Friday, March 21, 2014

Rambling thoughts on hunger, fire, celebrities, books, movies and tween sensations (A.K.A., my review of 'Hunger Games: Catching Fire')

I have to admit, I was VERY late to the ‘Hunger Games’ party.  When the world went crazy for the franchise in written form, I completely tuned it all out.  I was, in my mind, above all that.  This was for teens, right?  I’m sorry, but I don’t read those ‘Twilight’ books nor do I see those movies and I was not about to waste my time with some teen oriented book on kids killing kids (seriously, why is this a thing?) and so despite all my friend’s kids raving the books, I looked at them like they were crazy and went on my merry way.  When the film was made, I was also pretty much a staunch objector.  I was looked at as a villain in the fantasy lives of my friend’s teenage kids who all wore their hair in braids and started pinning every picture they could find of current ‘it girl’, Jennifer Lawrence.  I was kind of adverse to anything Lawrence related at that time.  I had seen a handful of her films, including her Oscar nominated turn in 2010’s ‘Winter’s Bone’ and I just found her incredibly wooden and uninteresting.

Then I was on a plane to Europe and my friend leans over to me and says “have you read ‘The Hunger Games’ yet?” and I looked at him in shock, like ‘WHY ON EARTH DID YOU READ THAT?’ and he proceeds to tell me that he read all three books over the course of a single weekend (he was apparently sick with the flu) because his daughter was reading them and he thought they were great.

It just did not compute, like at all.

When I got home he wound up lending me the first book and I, begrudgingly, started to read it.  I read it in a weekend and I instantly wanted more.  No, it’s not a great book.  The writing is actually pretty terrible in parts, and the concept is kind of ridiculous (and seriously, this is for kids?) but the way that the story is told is pretty engaging and I had to admit to myself; I kind of understood the draw.

So I saw the movie.

I have since become a fan of Jennifer Lawrence.  I know some people don’t see what I see in her, and I completely understand the aversion to her.  She’s crude and rude and she babbles and says things that could be perceived as offensive and she seems incredibly attention hungry despite trying to play it all off like she’s above it, but she’s hilarious and in a sea of celebrities who SAY.EXACTLY.WHAT.THEY.THINK.WE.WANT.TO.HEAR. I love that she just says whatever comes to her mind.  She also proved me completely wrong about her talent when she blew me away in ‘The Silver Linings Playbook’, so I was not only a fan of her persona, but kind of fell in love with the complete package.  No, she’s not my favorite actress out there (and I do find her fans kind of ridiculous) but I like her now.

Oh, she’s good as Katniss, since that applies to this particular conversation.

Ok, so after seeing ‘The Hunger Games’ I was intrigued to where the rest of this story was going to go.  I snatched up the second book, ‘Catching Fire’ and prepared myself for the movie.  I kind of hated the book.  It felt like a real slump with drawn out segments that didn’t further the story and a lazily conceptualized finale that felt like a rehash of the previous ‘games’ and left me soured.  It wasn’t terrible, and it thankfully didn’t have those stupid mutant dogs, but I was severely letdown.  I knew that I’d see the movie and I knew that I’d read ‘Mockingjay’ (I haven’t yet, but I will before the movie is released later this year), but that was more because I hate leaving anything unfinished and so I had to complete the trilogy, but I can’t say that I was as excited to see ‘Catching Fire’ as I had been to see ‘The Hunger Games’.

I finally watched this last night, after feeling uncompelled to go to the theater to see it despite being invited by the same friend who lent me the books to begin with.

This is one of those rare instances where the film is actually better than the book, and where the sequel is actually better than the original.  Still, this is far from perfect, but where the book felt tedious, redundant and apathetic, the film found ways to make each point feel necessary.  It omitted moments that didn’t matter and nipped things in the bud, which was quite shocking considering that the movie is almost two and a half hours long.  It all felt so brisk.  Before I knew it, the movie was over and it seriously felt like I had only been in front of the television for like an hour, tops.

From a technical standpoint, this film is also a pretty big upgrade.  The visuals are much better this go around, and some of the cinematography is beautiful (but the lighting during the night scenes is awful).  The acting is a mixed bag (Sutherland is just perfection, but Clafin is shockingly ineffective, and while I wanted to love Malone I found her delivery kind of forced) but the returning cast mostly ups their game, especially Banks, who finds layers beneath the makeup.  Harrelson is awful here, completely phoning in each line, but thankfully his awful hair distracted me from his talking.

Yes, the cliffhanger basically forces you into actually seeing the final film(s), but this is the kind of film that makes you want to do just that.  In fact, I’m almost tempted to skip the book and just see the movie; but I’m pretty sure I won’t do that.

I give this a B.  This is far from my thing when it comes to film genres, and yet I was completely intrigued from start to finish, and it is an upgrade (slight, but an upgrade) from the first film.  

On a complete side-note, I'm really curious as to why Liam Hemsworth agreed to do these movies?  Like, did he expect this to be some career boost for him?  Honestly, I was shocked that he didn't have a huge role in either of these films, and while it looks like he has a bigger part to play in the last part, this really has made him...irrelevant.  I mean, his brother gets 'Thor' and he gets three lines in a movie that everyone forgets he's in?


  1. Haha I so agree with you about the second book and Catching Fire the movie is so much better, which is rare. I can say this with perfect confidence as I'm rather an adaption lover. Some character things finally made sense to me after seeing the 2nd movie! I love that the actors really embodied their characters to the extent I believe them over the book ones.

    A bit of advice, skip the book or prepare for a slog. If you think the second was bad the third is worse, though I look forward to the movies as I hope they pull another movie is better out of their hat. Cheers.

    1. I'll probably read it, only because I hate to leave anything unfinished and I've already read the other two, but I'm not wholly invested either.

  2. Yeah, this was a pleasant surprise for me. I liked the first film, but this one was far superior. I like Lawrence too, though I haven't found room to nominate her yet. Actually, she just misses for Winter's Bone. :P

    1. Ewww!!!!

      LOL, I'm in the minority on that one, I guess.