Book to Movie Review: Catching Fire

**CAUTION SPOILERS**

My rating: 4.3

Catching Fire book coverOne thing any actor or producer worries most about is how they execute a story and fill out its characters. It’s nerve-wracking for anyone to want to be believable, relatable and just all around memorable, but the stakes are much higher when said story and characters are from a beloved bestselling book. The stakes are mainly raised because the fans – diehard readers and fangirls – expect so much. Yes, they are excited to see the story they hold dear to their hearts and minds become a living and breathing thing, but they also want accuracy; they want the story, its characters to be as spectacular on screen as they are on the pages.

I am, in fact, one of those diehard fangirls. I can’t really count (or remember) how many times I’ve read the Hunger Games trilogy. I remember, maybe a year before, I was rather reluctant to read; I didn’t think the story would mean so much to me. But I was I found I was no exception to its magic, resulting in my reading all of three books in about 2 days. After the first book, I immediately read the second, and I loved it more than the first. I think it was the enhanced romance between Katniss and Peeta, and the way Katniss was beginning to slowly lose her mind – a required effect of coming out of the games alive. I’m pretty sure I read the second book more times the first and third. With that being said, as the trailers and the buzz came around for the second movie adaption, my expectations grew higher and higher with each passing day. I kind of think now, those expectations ruined some of the movie for me. But I still went into the theatre with an open mind and was pretty satisfied with the majority of the movie.

As expected, every second film takes off from the plot of the first film, carries it under the arms and (new word) on the storyline where everything originally left off. Catching Fire begins with Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) both stepping out of the arena as the star-crossed lovers of District 12, then being forced to play the Capitols celebrity PR games for two weeks – The Victory Tour. All the while portraying themselves as the two teenagers who couldn’t bare the slightest thought of having to live without each other. However, unrest in the districts is brewing beneath Panem’s Surface, and Katniss, struggling between her love for Gale (Liam Hemsworth) and her duty to love Peeta, is unknowingly, the cause behind it all. She’s the Districts’ Mockingjay. President Snow (Donald Sutherland) therefore devises a plan to permanently burn out the sparks – by putting Katniss and Peeta back into the Games for the Quarter Quell.

If you’ve read the books, you know just how violent and cutthroat the storyline is. Suzanne Collins doesn’t waste anytime fluffing up the gore and raw aspects of kids killing kids, and the government doing whatever it takes to stay in control. No matter who they slaughter. Collins’ straight-to-the-point writing style is one of the many things I admire about the trilogy. Despite how many times I cringed, or closed my eyes as my mind playedthe gory scenes over and over in my head, I appreciated the visual and emotional trails it left behind in the end. So when the movie adaption for the first movie came around I expected so much. The violence. The gore. The frightening creatures lurking in the dark while Katniss was in her trees hiding from the Careers. I wanted it all. Though while some of that was given, I felt the end product was rather filtered. We didn’t getto completely experience the nightmarish world of the Games like we might’ve pictured in the books. And that, for me, was a complete turn off for the first movie.

My expectations didn’t change much for the second book even though I knew I should’ve expected less compared to the first. But the second movie was directed by a completely different person – Francis Lawrence (who will be directing the next two films, as well). Lawrence really upped the anty with this second film. Without making it rated R, he executed the visual elements of pain, violence, death, and most of all, fear. All of which were lacking in the first film. None of that, I believe would have been delivered if not for leading actor Jennifer Lawrence.

It’s very clear, from the beginning to ending of the film, Francis Lawrence specifically centered and shaped the dynamics of the story around Jennifer Lawrence. Katniss’ role was made especially for her. Anyone else who might have tried to replace her would fail miserably. All focus of the movie was solely based on Jennifer and how she would execute the role. Even with well-known co-stars standing beside her. Jennifer was very consistent with her role playing. Throughout the entire movie we felt Katniss’s anxiety, her fear, her anger, even the bubbling desire to strike back at the Capitol. Of course it is required to feel this way while reading the books, but Lawrence came out presenting a Katniss anybody could cheer for, even if you hadn’t already read the books.

Now as for her co-stars, some shined, while others drifted into the shadows.

My expectations for these actors and how they would portray some of the characters I probably love more than my own friends were completely altered with this second movie. Those who I thought would fall through ended up shining brighter than the sun. And the ones I thought would burn out the brightest stars fell right into the cracks. This is probably one of many things I appreciated about the second adaption. No matter what I may have anticipated, my expectations were completely flip-flopped; I didn’t see any of it coming.

As for the plot of the movie versus the book, like any diehard, some parts I cringed, wishing they hadn’t done it the way they had, or wondering why a certain scene wasn’t added. However, there were parts I was really happy to see. Like President Snow’s reaction to Katniss’ spark of the rebellion, or his reaction to Katniss and the other victors being in the Quarter Quell.

In the end, differences versus book and movie are going to be there. Us diehards aren’t always gonna agree. But at the end of the day, we’re not the ones behind the camera; we’re not the ones making the casting ones. But we are the ones who got the story onto the big screen. So whether the piece of heart becomes a roaring success or a giant dump of money, we have still have to pat ourselves, look in the mirror and say, “I did that. I got that movie up on the screen.” Hopefully it’s enough.

 

Actor Portrayals

Peeta Mellark(Josh Hutcherson): Kind of irritated me when he was slowing everyone down, more attractive in sequel. Still kind of wish they’d chopped off his leg like in the books. Would’ve been more dramatic.

Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth): Kind of paled in the background. Really only profound moment with him, getting whipped and kissing scene. I was really hoping Gale/ Liam would step up his game. I was expecting a lot more. A lot more sexy times with Katniss.  I wasn’t all te way satisfied.

Finnick Odair (Sam Claflin): Oh, I love you Finnick. Although he looked kind of old, he still portrayed Finnick accurately.

Haymitch Abernathee (Woodie Allen): Never a dull moment with Haymitch. Woodie really stepped up and left a mark in my heart for his portrayal of Haymitch.

President Snow (Donald Sutherland): I hate him. I hate him so much. I probably hate him more and more every time. The playbacks of Snow’s reactions to Katniss and the rebellion only strengthened my hatred for him. The books don’t do him much justice. The movie definitely enhanced my feelings towards him.

Johanna Mason (Jena Malone): Definitely portrayed the Johanna I pictured in the books, maybe even more so. I think me and her would be great friends.

Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks): I actually cried when watching Effie. Elizabeth Banks made Effie relatable, enjoyable, and just really rounded out her character.

Plutarch Havensbee (Phillip Seamore Hoffman) : Fabulous. Just fabulous

Cinna (Lenny Cravitz): Why Cinna? WHY??!! If there was one thing I think they could’ve changed in the movie is Cinna not dying. Seriously. They didn’t have beat him to a pulp.

 

BEGINNING:

-Kind of slow. Some of my favorite quotes were either taken out or put in the wrong place. Didn’t really pick up until Gale was flogged.

QUELL:

Really appealed even more to what I pictured when reading.

Took out some stuff wish they could’ve added.

–Haymitch angry at Katniss and Peeta b/c of individual assessment

–Seriously wish they would’ve chopped off Peeta’s leg

Violence really enhanced the movie compared to the 1st book

ENDING:

Didn’t really wrap up how I would’ve. Kind of dragged on.

Would’ve had a more dramatic effect if the movie had ended with Gale telling Katniss there was no longer a District 12.