Posted by: markfender | October 28, 2014

Catching Fire

The latest Hunger Games movie is on Netflix.

Catching-Fire_posterNow, I don’t really care about this franchise. I’m not about to read some YA fiction. I watched the first movie and thought it was weird. The scripting was bad, the future “haves” look ridiculous, the games themselves are so arbitrary as to be meaningless, and the violence felt incongruous with the tone of the rest of the film. Plus, I’m not a teenage girl – I’m not interested in cute boys, fashion shows, or running around in the woods with cute boys. There is a lot of adequate acting saying stupid lines and some really good acting saying stupid lines.

So, in the second movie, there’s more of the same – pretty much. Philip Seymour Hoffman gives the enemy some gravitas, but then, he’s allowed to not wear a ridiculous outfit so it works better. Jennifer Lawrence continues to be the best actor. But there’s still a stupid fashion show, some arbitrary violence, and lots of bad storytelling.

For instance, there’s a moment in the second movie where Hoffman convinces Sutherland to run past winners through the Hunger Games again. It’s the despotic government showing its power to those who rebel against it as well as crush the burgeoning resistance movement centered around Lawrence’s character. Okay, that’s all well and good. But I think the scripting could have been better. For instance, don’t choose past winners. Instead, the government should have picked past Chosen.

For most of the other districts, this doesn’t matter. Most Chosen who are still alive are former winners. The movie proceeds apace. But in District 12, things are slightly different and I think with that slight change, the stakes could have been higher.

The scene in District 12 plays out with the two male winners volunteering as Tribute for one another. It’s somewhat dramatic, but not really. I mean, we know the cute boy is going to go with Lawrence again because we’ve seen movies before. Katniss just stands on the stage, already chosen.

But, if the rules stated that former Chosen were eligible, it would have been far more dramatic. Imagine the shock of Katniss when her sister is picked again. She’d basically have to volunteer as Tribute again. Her feelings towards her sister remain the same, she wants to protect her family. But, at the same time, she knows the government is manipulating the results. Sure, she’s mad at them for choosing her again, but she’d be furious if they made her volunteer again. She would knowingly have to step into their trap, a far more dramatic outcome than the somewhat passive “which male is going?” storyline.

This isn’t a review of this movie. I honestly don’t care. But I was severely unimpressed with the first movie and found myself pretty unimpressed with the second one as well. This is mostly due to the sub-par storytelling. I don’t feel invested in these characters, the twists come out of left field, and the dramatic beats could be better. The second movie is only saved by Lawrence’s look to the camera at the end, which just goes to show how casting makes all the difference.

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