April 9, 2014

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)

Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Woody Harrelson, Donald Sutherland, et al

Before I get started, I just want to say that while I generally like Jennifer Lawrence, if I have to see another movie with her in it right now, I might just puke. She's playing everything from a teenager to a sexpot housewife. Is she really so versatile that she can be the only person to fulfill all these roles? I've seen six of her last eight movies, all of which were made in a span of 3 years. Can you say "overexposed?"


In case you missed my review of the first Hunger Games movie, I'll recap - I was unimpressed. By pretty much everything. So my expectations going into this movie were...well, it's four months into 2014 and I'm just now getting around to seeing it.

That being said, I was pleasantly surprised. Maybe it's because I had such low expectations, but I felt like this movie was a vast improvement from the first one in pretty much every area.

The plot was much truer to the book this time around. And maybe it's due to the fact that Peeta has about 5 lines in the entire move, but even Josh Hutcherson bothered me less than the last movie. (Though still, I am still decidedly against his casting in the first place and plead that someone in Hollywood speak with me before making such key casting decisions.) I also appreciated the effort in having Jennifer Lawrence essentially pull a Katie Holmes and stealthily bend her knees and crouch every time she was standing next to Josh Hutcherson so that it would at least look like Peeta was bigger than Katniss. It's the little things.

Also in the casting department, the actors picked to represent the other Hunger Games contestants were as I would have imagined them. Jena Malone, who I normally detest (her crappy British accent almost ruined Pride and Prejudice for me) was an excellent choice to portray an obnoxious Johanna Mason. Of course, we still had to put up with Lenny Kravitz pretending to be an actor...

I actually enjoyed the second book more than the first, so that makes this movie adaptation even more impressive. The Games themselves are more complex and I think the movie does a solid job of incorporating not only the facts from the books, but expanding the character development beyond the book by showing the change in moods and affects of different characters throughout. So, congratulations screenwriters - you did a better job than Suzanne Collins herself (who couldn't be bothered to provide much, if any, character development beyond Katniss). And kudos to whomever made the decision to replace the screenwriters from the first movie...

But my favorite aspect of the movie was actually the lack of violence. Considering the entire plot is centered around a live-action battle in which people kill one another on television, the movie does an impeccable job of insinuating violence without ever actually making you watch someone get stabbed or bludgeoned to death. There is very little blood. I know it was only done to get a PG-13 rating, but I still appreciate it.

Even with all the improvements over the first movie, at the end of the day, it's still essentially an action movie. An action movie with a legitimate plot, but an action movie nevertheless.

Final word: I hope I can remember how good this movie was when I'm forced to sit through two parts of the third one.

Related posts: The Hunger Games (2012)

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