I will have to admit that while I was impressed by last year’s big Spring movie surprise, The Hunger Games, but not too surprised. I enjoyed the book, and so I was pleased that the sequel based on its book is better than the movie based on its original book. Man, that was more than a little confusing. Why do we use the same thing for different mediums? I was not excited to see this sequel, but I was very surprised by something: not only is it good, but it is really good.
I get the feeling that someone didn’t think The Hunger Games was going to be the hit that it was, and so they threw only a little money at it. Granted, the first film feels pretty big, but it also feels very small in its scope. Catching Fire feels like the box has been blown out, and someone threw a lot of money its way, knowing full well it would be a bigger hit. Every scene feels bigger with more background being shown, and more of the world of this dystopian future being revealed.
If you are not familiar with this franchise, it takes place in a world that is controlled by a dictatorship split up into 12 Districts. At some point in the past, there was a rebellion in District 13, and it was nuked. Since then, the government, simply known as Capitol, has a “Hunger Games” as a memorial to those fallen. The Hunger Games is essentially 24 kids (2 from each province) put in a specially made arena so that they can kill each other. The winner of these said Hunger Games receives enough food to feed their District for a year.
I’m sure it is no spoiler alert by saying that Katniss Everdeen, the main character, won the Hunger Games in the first book/movie. Considering the book was told in first-person narration, I honestly didn’t see it going any other way. After all, if she was killed, it would have made an awkward ending. In case you forgot, she won it with her friend Peeta, which is the first time two people have won the Hunger Games.
Of course, the Hunger Games is all about celebrity worship, and Katniss and Peeta take this Hunger Games promotional tour. What makes this interesting is that all Katniss has to do is make appearances and read speeches on cards, but she finds that she can’t. Katniss and Peeta’s double-win has brought the winds of change to this world, and suddenly, the world is shifting into revolution as it decides that it can’t take much more Capitol. Katniss is slowly becoming a symbol for this movement, but she lives in fear that her loved ones will be taken from her by the tyrannical government.
This is what makes the story very interesting. In the first part, Katniss had nothing to lose but her own life, and essentially took a risk that for some odd reason paid off. Now, she has more to lose with her newfound riches, and even the man she truly loves, Gayle. Yeah, there is a weird love triangle in this story that is oddly-angled as Twilight, without the werewolf/vampire thing going on. It kind of takes the back-burner with everything else going on.
The basic plotline is really just the same as the first. This was something that was common amongst sequels of the eighties and nineties as Ghostbusters 2 and Die Hard 2 are what I called “xeroxed script” films. These are the films that feel just like the first one, except maybe the stakes have been raised. I have already stated how the stakes of Katniss’ life raise way high, and the games are no exception. She must now play in a Quarter Quell, which is a 75th anniversary all-star Hunger Games. It is a nifty concept, but I can’t help but wonder why every District seems to have a winner. Granted, some of the winners are old, even senior citizens, but it is just too convenient for this plot.
There are some things in this movie that feel very different from the book, which I first read two years ago. The end seems a little disjointed because of it, but there is a look on Katniss Everdeen’s face which is very satisfying. It is, of course, a set-up for the two movies based on the one book, Mockingjay. This book went into some very dark areas, and I would imagine that it will be tough to keep these at a PG-13 rating. I will admit that I didn’t like the last book because of its very dark undertone, but if it has the strength of Catching Fire, it will be a terrific film series as it was a landmark book series.