My review for the first Hunger Games film was entitled “Left me hungry for more”. It was a pretty good film but it left me feeling somewhat unsatisfied. After watching Catching Fire, I’m going to need to change my opinion regarding the first movie (also, be warned, this review contains SPOILERS from The Hunger Games).
Catching Fire picks up a year after the first Hunger Games movie. Katniss and Peeta, having survived their first Hunger Games, must now take part in the Victor’s Tour, in which Katniss and Peta will be required to visit all the districts. Unfortunately for Katniss, many people saw her stunt during the last Hunger Games as an act of defiance. There are already murmurs in the districts of another revolution. President Snow has also seen it this way and tells Katniss that she must calm the districts while on tour, or she might lose everyone she loves.
- Stellar performances
- The political subtext set up in the first movie actually feels relevant in this film
- Good effects
- Much more interesting and complex characters
- Background/supporting characters become far more important in this film
- Added political context for Cape Town audiences (there was a massive march planned by many of the poor people in Cape Town at around the time Catching Fire was released)
- Movie cliff hangers are something I’m a little bit ambiguous towards
- As with many book to film conversions (and the first movie), many of the characters and events felt glossed over or rushed
Let me start by saying I haven’t read any of the books, so my opinion is going to based on the films only.
Catching Fire felt a lot more engaging (and I shall go into why shortly) but it still had one major problem that the first movie had. It rushed over things and didn’t really take as much time as it could have to properly develop them. Of course this was done to avoid making the movie over three hours long.
As I was saying earlier, I did find Catching Fire to be far more gripping than the first film. I actually felt bad for Katniss and friends when things started to go wrong for them. This was really surprising because I didn’t emotionally engage that much with the first film.
When the first emotionally charged moment took place in Catching Fire, it was then that I realised what the actual purpose of the first movie was. The first film is purely there to set things up for the rest of the story. You might say “Well that’s obvious, this film is part of a trilogy”, but let me explain why I felt this way.
The problem with the first movie, taking into account how important it is to the other movies, is that the first film felt completely contained. Even though I knew The Hunger Games was part of a trilogy, it didn’t allude or hint at all at what might be coming by the end of the first film. If they had given us some clue that the purpose of the first film is almost entirely to set up events for the second and third movie, I might have been a little less critical of it. But the creators of the first film didn’t do that, and so I judged it on its own merits, which left me thinking that The Hunger Games was a bit overhyped.
Now, having the seen the second movie, it’s clear that the scripts have been written in such a way that you really should just watch all three films in a row (like Lord of the Rings). And yes, that means I am recommending that you wait for the third and final film to be released before watching this movie (although most of you will have seen it already). This series will overall probably be really good, assuming they don’t drop the ball with the final film, but the impact will be lessened if you don’t watch them together.
So if you haven’t seen The Hunger Games and Catching Fire yet, I would wait until the week Mockingjay comes out and then watch these two films. That way you will be able to experience the film the way it should be: as one single story.