Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Official Movie Poster
I've been looking forward for some time to review The Hunger Games: Catching Fire; the second installment in The Hunger Games Saga.

Last summer, I was unemployed and completely broke. Most months I couldn't even pay my phone bill, so when someone would offer to pay my way to a movie, it felt like getting a "golden ticket." This was one of a few movies I DID see.

And I couldn't wait until it was released to Netflix to see it again. 

Over the past several years, my movie watching habits have changed due to my my current financial status. A movie has to be really really good to go to for me to spend what amounts to dinner for two nights at least. And, most of the time when I do go to the theater, I leave with a sense of uncertainty about whether I liked the movie or not; confused most of the time, I find I have to watch a movie at least twice to really get an idea of whether I liked it. That was the case with the Twilight Saga. I didn't care for the first one, but felt compelled to watch the second for some reason, which I thoroughly enjoyed. And they seemed to get better and better after that.

As was the case with The Hunger Games. The first time I watched it, it seemed lackluster and unappealing to me. It was another movie adapted from a book I never heard of like Twilight and Harry Potter. I'm not much of a reader either, and as bad as it sounds, a movie adaptation has historically been the excuse for me NOT to read the book, any book. Eventually after watching The Hunger Games, I fell in love with it, and have since watched it several times.

But such was not the case with Catching Fire. I LOVED this movie the first time I saw it, and couldn't wait to see it again and again!

Really Cool Conceptual
The phenomenal cast of Jennifer Lawrence, Donald Sutherland, Woody Harrelson, Stanley Tucci and others is back, plus Phillip Seymour Hoffman, and many others.

The film picks up a year after the "74th Annual Hunger Games." The victors are supposed to enjoy a life of celebrity after winning, but in reality, they go back to District 12 and life goes on in their oppressed hamlet, save for the fact that they now live in derelict mansions in a deserted gated community the likes of which you would find in a zombie movie. No one else lives in "Victors' Village" except Katniss, Peeta, and Haymitch. (Love the character names.)

President Snow (Sutherland) is seriously salted by the fact that Katniss and Peeta have become heroes and symbols of hope for all the districts, and like all powerful dictators, he feels threatened by this and formulates a devious plan to tighten his grip by further persecuting his own people.

So, the "75th Annual Hunger Games" is even more brutal, and the contestants are comprised solely of victors of past games including Katniss and Peeta. All of what made the first film great is stepped up in Catching Fire.

It's funny how things grow on you. What I didn't like about the first film, turned out to be a lot of what I liked in the second. The story takes place in a dystopian economic evolution of what is now The United States,  divided into 12 "Districts." Originally I thought the costumes of characters living in District 1 and the Capitol were silly and ridiculously ostentatious, almost to the level of Star Trek. I mean Effie Trinket, the District 12 promoter and selector, looked like a Christina Aquilera-esque clown. They were a lot like what you see in those New York runways shows-ridiculous and impractical. But I realized, this was intentionally planned for effect. And some of them were kind of cool. 

Katniss with Mockingjay Wings
I started to pick up themes and motifs this time. The main theme being that their society is very much like Ancient Rome with it's districts. Rome itself being the shining golden city of modernization ruled by a vicious dictator like Caesar Nero. I'm actually thinking about reading the books, because the story really took off in this film, and I will be adding it to my list of favorites.

IMDb gives this film 7.9 stars. OK, that's about 8; but I'd give it a solid 8, maybe 8.5 stars: HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!