“Remember who the real enemy is.”
Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark both won. Or so they thought.
They were declared victors of the previous year's Hunger Games, making history as the only two people to both walk out of the arena alive at Games end. The have become Capitol celebrities, brought honor and food to their district and families, will be supported by the Capitol with money and food and housing for the rest of their lives. They have survived.
But more than that, they have made enemies. Enemies with the powerful aristocracy that simultaneously adores and abhors them, enemies with the single most powerful man in the country to whom their very lives belong.
There is rebellion brewing in the districts and heroine Katniss is coolly informed by President Snow, leader of Panem, that it is of her doing. Her stunt in the arena with the toxic nightlock berries has painted her as a hero and a rebel to the people of Panem, someone to put their faith in, someone to inspire a revolution. Katniss is both unaware and horrified by the prospect that her attempt to save both her and Peeta from each other is viewed as an act of defiance and rebellion. This simple moment that saved her before may become her undoing, and under threat from President Snow, Katniss is willing to do anything to fix the problem before it's too late.
However, Katniss soon realizes that it was too late before it even began. And she finds herself being sacrificed in the arenas again for the greater good of Panem. Reaped for a special 75th Quarter Quell Games she is put back in the arena with Peeta and the past victors from other districts. The only difference? This time she has accepted that she will not be coming back.
Being a fan of the books, I thought this film went above and beyond the previous installment in the franchise, it was very close to the source material and very true to the tone and spirit of the original story. In general, I was quite pleased with what the cast and crew had created.
Catching Fire was my favorite book, and so far, it has been my favorite film. The acting was superb, with a particularly raw and stirring performance from Jennifer Lawrence (Katniss), beautiful costumes and sets, stunning cinematography, script, etc. There is little worth complaining about as a fan or even a critical standpoint, however, there is plenty of subject material that may make some viewers wary or uncomfortable. In all honesty, the whole storyline is a bit uncomfortable when you are first introduced to it.
There is plenty of kissing, as Katniss is at the center of a complicated love triangle involving herself, fellow victor, Peeta, and friend, Gale. Johanna, another victor, undresses in front of Katniss, Peeta, and Haymitch in an elevator (we only see her bare back). There is a multitude of violence, unsurprisingly, although this time around, many people die of the arena's “natural” elements rather than by human hands. People are burned in acid fog, stabbed, shot with arrows, nailed with axes, whipped, attacked by genetically modified monkeys, throats are slit, people drown, etc. One particularly disturbing scene happens near the beginning of the film when one old man dares to take even the smallest of stands against the power of the Capitol and is dragged onto a podium and shot in the head. We do not see it happen, but the shock, combined with the horror and tears of the other characters, is enough to frighten the viewer.
There is some profanity, mild and not so mild, and it is much more present than in the previous film. Haymitch is often drunk and there are other instances were alcohol is present.
Overall, Panem is not a pleasant place, a fact that is all too clear from the tone of both books and films. But it is a dystopian country that serves as a background for a story of heroism and sacrifice. I know many people who are turned off by The Hunger Games because of the violence and the idea of children killing children. And I understand.
But I wonder if the truly scary thing is how much of our own society we are able to see within the book's pages (or on the screen).
Suzanne Collins (author of The Hunger Games trilogy) has said in the past that her story is a critique on violence and media, showing us what could be if we continue down our current path. I think there is definitely a hard lesson to be learned in Katniss' story, and walking out of the theater, you may have some heavy thoughts wandering around your head. A story like this is sobering, it makes you think, which is one of the reasons it appeals to me.
What I fear has happened is exactly the opposite of what Suzanne Collins intended, the world-wide success of her books (and the films inspired by them) has turned her “critique” of violence into a glamorization, and her thoughtful take on a future world into a young adult trend. The irony couldn't be more complete, woven into the very fibers of the story's heart is the horror and tragedy of war and violence, and what effect it has on the world, and each individual. The Hunger Games is the story of a girl who is put on a pedestal for detestable acts and locked into a life similar to that of a caged animal. Made for a show, for a game. Glamorized for acting on her basest human instinct. Survival.
For me, the appeal of The Hunger Games trilogy is the haunting tale of a war, a raw and gritty story of relatable, realistic people doing their best to change their world for good, to do the right thing in a situation where that is nearly impossible, to give up everything in hopes of creating a better life for those after them.
At it's core, The Hunger Games is a tale of self-sacrifice and of ordinary people overcoming insurmountable odds. Beneath the violence and the darkness and the shadow of despair and doubt, there is a glimmer of strength, of faith, of hope.
Catching Fire captures this well as it's character put themselves on the line time and time again for one another, many of them making the ultimate sacrifice for the one hope they have in these troubled times.
Katniss Everdeen. The Girl on Fire. The Mockingjay. The Symbol of the Rebellion.
“Since the last Games, something is different. I can see it.”
“What can you see?”