Last night, I went to see the second Hunger Games film, Catching Fire, with my dad (best lads’ night out ever?). I was looking forward to it, partly because I’ve read the books and so knew mostly what to expect, and partly because I’d been told by several people that this film was better than the first. I’ll make it clear now that I was pretty underwhelmed by the first film. It was good, but in my opinion, the book was far superior and many parts of that first film were just a bit odd (like those dog muts at the end: I imagined them as something like werewolves, but the film portrayed them as some sort of giant pug thing). By contrast, because of what I’d heard about Catching Fire, I went into it with high hopes. I was not disappointed.
On a basic, visual level the film was stunning. The CGI was incredible (as is expected in big blockbusters) and the costumes were very believable. The people of the Capitol looked as ridiculous as ever and Katniss Everdeen truly was the Girl on Fire. For me, and I know that not everyone will agree, the film got the visual representation of the book spot on. Many of the characters (Finnick, for example) looked exactly how I imagined them and, but for a few minor details, the arena was pretty much bang on as well. It’s rare that you go to see a film and come out thinking that it got the book spot on, but this was one of the times. For me, this is a major plus point.
I promised a friend that I wouldn’t give away any spoilers, so I’m not going to discuss the storyline in depth. Many of you will already know it anyway, having read the book. I will, however, say this: it’s been a couple of years since I read the book, so whilst I remembered broadly what happened, some of the more minor plot twists and details had been forgotten. I have to say, this actually made the whole experience even more enjoyable, and has led me to decide not to read the books again until I’ve seen all the films. Even though I knew where the story was going, there was a lot there that I didn’t expect, and that definitely helped to ramp up the tension.
Now to some serious stuff. One of the things I do on this blog is talk about ideas – philosophical, theological, whatever. Catching Fire is a movie with an idea central to it (the same idea present in all three of the books). That idea is a forceful, revolutionary idea that would not be so palatable if it was presented in a less popular medium. I don’t think you could call the ideology of the Hunger Games full-blown Marxism (it doesn’t have enough emphasis on the economic foundation of society), but it’s certainly reasonably far-out left wing in its strong implications that capitalism is rotten to the core and something needs to change or very bad things will happen.
Above all else, the theme of this movie is revolution against the upper classes that live in wealth and splendour whilst the working classes starve and die in the districts. This is summed up in the line, ‘Remember who the enemy is’. The Hunger Games themselves are a reflection of the increasingly extreme nature of reality TV. This sort of idea isn’t something unique to this series, but there aren’t many other outlets which allow these sorts of ideas to reach teenagers and kids on such a wide level. Maybe it goes completely over their heads, I don’t know, but it’s not exactly hiding.
When it comes to this ideology, I’m going to stay perched on my little fence. It’s a way of thinking that needs serious consideration and I’m not going to condemn or praise Catching Fire for promoting it so strongly. I will say that there are moments in the film linked to this idea of the workers’ revolution that are some of the most emotional in the whole film. They stir you up and get you, the audience, angry with President Snow and his ridiculous Capitol. Katniss Everdeen and all that she stands for reaches out of the screen and encourages us to believe in her message.
Not everyone will like that way of thinking, but it’s there in the movie. You could try and ignore it completely, but it’s so in-your-face that you’re missing a large part of the power of the books/movies if you do. Even if you don’t agree, it’s certainly thought provoking.
Setting the political stuff aside once more, it has to be said that this is an incredible movie and a thoroughly enjoyable experience (yes, I will be buying the DVD). The 2 and a bit hours did not feel long at all and there was excitement at every minute. If you liked the books and you haven’t seen this yet, then get down to the cinema this minute and drink it all in! The whole production is incredible, and I’m very grateful to Suzanne Collins for bringing us this story.
My rating: 9/10