark. I’m glad to hear it! I already saw it, again, over the Thanksgiving holiday break, and it was just as good! I agree; it sounds like she’ll be playing a very unique role.
Good Review 😀
It was a great film, really liked it a lot. Thought it was a fantastic improvement over the first, and I cannot wait for the next one, especially after that ending 😀
Thanks, Tim! My thoughts exactly!
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I’m quite confident to defend the first movie and the lack of romance between Peeta and Katniss, I actually think it made sense. They just met, they pretty much lacked chemistry for me in the first books as well, I just enjoyed Peeta’s character. Now, the second book on the other hand, you can tell that the romance started on their Victory Tour when Katniss was suffering from the nightmares and Peeta was there to help her.. he understood her and I think that made her feel safer than Gale ever made her feel. I’m not saying the first movie was better than this one, I’m just saying some of the direction for me, made sense.. Nice review!
You make a really good point, but, in my opinion, the direction was lacking. Thanks for your comment!
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If you love Suzanne Collins, you know what to expect. Her novels are brutal, poetic, tragic, and artistic, with splashes of very grim humor. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is clearly Collins’s style, and I loved every second of it, from the cinematography (every shot is gorgeous and creative) to the story, which blends Shakespearean tragedy, murderous love, Gothic horror, and layered character drama. The characters are complex and there is plenty of moral ambiguity to go around. Even the most sociopathic character evokes sympathy. The direction is restrained and the performances are nuanced – like CHILDREN OF MEN, there are too many subtleties to take in on the first viewing. Suzanne Collins is an intelligent, bold, consistently surprising novelist. It’s unpredictable
scenes go from brutal and heart-wrenching to laugh-out-loud hilarious
in an instant. This is closer to the classic scifi’s of yesteryear than any modern-day CGI-fest as far as being over-the-top brilliant, and it’s incredibly rich, thought-provoking, and rewarding.
If you like beautifully told dystopian stories (CHILDREN OF MEN) or are a fan of Suzanne Collins, seeing The Hunger Games: Catching Fire should be obvious. Easily one of the best films of 2013.
More information about the movie you can find it here
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