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The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

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Photo courtesy of sippycupmom.com

Photo courtesy of sippycupmom.com

Hunger Games: Catching Fire is currently the biggest movie at the box office, by a long shot. You could almost say that it has already “caught fire” (cue snare and cymbal). There is a good chance if you have not already seen this film, one of your friends saw it over Thanksgiving break and is pestering you to see it, too. Luckily, I have a review for you.

The movie picks up where the last movie left off. Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) has returned home victorious from the last set of Hunger Games (a competition where teenagers fight to the death). She is enjoying catching up with her old flame Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth), until the nefarious President Snow (Donald Sutherland) reminds Katniss that she is supposed to be in love (or pretending at least) with her fellow Hunger Games victor Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson). Katniss does not have much longer to be with Gale anyways, as Peeta and Katniss begin their twelve district tour with their flamboyant manager Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks) and Hunger Games mentor Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson). Along their tour, uprisings and riots begin to bring break out, causing President Snow and new Hunger Games designer Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman) to think up a strategy to quell these insurrections. What better than a new, amped-up version of the Hunger Games? This time the games are comprised of only veteran winners, so things are significantly more dangerous than before.

I have not read any of The Hunger Games books so my review is based purely on the film itself. I did see the first Hunger Games movie and there are some important similarities and differences. What’s similar about both movies is that if you are expecting teenagers fighting to the death from the beginning, you will be disappointed. The wait only causes me to think deeper about the premise of the movie, which seems more far-fetched the more critical thought I apply to it. No one in The Capitol (outside Cinna) cares for the plight of the outer districts? The Hunger Games, a televised death-match of abducted teenagers promotes order in the outer districts?  The beginning also suffers from forcing too much pseudo-philosophical ramblings down the audience’s throat (especially when President Snow starts to monologue). I like dystopian plots just as much as the next person, but The Hunger Games seems devoid of any dialectic. Maybe it is about economic inequality or dictatorship (kind of an obvious lesson) but it does not seem to impart any great warning to our society.

Catching Fire’s differences from the first movie are some of its strong points. Peeta seems to have developed a personality between the movies and now is a relatable character. Katniss drops the clichéd (in teen fiction these days) “incredibly emotionally stable female heroine” attitude she wore for most of the first movie (minus a funeral scene) and seems more human. The changes to the Hunger Games competition were where this movie benefited most. Granted, they changed the format (everyone is a deadly killer now) so the stakes should be higher, but this Hunger Games ratchets up the fear and moral quandaries, something that was missing from the last movie’s anticlimactic competition. Though it must be noted that The Hunger Games still feels a little light considering it is about a teenage death-match (probably due to wanting a PG-13 rating).

The movie is good enough on its own to be entertaining, but do not expect anything outside of a normal money-making holiday blockbuster. If your friends keep on nagging, it would not hurt to see this movie just to be able to talk about it.

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