Sunday, November 24, 2013

Catching Fire - SPOILERS (well, if you haven't read the book..)

The movie about "The Girl on Fire"! The second movie in the "Hunger Games" saga and boy was it intense. I've read the books, I re-read this particular book the weekend before the movie came out and I've already seen it TWICE since that time. There will be spoilers below! So, if you have not read the books, you might want to turn back now! Guys....get ready.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Directed By - Francis Lawrence 
Written By - Simon Beaufoy, Michael Arndt, & based on the book by Suzanne Collins 
Top-Billed Cast - Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, & Liam Hemsworth 

We're back in Panem, right after the last Hunger Games ended and just before the start of the Victory Tour. Katniss and Peeta are much as they were at the beginning of the last story: virtual strangers only thrown together by the games. Threats, uprisings, fiery costumes, and lots of violence move this tale along.

Pros - 

* I was happy to see that this movie, unlike its predecessor, did not open with a shaky-hand-held montage of District 12. I enjoyed the reality of that picture, but it also made me queasy. Steadicams for the win!

* In the book, the first half felt a bit slow to me. Yes, there's a lot that goes on...but those things are separated by huge blocks of time that are filled with a lot of Katniss planning and being at war with herself. While, in some instances, I wish they hadn't sped things along for the film, I was glad to see that things were moving at a bit faster of a pace.

* Since the book is first-person-narration, the movie is faced with the task of communicating Katniss' thoughts out loud and, specifically in regards to the Gale situation, I think they did a great job. Those in the audience that hadn't read the books (tisk tisk!), could see the "inner" conflict in that situation.

* Props to Elizabeth Banks and her seemingly effortless portrayal of Effie Trinket. There are bits carried over from the first movie that are just gems and lots of direct quotes from the book itself; one does not leave the theater wanting when it comes to Effie!

* Since the first movie cut out the Madge character, and she's so heavily referenced in the second book, I was really curious and a bit skeptical about how they were going to deal with her absence. While I sort of thought they might just add her in, they did not. Instead of Katniss seeing the beginnings of the rebellion on Madge's father's TV, she sees it on the train on the Victory Tour; an excellent switch, in my opinion.

* I'm a fan of James Newton Howard. Don't know who that is? He's not an actor or director...he's a composer and his work is amazing.

* I missed the conversation between the two district escapees and Katniss but I almost believe it happened and they just cut it due to her reaction at the end when Plutarch casually mentions District 13 and she's just like "but Peeta". I'm putting this here because I want to believe it happened...

* I give the extras in this movie a pat-on-the-back for doing a much better job than the ones in the previous film at the District 12 salute. I re-watched the first movie before seeing this one and I lost count of how many did it incorrectly. Good job, Catching Fire cast, good job.

* The cat is the right color! I'm not sure if you noticed, I'm sure you did, but there is a different Buttercup in this movie and I'm super stoked. Somehow, it got past all the people that Buttercup is supposed to be "muddy yellow" and cast a black & white cat in the first movie. WHAT? Come on, people. The color-corrected-cat is in several scenes in this film and I smiled every time.

* I'm sure there are already loads of posts up regarding continuity errors but I'm not going to be one. What? I can compliment's not like I always complain about that or anything. Anyway, I'm really only speaking of a specific scene. A scene in which it would have been super easy to have an error and they did not. I'm not sure, though, if the credit belongs to the continuity person or if it should go to Jennifer Lawrence as it appears as if this scene was done in a single take and chopped to work in another camera angle. Either way, I salute you people for leaving her hair alone.

* JLaw gets an asterisk. We've seen a lot more of her since she was first cast as Katniss Everdeen and I wasn't sure what that would mean for this movie. I never doubted her ability, I doubted my ability to see past Jennifer Lawrence running through a set in order to see Katniss Everdeen running through the jungle. I needn't have worried. I especially enjoyed watching the "switch" in the very last shot.

* I thought the interview with Johanna was hilarious. I was both surprised and pleased that they opted to bleep out that word and I thought it gave the scene a nice reminder that this was something broadcast out to the districts, not just a play for the Capitol.

* Stanley Tucci. Need I say more? I will, but I don't think it's really necessary. From the purple eyebrows, to the monstrously large laugh, Stanley Tucci brings Caesar Flickerman to life in a way I don't think any other actor could.

* Speaking of actors bringing characters to life, Donald Sutherland is creepy as President Snow. But, we all knew that already. I was a little worried that we wouldn't be able to "smell" the rose and blood that accompanies him in the book, but the screenwriters added in a little gem during the final stop of the Victory Tour that does the trick.

* The arena. I don't know what else to say. CGI included (though, I did chuckle once or twice at actors swinging weapons at non-existent foes). I loved the fog, I loved that I could actually see what was happening, even at "night", and I loved the JabberJay scene. It was just well done.

Cons - 

* Ok, it wasn't all beautiful music and accurate portrayals....Let's start with the thing that bothered me from the start: Katniss' hair color change. What the heck? Did the "the girl on fire" get singed? For those wondering why Jennifer Lawrence cut her hair...I think you can see the reason in this movie. Get the girl some conditioner.

* "It's a chink in the armor". Yes, that is what it is. What did they actually call the flicker in the force field, though? A "flaw in the system". While, yes, they are basically the same thing...THEY AREN'T. It's a line, guys, it's not a character that you'd have to cast and pay and make time for. It's differences like this in book-to-screen adaptations that annoy me most because they're pointless. Katniss says that phrase at least three times in the book and it's uttered zero in the movie. I don't understand.

* Why didn't Mags talk in the movie? I guess I can sort of give a pass because those that hadn't read the books might be frustrated if they couldn't understand her, they can go to the library.

* While I realize that it's something I just need to get over...I couldn't get past Sam Claflin (Finnick)'s accent. Yes, he's English, and yes I even gave him a bit of a "well, he's been around the Capitol a lot longer than a lot of these other have.." pass. Still, consistency is key. Same goes for you, Liam Hemsworth.

* This was probably just a time thing, no pun intended, but why couldn't we take a second to see Plutarch's MockingJay watch during that dance? I mean, they danced, they talked...there was time. Just a quick flick of the wrist, a comment, a look, and they're out.

* I'm going to take a moment to speak for those that haven't read the books and are watching with a skeptical eye: I'm also confused as to why Peeta "died" when he hit the force field but Katniss didn't even lose consciousness. I'm also assuming that the force field opens to allow the hover crafts in to get the dead bodies.

* I don't know this for sure, so I am completely prepared to say "I was wrong" later, BUT...during my second viewing I might have played a game called "when is Finnick really carrying Mags". It was a short game. -insert collective "aww"-

* Raise your hand if the Cinna/Katniss scenes make you uncomfortable.. -hand raise-

Now Mother..
This movie is rated PG-13. There's murder involved, a lot of violence in general, and some really scary monkeys. Other than children killing each other and one scene of a-bit-more-than-implied nudity, though, it's fairly clean. There are a couple of "f-bombs", but they're bleeped and the rest of the language is fairly mild. Be prepared to talk about war, sacrifice, and the dangers of a corrupt government without any fail-safes.

Overall, I liked this movie and I thought they did a fantastic job. The few things that I felt they messed up on are overwhelmingly made up for in the things they left in. Did they add some extra romantic-tension? Yes. Did they take some other liberties? Yes. But, in the end, it's a movie and not a book. You just can't have a 2 hour movie and have in include every single detail. I liked this movie better than the first and I hope I'll feel the same about the next two! May the odds be ever in your favor... 4.5/5 stars.