RogerBW's Blog

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire 26 June 2014

2013, dir. Francis Lawrence, Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson: IMDb / allmovie

After winning the Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen is a post-traumatic wreck. The perfect time to send her on a publicity tour! Spoilers for book and film will follow.

She's in a parlous position: the President knows that her show of rebellion raised the possibility of unrest in the other Districts, but she's too high-profile to be disappeared. So she's on show for him. Also, there are two pretty young lads vying for her affections, the one she actually likes (stuck at home) and her fellow competitor with whom she puts on a public show of romance. Unfortunately both of them are played by interchangeable slabs of actorly beef and there's never any sense of chemistry from either of them. Even with each other. The only young fellow who comes over with any plausibility at all is Sam Claflin as Finnock Odair.

Jennifer Lawrence is a year older than when The Hunger Games was made, and her face has changed in the way that sometimes happens to young women (the same thing happened to Molly Quinn after the first season of Castle); she looks somehow much more synthetic, and less convincing, than in the previous outing, even before she's made up for the show.

Donald Sutherland and Philip Seymour Hoffman look faintly lost among all the pretty young bankable actors; each time they have a scene together, there's a palpable sense of relief that at last they have someone to play off.

Part of the problem is that there's just too much stuff here; it's the modern style of adaptation for a well-known book, that every key scene has to be put in. So we have the Victory Tour, the Quarter Quell selection and games, and the deus-ex-machina ending, all faithfully taken from the book. It all adds up to more than two hours of film, and all too much of it feels gratuitous and even padded: the Legolas-lite arrow-shooting simulation sequence is just the most obviously so.

Call me old-fashioned, if you like, but I like my heroines to have agency. To reveal, as both film and book do, that half the participants in the Games, and their organiser, have been setting up the whole thing in order to enable her escape, and haven't dared give her even the slightest hint of this even during life-or-death situations merely because they don't trust her to keep up appearances… well, I start to wonder who's the protagonist here and who's merely the figurehead. The problem is that the film has to be an accurate version of the story in the book, and the book (whisper it) just isn't all that terribly good. In trying to tell the story of Katniss' personal growth, it forgets to have anyone else recognise that Katniss actually has a personality.

The film-making isn't bad (the train and aircraft internal sets are excellent, the big urban outdoor scenes and long shots are lovely; the rest is workmanlike and competent, which is a step up from the over-kinetic production of the first film), the acting is mostly OK, but it's a middle volume that, at its conclusion, succeeds mostly in reminding me of The Empire Strikes Back. The Refusal of the Call is a key part of Campbell's soi-disant monomyth, and this sometimes feels like a feature-length version of it.

[Buy this at Amazon] and help support the blog. ["As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases."]

  1. Posted by Owen Smith at 01:16pm on 26 June 2014

    I always thought The Empire Strikes Back was the best of the original three Star Wars films.

  2. Posted by RogerBW at 01:43pm on 26 June 2014

    Yes, but that had the advantage over the others of having an actual science fiction author (Leigh Brackett, shortly before she died) writing the first draft of the script.

Comments on this post are now closed. If you have particular grounds for adding a late comment, comment on a more recent post quoting the URL of this one.

Tags 1920s 1930s 1940s 1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s 2000s 2010s 3d printing action advent of code aeronautics aikakirja anecdote animation anime army astronomy audio audio tech aviation base commerce battletech beer boardgaming book of the week bookmonth chain of command children chris chronicle church of no redeeming virtues cold war comedy computing contemporary cornish smuggler cosmic encounter coup covid-19 crime cthulhu eternal cycling dead of winter doctor who documentary drama driving drone ecchi economics en garde espionage essen 2015 essen 2016 essen 2017 essen 2018 essen 2019 essen 2022 essen 2023 existential risk falklands war fandom fanfic fantasy feminism film firefly first world war flash point flight simulation food garmin drive gazebo genesys geocaching geodata gin gkp gurps gurps 101 gus harpoon historical history horror hugo 2014 hugo 2015 hugo 2016 hugo 2017 hugo 2018 hugo 2019 hugo 2020 hugo 2022 hugo-nebula reread in brief avoid instrumented life javascript julian simpson julie enfield kickstarter kotlin learn to play leaving earth linux liquor lovecraftiana lua mecha men with beards mpd museum music mystery naval noir non-fiction one for the brow opera parody paul temple perl perl weekly challenge photography podcast politics postscript powers prediction privacy project woolsack pyracantha python quantum rail raku ranting raspberry pi reading reading boardgames social real life restaurant reviews romance rpg a day rpgs ruby rust scala science fiction scythe second world war security shipwreck simutrans smartphone south atlantic war squaddies stationery steampunk stuarts suburbia superheroes suspense television the resistance the weekly challenge thirsty meeples thriller tin soldier torg toys trailers travel type 26 type 31 type 45 vietnam war war wargaming weather wives and sweethearts writing about writing x-wing young adult
Special All book reviews, All film reviews
Produced by aikakirja v0.1