This post has spoilers for the Catching Fire book and movie.
I watched the movie last weekend, my first movie of 2013 (that I watched in a theater). (My last movie was in November last year – Talaash, so you could say it traumatized me so much I haven’t been back since. (It was just a really bad movie. I can’t even find anything good to say about Aamir Khan.))
Anyway. I’m glad that this was the one movie I watched this year. It was definitely way better than the previous movie. It started out great and kind of petered out in the second half.
I loved the first half hour: Katniss’s PTSD and the victory tour. Without Katniss’ internal monologue which is really most of the books, they did a great job of conveying what she was thinking and feeling. Her shock and trauma after the last games, especially when she goes on the victory tour and is reminded more vividly of her dead friends and victims. When they go to District 9 and see the families of Rue and Tresh, and Peeta offers a generous gift and then Katniss finally gathers the courage to speak and weeps as she remembers Rue. Katniss in the movie cries in public where book-Katniss never would, but book-Katniss talked to us directly and told us what she was feeling, and movie-Katniss only has her expressions and her voice, and can’t communicate her thoughts to us directly.s
I also liked what they showed of the rebellion in the districts. In both the movies, these were some of my favorite scenes.
I’ve only seen Woody Harrelson in Zombieland (which I haven’t seen the whole of) but he’s amazing. His Haymitch wasn’t quite as wasted and alcoholic as he is in the books, but I guess that’s just because that was too much back story and character exposition for the movie. I feel he does Haymitch’s voice just right: the mocking sarcastic tone and if you listen hard enough and know him well, maybe you’ll feel the affection and pain underneath.
I loved the casting overall. Johanna, Finnick, Wiress, Beetee were all great, and of course Effie Trinket and Cinna, who were in the first movie was well. Philip Seymour Hoffman I thought didn’t get used well enough (though he gets a lot of screen space, some of it unnecessary I think), but I guess they are saving him for the next movie.
I didn’t like how much they toned down on the violence. Especially in the scene where Gale gets whipped and Katniss jumps in and gets a lash on her face, I kept looking at her face to find the wound when Haymitch tells the peacekeeper he’s cut her face. In the book, she was so hurt her eye was swollen shut: in the movie, she gets a pretty little cut on her forehead. This just served to make the movie less powerful: we know already nothing can happen to our heroine, not even a whip lash.
I also felt the latter half of the movie, when they are in the actual Hunger Games, had a video game quality to it. The tributes who died (usually from Katniss’s arrow) just catch the arrow in their chest and sink to the ground peacefully: no expression of agony, no death throes, no moans, no blood. I realize this is because it’s a movie for young people, but when the story has so much violence sanitizing it just seems to make it more palatable and reduce the impact of the horrific things the Capitol puts people through.
The Hunger Games bit also seems rushed through: I felt little of the despair, the helplessness I felt while reading the books because they barely dwell on anything, just go through one ‘level’ of the game and rush on to the next one. I wish they’d just made a longer movie and showed all this in more detail.
Or they could have cut down on some of the Snow scenes, which I felt were both unnecessary and misleading. The movie showed him as the main villain, not the Capitol. But one man cannot sustain a regime. In the book, the people of the Capitol are complicit in the cruelty.
I wish, instead of some of those scenes they added about Snow and Heavensbee, they had shown people in the Capitol sitting in their living rooms and bars watching the Games and applauding when someone dies and placing bets.
I also wish they’d kept in the storyline about the two women Katniss run into who are fleeing to District 13, and her talking to Haymitch about it, and him mocking the idea of District 13 still existing. That made his betrayal of Katniss all the more poignant, the realization that she couldn’t trust even Haymitch, whom she had grown to trust, who was her friend.