Catching Fire couldn’t catch me

Based on the box office numbers, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire does not need my endorsement. So I won’t give it. It has attracted a wide audience that stretches way beyond its target demographic. My curiosity was piqued based on the buzz, which stated, among other things, that this movie solved all the problems of The Hunger Games. Not many movies have been given so much hype, and almost zero have ever lived up to such high expectations.

Having established the decadence and overindulgence of the Capitol in Hunger, Fire spends much of its focus on oppression, finding hope within such brutal conditions, and the games within games as the players move, act, and counter-act in a cat-and-mouse game that spans much more than just the 75th annual Hunger Games. The movie succeeds in presenting its themes without being so blunt and heavy-handed. However, it seems that President Snow never read the Evil Overlord List, (or at the very least, read or see V For Vendetta) since his answer for everything is more brutal violence.

I must say that the acting has no business being this good. Those playing citizens of the capital worked overtime not hamming it up, and to tried to make these one-note cartoon characters almost human. Perhaps that turned out to be a problem. Because Phillip Seymore Hoffman is so damn good, I knew the plot twist without reading the book or online spoilers. (It’s foreshadowed, if you are paying attention).

The movie fails me in its world building. Many critics lauded this aspect, but I don’t. Since the story is mostly Katniss’ POV (thankfully, not first-person), we only get glimpses of what is really going on in some of the other eleven districts. Since I am told the novels are this way, I can not argue with the adaptation being faithful in that regards. However, this is a major drawback in regards to establishing the theme of the role of mass media and its ability to manipulate the thoughts and emotions of the general population. The analogy of Panem being a future version of the Roman Empire fails because Roma didn’t have the technology to broadcast its bread and circus games from the Coliseum to all of its outer provinces. I also understand that we, the audience, do not need to know the back story as to what happened to the world and Panem 75 years prior to the movie’s events, but if the story establishes widespread use of its media, one must question what is the reaction of these Hunger Games outside of Panem. I assume that they can also catch and/or intercept the broadcast signals. Why does President Snow and those in power not give any regards with the outside world? The obsession of keeping the districts under severe strict controls should have some political ramifications outside of its borders. I mean, Panem can not be that self-sufficient in running all of its bullet trains, and hover-planes, and maintain its overindulging lifestyles for all of its citizens in the capital.  Ancient Rome was not.

Fire is a very fast-moving 146 minute film. The lulls are kept to a minimum (although most of those involve Gale). Just because Fire does a better job in fixing Hunger’s flaws, it does not mean that the sequel is flawless. I will say that this movie does avoid most of the pitfalls that befall many second parts of trilogies. It’s no Empire Strikes Back, or Godfather II, but it’s no Back to the Future II, or Matrix Reloaded either. If you are a fan, you’re going to see this, no matter what. And you’re probably going get this on DVD and/or Blu-ray regardless. For everyone else, it is a definite must… rent. Like the jabberjay and the mockingjay, my score will also be a hybrid. The plot gets a (flaming red) “B;” the symbolism gets a “B+.”


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