Saturday, November 30, 2013

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)

Directed by Francis Lawrence
Runtime 136min. - Rated PG13
2.5 Stars (out of 4)

I generally don't go to the theater. Especially not to new releases. I know that seems counterproductive for a movie blogger, but the price is outrageous. Then there's the line, the crowds, the concessions, and all the other stuff I could do without. The screens are awesome, but I'm capable of enjoying a movie on my TV just as well as a theater.

So why make an exception for "Catching Fire"? Two reasons: 1. I had free tickets 2. My wife and I were celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary.

So how was this rare trip to a real live movie theater? Pretty good, actually.

"The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" does a lot of things right. It manages to project a sinister tone without the need for grisly on-screen violence. And of course the costumes and sets are amazing, especially the scenes in the capital. The cast is top notch. Really, the talent is over-qualified for the material. Woody Harrelson is one of my favorite performers and Phillip Seymour Hoffman I consider the greatest actor alive. Jennifer Lawrence is always stunning and a prodigious thespian in her own right.

So now lets get to the important stuff. The stuff I didn't like.

All of the plot happens off-screen. Characters are carried from action-to-action quickly. And while I liked the idea of Katniss' attempt to please the President and her subsequent failure, it happened so quick in the film that it seemed like a cheap plot device. I hope it's more fleshed out in the novels.

Conspiracies, double-crosses, mystery, intrigue; the makings of a great film. But all of that happened off-screen also. I'll avoid the spoilers, but while Katniss is narrowly avoiding death there's tons of plot happening. The audience doesn't get to see any of it.

Josh Hutcherson is short. Let's not kid ourselves. The posters for the film and many of the scenes make it look like he's a little bigger than Katniss, as if he's her protector. But in reality Jennifer Lawrence is several inches taller than Hutcherson. It's not like I have anything against him being short, but I can't think of any reason why the producers would want us to believe otherwise.

Me so tall!
Me so short.

Jena Malone strips naked. Don't get too excited, it's a PG-13 striptease. But the fact I don't get full-frontal doesn't bother me. What bothers me is that there was no reason for the burlesque act. She just steps into an elevator with Hutcherson, Lawrence, and Harrelson and starts stripping. The reactions are pretty funny, but no one stopped to ask her why the hell she was stripping in the first place.

And finally, what a terrible place to end a film. We finally learn the underlying facts that have only been hinted at throughout the majority of the movie. Then credits. Another 30 minutes added, or 15 minutes subtracted and the ending would have probably been satisfying. As is, I wanted to throw popcorn at the screen. It's one thing to tease the next film, but another beast entirely to leave the viewer unsatisfied with the current one.

But, of course, I'll line up to see the next "Hunger Games" just like all those sadistic bastards in the capital. A few hours of Jennifer Lawrence in skin-tight clothing can't be a bad thing.


  1. I really liked Catching Fire, but fell like the first installment was the better movie. Same with the source material. The first novel is superior to the others in the series.

    The Jena Malone strip scene is explained in the book, although the reasoning is just as arbitrary as in the movie.

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