Swift shot: Chapter Two sets the stage for the final conflict. I’ve read all three of the books now, because I liked The Hunger Games so much, and I just wanted to know how it was all going to end. I know. And The Hunger Games: Catching Fire directed by Francis Lawrence was almost a page for page interpretation of Suzanne Collins’ “Young Adult” best seller.
When we left Katniss Everdeen (Lennifer Lawrence) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), they had just beaten Seneca Crane’s 74th Hunger games by convincing Crane that killing them both would be worse than letting them both live. He had to choke on that decision, and now President Snow (Donald Sutherland) is left with a dilemma – if he kills Katniss, he will create a martyr for the Districts to rally around and perhaps lead to the collapse of his fragile, Panem.
Now, the 75th Hunger games is upon the Districts. They must again send tributes to do battle for the Capitol’s amusement. Penance for an otherwise forgotten rebellion. Referred to as the “Quarter Quell,” every 25 years the Capitol throws a wrinkle into the rules of the Quell. The victors are exempt from The Reaping (where tributes are selected in a macabre raffle). It’s a more or less unwritten rule that no one messes with the victors, because to survive the Hunger Games is the ultimate ordeal. So, they’ve earned a place of respect and even have their own village within their respective districts. The District 12 victor’s village has been haunted only by Haymitch (Woody Harrelson) essentially vacant for decades, until Katniss and Peeta have taken up separate residences there.
Katniss and Peeta’s bold action from the previous games has sowed dissent throughout the tyrannical system. Even holding up three fingers is enough of a transgression to meet immediate death. President Snow has a problem with any form of defiance, and based on some recent uprisings, sparked by the tragic death of Rue from District 11 – Snow comes up with a way to both keep the Capitol fans happy and eliminate the victors. I won’t spoil what he does to the victors. But, Katniss and Peeta find themselves in the middle of another Quell.
These “new” players are experienced and the new Gamemaker Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman) sets a diabolical death clock to rid Snow and the Capitol of the trouble-makers from the Districts. As each hour passes, the players face new horrors.
Thanks to their fame, Team Gold (Katniss and Peeta) make quick alliances with the highly favored to win Finnick Odair (Sam Claflin) and a few of his friends. There is more political intrigue and less Quell action in Catching Fire. But the message is the same, as these tributes kill one another for the Capitol, there is never a doubt who the real enemy is. But perhaps what serves as a surprise is who the real friends are. I can’t say anything else without giving away most of the story.
As with The Hunger Games, Academy Award winner, Jennifer Lawrence does a fabulous job as the lethal teen, but there is a damaged element to her character, something all too familiar for us these days, as she is suffering from intense Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). All of her hunting prey now wear faces of those she dispatched last year. While she struggled to survive in the past, everything is made conveniently available in the victor’s village, hunting now is really something to do to stave off boredom. And it is also an excuse to meet up with her friend, Gale (Liam Hemsworth).
The other actors were given little opportunity to use dialog to develop their characters, so they needed to be good at conveying a full range of emotion without lines. While Elizabeth Banks, as Effie Trinket, showed real emotion when she discovered how her Team Gold would be tested, and as she learned the true nature of The Hunger Games and President Snow.
Defiance is the defining message of Catching Fire. As Katniss learns she must defy her own soul, to feign passion for anything, not even sure if she can ever love . . . now that she has killed people. She feels broken. How can someone love her if she can’t love herself? Defiance of the districts to the Capitol and President Snow. Defiance of the players to participate in the Quarter Quell, and even defiance of Cinna (Lenny Kravitz) to design the most spectacular dress and transformation scene since Black Swan!
I have heard several of my friends who refuse to see these films or read the books, because they appear to be clones of Twilight and other Young Adult works, but the political intrigue of rebellion sparks a fire in me, as a Galactic Rebel Star Wars fan, that I have been missing for quite some time. And, since I know how the whole series ends, it is a shame my friends will just overlook what is a very worthy, powerful saga. Don’t make that mistake! See this film, read the books, live for defiance!