Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Woody Harrelson, Liam Hemsworth, Donald Sutherland, Elizabeth Banks, Stanley Tucci, Lenny Kravitz, Paula Malcomson, Willow Sheilds, Sam Claflin, Jena Malone, Jeffrey Wright, Phillip Seymour Hoffman.
Rated: PG-13. Action/Adventure/Science Fiction. Running Time: 2 hours 26 minutes.
My girl crush stars in this second installment of The Hunger Games trilogy. Katniss Everdeen is unbelievably radical. And the actress they cast to play her, Jennifer Lawrence, literally IS a girl on fire. She’s been having a moment since early last year when the first ‘Games’ was released. Then we saw her in Silver Linings Playbook delivering Robert DeNiro a tongue lashing – and my crush grew deeper. Now she’s overexposed, plastered on every magazine with that pixie cut and somehow I still love her. Obviously, she steals the show here as bow wielding and reluctant poster girl Katniss, “the Mockingjay”. But as with most trilogies, this is just a means to an end. I pose this question: Why can’t we just produce all three movies and release them all at once with a combined lower ticket price? Oh, that’s right, because the film industry is full of money grubbing whores who enjoy playing with our emotions and sucking us dry at every opportunity. I’ll step off my soap box for exactly 1 minute to get back to the movie. I loved it. But why wouldn’t I? I read all the books. I know what’s in store. And it’s a tale about a girl who kicks major ass and ignites a revolution. BOOM. My one regret about this latest viewing: we didn’t rent and watch the first one. It must be amateur hour!
Even though we’ve seen the first movie several times, it’s been so long we absolutely should’ve watched it again before we went to Catching Fire, a refreshed memory would’ve helped immensely. Everything eventually came back to me of course, Maria and I are both huge fans of Suzanne Collins wildly successful books. I read all three in three days and I remember thinking they could make wonderful movies if done right. They did a great job with the first movie. So much of the book was inside Katniss’ head, how she figured things out as she struggled to survive during The Hunger Games. They utilized Stanley Tucci’s character Caesar Flickerman perfectly in his role as MC of the insane games with a manic enjoyment that seemed somehow natural. Using Caeser to explain what she was thinking was genius. Catching Fire was not as good, but it really is the nature of the second movie of a trilogy. They are generally weigh stations to the climax of the story, and almost always the worst of the three. Think, Back to the Future 2, Matrix Reloaded, Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, to name a few. All decent but definitely inferior to their celluloid siblings. Regardless, I have high hopes for the third installment, Mockingjay, which should be out in a couple of years or so. Hopefully we’ll remember to rent Catching Fire before we go see that one.
I am extremely interested to see how they plan to pull off this final movie. And I’m sure, if you’ve read the books, you’re probably wondering the same. My best friend Gina initially turned me onto the book series, during a stint where each of us was addicted to a YA (young adult) novel. Read the books!! Even if you’ve seen these movies, this series reads well and quick. Collins hooks the reader immediately and never lets go. Plus, it vastly improves your viewing experience. Catching Fire focuses on Peeta’s realization that Katniss was just playing up their romance to survive. She finds herself in a predicament as she tries to accept her role as a defiant revolutionary and still serve to protect those she loves. The film explores how drastically her life has changed since winning the games. Including, but not limited to the constant nightmares and terrifying flashbacks that plague her everyday thoughts. The title speaks for itself. Unrest is spreading and Katniss is left with no choice, but to accept her destiny as ‘the Mockingjay.’
You can certainly enjoy these movies without reading the books, but I found my self wondering how confused I might be if I hadn’t. It really is a great story of courage and perseverance against staggering odds. Donald Sutherland is unapologetically evil as the main antagonist “President” Snow. The leader of the controlling government centered in The Capital, where the privileged have everything they need to excess, he leads The Districts with a dictatorial hand. The common people who populate these areas are starving and ensconced in slave-like servitude. The Hunger Games bring together each year two young people from each District to participate in a winner take all fight to the death, to remind them that “resistance is futile”, to borrow a phrase from Star Trek’s penultimate villains, The Borg. Katniss unlikely journey from just trying to stay alive to eventual reluctant leader of the uprising is the heart of the story, and I can’t imagine another actress today pulling it off with such perfect aplomb. Who does she really love? Who can she trust? How can she hope to succeed? An underdog story with some familiar themes that are part of our heritage as Americans. Read the books, they’re target audience are YA, but they’re a great read for all ages. And go see the movies, Catching Fire missed a bit for me, but ultimately worth it, I hope, when the finished body of work has been viewed. Jennifer Lawrence has “It”, and The Hunger Games is just the beginning for her. She also seems to be a real person who says pretty much anything she wants without worrying about being PC. Hollywood could use a dozen more just like her.
Maria’s Rating: 4 out of 5 Gummy Bears.
Ross’ Rating: 3 Gummies.