My wife and I recently saw the film version of Catching Fire, the second in the series of movies based on Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games book trilogy. Overall, I thought the movie was very impressive, as good or better than the first film in the series, which I reviewed here.
The plot of Catching Fire revolves around Katniss Everdeen’s efforts to deal with the aftermath of her victory in the previous year’s Hunger Games, which was accomplished in a way embarrassing to the oppressive government of Panem. Eventually, she and her co-victor Peeta Mellark are forced to compete in another Hunger Games, whose participants are selected from among the winners of previous games. The movie does a great job of getting across the pain and frustration inflicted on the characters by the tyrannical Capitol. Jennifer Lawrence again did a great job as main character Katniss Everdeen. Even though I am very familiar with the books, I really felt for the characters when they suffered unexpected setbacks, though I knew exactly what was coming. That rarely happens when I watch other movies based on stories I am already familiar with. Because the movie compresses certain events and gives you little time to reflect on the action, the world-building flaws that are the biggest flaw of the books are less glaring here.
One notable shortcoming of the movie is a problem inherent in the story adapted from Collins’ book. It is difficult to believe that it takes Katniss so long to figure out what is really going on in the 75th Hunger Games. Also, some of the world-building problems in the book do crop up from time to time in the movie. For example, it is hard to understand why the Capitol is constantly relying on propaganda, yet has no official ideology to propagate. In the real world, oppressive dictatorships always have some sort of dogma that purports to justify their oppression. Indeed, the most oppressive usually have the most elaborate ideologies and do the most to inculcate it in the population. Think of the communists or the Nazis, for example. This problem, and others like it, are more significant in The Mockingjay, the third volume in Collins’ series, which deals with political issues more extensively than the first two. It will be interesting to see how the filmmakers address this problem in the next two movies (The Mockingjay has been divided between two films, rather than just one).
Despite these issues, the movie is very powerful. What Suzanne Collins’ work lacks in world-building, she makes up for in characterization and plotting, and the film conveys both brilliantly. If you liked the first movie and the books, you’ll be very happy with this one too.