Thursday, October 22, 2015

Movie Review: The Hunger Games - Catching Fire



Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Acting, effects, character development
Cons: Slow, repetitive story; middle part of trilogy
The Bottom Line:
Curse of trilogy
Evident in middle part
Leaves you wanting more




“Since the Last Games Something is Different.  I Can See It.”  “What Can You See?”  “Hope.”

Unfortunately, trilogies follow certain patterns.  It is rare to find a strong middle part to a series that knows it is a trilogy.  I wasn’t thinking about that when I sat down to watch The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.  And yet, by the time I was done I was able to see how that afflicted the story.

(And yes, I know they are making four movies, but they are doing it by splitting the final book into two parts, therefore I’m still counting the story as a trilogy.)

As the movie opens, it’s been almost a year since the events of the first film, and Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) still hasn’t completely recovered emotionally from her time in the hunger games.  Unfortunately, she has to put on her happy face since it is time for her and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) to leave on their victory tour and put on the act that they are in love, something that doesn’t sit well with would be boyfriend Gale (Liam Hemsworth).

As Katniss and Peeta travel around, they see just how everyone lives and the fact that rebellion is about to spark.  President Snow (Donald Sutherland) blames this on Katniss, so he devises a plan to get her killed and end all hope of rebellion.  But with Katniss more focused on saving Peeta, will she play into his hands?

Actually, this movie suffers from two problems.  First, it knows it is a sequel and tries too hard to repeat things that worked from the first story.  The result are scenes that actually bore us.  They were never the best scenes the first time around, but they are actually even worse now.  In fact, the entire second part of the movie feels recycled.  This is the fault of the source material and not the movie itself, but it is still a problem.

Then there’s the problem I talked about earlier, the middle part of a trilogy issue.  The problem with middle parts of trilogies is they must bridge the gap between the first part and the climax.  Obvious, right?  However, they often become so involved with getting characters from point A to point B that the story suffers.  In this case especially, the movie just ended with a couple of major revelations and no real conclusion.  It just stopped.  I will give it credit for working since I really want to know what happens next.

And that’s the truth about this film.  While there are serious flaws with it, it is still mostly entertaining.  The action scenes and special effects are well done and there are some creative touches to the story that make it good.  The needed character growth is there and very good.  And things have been moved around so we can bring this story to what looks to be an explosive climax over the next two films.

And I’m certainly not blaming the actors for any faults in the film.  They are all fantastic at bringing their characters to life.

I’d also like to point out that I still haven’t read the books, so this was my introduction to the story.  I had no issues following what was happening.  I’m sure there is more depth in the book (there always is), but if you aren’t familiar with the franchise, you won’t get lost if you stick with the films.

As a transition film, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire works well.  Unfortunately, it never becomes any more than that.  Still, it will leave you wanting to know what happens to these characters next.

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