Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Catching Fire Review: A Day at the Death Beach

I know this movie came out on Thursday, and today is Wednesday. Most of you probably saw this already and won't care what I have to say. But if you were as on the fence as I was about seeing yet another adaptation of a young adult bestseller, then you might want to listen up.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is miles ahead of its predecessor, and it's a great example of how to fix a franchise before it falls too far.

I was pretty skeptical going into this one. While I enjoyed the books (the first two, at least), the first movie was nothing short of a disappointment. The camerawork was sloppy, the runtime was bloated, the action was incredibly difficult to follow and the character performances hardly lived up to what the books put in my mind. Fortunately, Catching Fire pumps some life into the franchise before it can become a series of misfires.

Granted, some issues still rear their ugly heads, with the most notable being the movie's length. Catching Fire is a whopping two and a half hours, and it's not hard to feel that time wear on. This comes from the movie being a pretty faithful adaptation of the novel and sticking to its arbitrary structure. If you aren't aware, each book is split up into equal thirds of something, something and something else. If one something isn't as interesting as another something, well tough tortoises. Suzanne Collins is not one for structure, as you can see on her website.

But she is one for creepy rubber rats. I didn't read to see why.
Fortunately, though, the movie's two and a half hours are peppered with something great that way too few movies attempt to include these days: those little throwaway moments that serve to flesh out the characters and give them life outside the plot. I'd credit these - and the rest of the film's greatness - to the franchise's new director, Francis Lawrence. You know, the guy hot off the success of...Water for Elephants?

I know you forgot about this movie. But the elephants never forget.
I'm so glad The Hunger Games finally found a director who knows what he's doing. You can easily tell he had a hand in revamping the once-nauseating action scenes and giving the quasi-science fiction universe a more cohesive vision. And I commend him for getting decent performances out of the actors who felt pretty underutilized in the first movie. It's nice to finally see that Katniss is a smart and strong heroine rather than constantly just being told she is, and now there's reason to want these people to succeed.

If you like the series, you've probably seen the movie by now. If you were on the fence like I was, I really want you to give this one a shot. The last movie was perhaps a big turnoff, but Catching Fire finally gives reason to all the hype. So go see it or whatever.

What did you think of this movie compared to the last one? How do you think Mockingjay will turn out? Especially because, well, it's Mockingjay. I had a long talk with some friends about how I want to be excited for the franchise after how good Catching Fire was, but I can't because...Mockingjay. Let me know what you think in the comments, I want to chat. And there's no reason for you not to - I'm sure you've had a Google+ account rammed down your throat by now.


  1. Now that this comment notification has gotten your hopes up, thinking that someone might be interested in chatting with you about how terrible Mockingjay is, I'd just like to point out that there's a typo at the bottom of the paragraph between the two pictures. And that Mr. Goode had similar opinions on Mockingjay

    1. Thanks for catching that error, Cavin.
      And the site never actually TELLS me I have comments, I have to go looking for them.
      Lastly: Mockingjay is such a waste of time. The only way the two, yes two, movies are going to be interesting is if the director/screenwriter takes a LOT of artistic liberty.

  2. Nice review Payton. The removal of shaky cam alone is enough to make me thing of this movie as a step up from the first film.

    1. Thanks! I always thought the first movie was a bummer for not living up to the quality standards set by the book. I'm happy to say the sequel is much better in several departments, not just in buying a tripod. Better action, character work, and pretty much everything else but the runtime.
      I know it came out about a month ago at the time of this comment, but if you still haven't seen it, definitely give the franchise another shot.