Genre: Science Fiction / Distopian
Watched: November 23, 2013
Summary: Well done, much like the first
I enjoyed the first film and loved the first book, but I wasn’t even able to finish Catching Fire (the novel) when I tried reading it years ago. The political mumbo jumbo really bugged me. Sure, if you’re a fan of the council scenes in The Phantom Menace or of The Matrix sequel’s Zion, you might groove to this kind of nonsense, but as a student of history I just can’t see how the A to Z of our current America could lead to this peculiar and lopsided society. And particularly not to 75 years of it, mildly unchanging. Sure, oppression is a long standing historic pattern, one of the broadest we have, but this particular type doesn’t make total sense. Or maybe it’s a matter of the stark division. You could have a vast array of rural poor, but you’d need a complex layering of mid level “collaborators” living in the district in privileged situations who helped perpetuate the system. And I don’t see how the Hunger Games themselves really keeps anyone in line, more likely it would inflame the situation.
In any case, I had hopes that the film would improve on the novel’s balance, and I think it has. Typical of screen writing, the trimming was mostly on the political side, leaving more time for the exciting arena section.
Fundamentally, if you enjoyed the first film, you’ll like this one. The macro structure is extremely similar: grim period in the districts -> selection -> prep for the games -> second half in the arena. It’s rare to have such a neat structure to rinse and repeat, and the whole idea of the “Hunger Games All-Stars” (borrowing from Survivor) works nicely to do just that — and to amplify the competition.
But there lies some of the problem. The movie spends its new character budget exclusively on the tributes that are part of Katniss’ team. The others remain close to anonymous, and so lack any personality or intensity. I guess, as the film itself says, “remember who the real enemy is.” However, this strips the combat of any personal or visceral quality. Instead, it’s more “man vs. environment.” In this case, said environment is a Hawaii engineered to kill old testament style: complete with killer baboons, blood rain, fog-o-boils, floods, and the like.
There is also the three-way triangle between Katniss, Peeta, and Galen. I guess it’s fairly realistically done. Truthfully, she likes both, and in different ways — and mostly she deals with them individually. This is no Twilight, with the embarrassing have to put the other boyfriend in the sleeping bag gag. It’s just not that intense, and Jennifer Lawrence plays Katniss close to the vest.
Overall, a fun watch, and while not filled with giant overwrought CGI stunts like many of the movies in the trailers (47 Ronin, I’m looking at you). But like the first film, Catching Fire, shorn of some of the emotional intensity that could have made it great, has to make due with merely being good.
Some obligatory peeves and questions:
- The very end felt extremely abrupt.
- If President Snow obliterated district 12, where’s his coal coming from?
- Katniss’ electric arrow trick? Common! Everyone knows that electricity travels at the speed of light. You can’t shoot an arrow AFTER the lightning bolt hits and then watch the electricity move down the wire.
- You also can’t shoot an arrow with a fire hundreds of yards into the sky.
- Katniss seems to have the quiver of every filling arrows, magically enchanted and +9 to hit. After fighting the baboons she is either out, or close to out. Next shot: full quiver.
- How could the conspirator’s crazy plan depend on her shooting out the dome?
- If everyone is in on it, why kill each other? (or was it mostly the environment?)
- Those boils sure wash off fast.
- Hearted stopped? A little CPR gets you in fighting strength in no time! (actually, I do this in my novel Untimed, so who am I to talk)