Sunday, February 28, 2016

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire Film Review (Non Book Reader)


(Contains spoilers from the first Hunger Games film. This review is being written from a non book readers perspective, we will also be posting a review from a book readers perspective).

We all fear what it would be like if the Nazis had won the war, or in an even worse scenario, if some new evil regime crushes the voices of the people and forces them into an oppressed lifestyle. Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games Trilogy explored this idea and made some relevant connections between our current geopolitical state and that of her fictional land of Panem. Hollywood, once again capitalizing off the hard work of others, has begun making the novels into full length features. The first Hunger Games film was a massive success, and not bad to boot, and now the second film has been unleashed upon a Jennifer Lawrence/ Dystopian Sci-Fi hungry audience.

Following Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta’s (Josh Hutcherson) survival of the 74th annual Hunger Games, it becomes apparent to Peeta that Katniss really had no romantic interest in him and was just playing that angle so they could both survive. Also aware of this is the devious President Snow (Donald Sutherland), who warns Katniss that if the public catches wind of her indifference towards Peeta, and the riots caused by her defiant attitudes continue, that he will have her family murdered. Forced to smile before the cameras, Katniss becomes the unwilling face of tyranny, and her “relationship” with Peeta becomes a welcome distraction from the chaos engulfing the twelve districts.

After an uprising in Katniss' home district, Snow declares that the 75th Hunger Games, also known as a Quarter Quell, will follow in the tradition of every 25th Game featuring special rules. This year, the contestants will be drawn from the surviving winners of past Hunger Games. Since Katniss is the only woman to have survived the games in her district this ensures that she will be forced to play. Once again finding herself on the killing fields, Katniss must try to outwit a new game maker (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) who is actively trying to kill her, as well as helping the other contestants survive the onslaught.

The first portion of this movie, before Katniss and Peeta arrive at the Capitol is absolutely phenomenal. Since the world had already been built in the first Hunger Games film, this film wastes no time with reestablishing the hidden horrors of living in Panem. Instead, the film builds upon that darkness and shows the true face of oppression through Katniss’ subjectivity. As she reads pre-written speeches to the parents of children killed in the 74th Hunger Games, you can feel the pain radiating from her soul, and when those who solemnly show defiance during her speeches are publicly executed the shock is almost too much. Jennifer Lawrence deftly carries the emotional weight of these scenes on her shoulders, which is a testament to her astounding talent. There is not a doubt in my mind that she is one of the finest actresses of this generation. Donald Sutherland is also a joy to watch as he venomously and calmly dictates his orders to all those around him. His scene with Katniss early on is probably the best scene in the film, as it showcases two great actors playing with their characters and the audience’s emotions so well, that you can’t help but get swept away in the moment.

Unfortunately, the film struggles to maintain this greatness and once Katniss is reenlisted in the Games, the film begins to feel very clunky. We’re treated to some scenes that are simply too familiar. The introduction of the contestants, the training montages (we know how good Katniss is with a bow for God’s sake), and the glimpse of the decadence of the Capitol’s citizens through the TV show hosted by Caesar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci). On top of this, the new contestants are some of the most obnoxious and annoying characters in the series yet, that I found myself rolling my eyes at the cliches as they flickered across the screen. Spectacled science nerd? Check. Aggressive lesbian? Check. Shady guy with a big wide smile? Check. To be fair, these characters do develop somewhat and by the end of the film I had acclimated to them, and even begun to like some. However, their introductions are just so poor that it spoiled a part of this movie for me.

Even though the film’s second half is greatly overshadowed by the first, the action and tension in the second half does make up for the weak characters and repetition in the story. This is all aided by some fantastic cinematography (which features some very impressive dusk shots) and a truly great, stirring score provided by James Newton Howard. And of course there’s Jennifer Lawrence, who I could watch microwave a burrito and probably be moved to tears. She’s just so charismatic, beautiful, and intelligent, that it is literally impossible to not love her. By the end of the film I was excited to see the future of the characters (in spite of the abrupt cliffhanger ending, but hey it was still better than Thor). This film may now blow you away, but i found that it has enough merits to make it a worthwhile time at the movies.

Score: 7.7

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