Monday, December 9, 2013

Movie Monday: Catching Fire

Catching Fire
On the second and fourth Monday of every month, I feature Movie Monday. I recognize that few people have the time or desire to read the amount that I do, especially when it comes to the 100 Best Novels list. Luckily, Hollywood loves adapting a classic and I love a good movie almost as much as a good book.

Ok, I think I have given you sufficient time to see this movie. It's been out a few weeks now. If you haven't gotten around to it yet and don't want any spoilers, bookmark this page, run to your nearest theater, see the movie, then come back and read this post.

Another, perhaps less obvious, prerequisite for reading this post is the Movie Monday installation for the end of November. I took the opportunity to write about the first Hunger Games movie. A lot of my thoughts about the Catching Fire adaptation align with my thoughts about the first movie. I highly recommend reading that one before you read the following.

To begin, I really cannot express how much we enjoyed this movie. Kevin and I went to see it with four of our very closest, most Hunger Games-loving friends. Afterward, we went out to dinner and had a great discussion about the film and the books. I cannot take credit for all of the thoughts in this post. Some of them originated in the minds of others and were reaped from that conversation.

Overall, this movie was just better than its predecessor. The first was good; the second better. No getting around it. I credit a lot of that to the change in director. While the first movie was directed by Gary Ross, "Catching Fire" and the remainder of the movies have Francis Lawrence at the helm. I do not know much about either director, but if their work on Hunger Games is any indication, I am a bigger Lawrence fan than a Ross fan.

I think the change in director affected the film on nearly every level. The first film had a wobbly camera motion, particularly at the beginning, that I had a hard time with. I get motion sickness very easily and movies like that are never good for me. I was very thankful that Lawrence abandoned that method for "Catching Fire."

I am also giving him credit for the more serious tone of the movie. I recognize that some of this is due to the increasing doom in Suzanne Collins' original book. Still, I thought the first movie was a bit flippant with some of the deaths. The first movie wanted you to root against those other tributes in the arena and be pleased when they died. This film did a much better job banding the tributes together and pinning the Capitol as the enemy. No death has glorified. Of course, this is a central tenant of the plot, but I still think Lawrence did a good job showing it through the art of film. It just felt more grave when someone, anyone died at the hands of the Capitol. This movie really showed how evil Snow is, and I appreciated that. If you remember, it was a complaint of mine from the first movie.

No movie, however, escapes from page to screen without a few flaws. My first and foremost aggravation was, again, the lack of symbolism regarding food. Guys, the series is called HUNGER Games! How can we not emphasize the importance of food? There was no basket of bread to signal the endgame in the arena. When sending Katniss and Peeta's monthly prizes, we did not see that the Capitol sent spoiled food. In fact, we did not see those shipments at all.

While Lawrence did throw in a few quick lines about the citizens of the Capitol purposely regurgitating their food at the party so they could feast again, I felt that even that moment was rushed. In the book, I remember that being such a strong moment; it affected me greatly and made me stop to think about the message of the book. In the movie, it was not much more than a line separating lifestyles of the Capitol and the Districts.

I have expressed previously my disdain for Josh Hutcherson. I know practically every teenage girl in America is in love with him, but I just don't like him. I will say, he does a good job with the material he is given. He was a better actor in this movie than the first one. But I still have a major problem with how they are presenting Peeta's character. I want so badly to root for him the way I rooted for him when reading the books. There, I had no doubt that he was the one for Katniss. He was strong and loving and giving and above the fray. In the movie, the greatest offence is that he does, in fact, kill someone in the arena. We don't see it on screen; it happens underwater. But it still happens. Big mistake in my opinion. Peeta is supposed to be better than that! He cannot be Katniss's refuge if he is carrying the same sins as she.  I'll be interested to see how the final two movies handle the Peeta-Gale-Katniss triangle, especially with Peeta under Snow's thumb. With the books, I never wavered that Peeta would come around and he should end up with Katniss. Gale, while I love him for who he is, never seemed like the one Katniss needed. Right now, I'm afraid the movies are messing with my loyalties. I'm sure we'll talk about this more with the final two movies.

I really wish that they had split this movie into two movies as well. There is even more to cover from Catching Fire than from The Hunger Games. The first movie barely fit everything it needed to. I felt the second left out some truly important things. We needed more time to understand life after the 74th Games for Peeta and Katniss. To me, that whole part felt rushed.  It seemed like it all happened in a matter of weeks, not months.

I know plenty of people have and will see the movie without reading the book first. We all had a good laugh about that around the dinner table after the movie. With this one especially, I cannot imagine not having read the book. The ending had to be massively confusing for those who haven't read the books. And, of course, there is just so much more back story to things in the books.

Still, with all of those thoughts, I really was very pleased with the movie. No movie adaptation will ever be perfect. The Hunger Games team, cast and crew, did a phenomenal job bringing this book to life. I am so excited to see how the final two movies play out. I hope by splitting the book into two films, they will be able to cover more of the intricacies that Mockingjay so desperately needs to be complete.

Have you seen "Catching Fire" yet? What did you think?

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