Warning: spoilers ahead!
Watching Catching Fire is probably going to make you want a hug.
Or maybe to eat your feelings.
But it will be worth it. Because, in my totally expert opinion, Catching Fire was even better than The Hunger Games.
First of all, the acting. It was fantastic, and added so much more to these characters than we got to see in the book through Katniss’s limited perspective. It would’ve been so easy to just cast a bunch of attractive people and call it a day, and people still would’ve gone to see it (see: Twilight). But they didn’t – the people who were cast actually brought a lot more depth to the characters than we saw in the books, and this was fantastic.
For example, the ending. I loved it so much more than the ending to the book. In the book, we’re left with the shock of discovering District 12 is gone, and that’s it. We don’t get to see Katniss’s initial reaction to it. We don’t get to see how she felt in the moment. But in the movie, we did get to see all that, even though all that was really going on was thirty seconds of staring at Jennifer Lawrence’s face. But Jennifer Lawrence communicated so much in that thirty seconds, and all without words. I just can’t picture anyone else as Katniss.
The other one who really got to me was Finnick. I was initially skeptical of Sam Claflin as Finnick; he’s very nice to look at, but there’s so much more to Finnick than that. But it didn’t take long for him to win me over, since he brought the perfect blend of cynicism and charm to Finnick. But then there was one part that really cemented it for me, the part where Katniss and Finnick run into the flock of jabberjays, and Finnick started screaming for Annie – at that part, I completely lost it. It was just one word, but Sam Claflin perfectly captured Finnick’s pain.
There was also a lot of character development in Peeta and Effie. In Catching Fire, we’re seeing that Peeta has turned into a character who is capable of standing on his own two feet instead of in Katniss’s shadow, and the thing that really made an impression on me was the fact that in the Quarter Quell, it was Peeta who made the first kill, showing how the Capitol has turned him into exactly the thing he didn’t want to be (although I feel like this is softened somewhat by the fact that he was probably doing it so he could get to Katniss to protect her). And with Effie, we see that she’s more than just a shallow Capitol type; she’s come to care for Katniss, Peeta, and Haymitch, which isn’t something she outright says but is clear from her face and body language and insistence on team unity throughout Catching Fire.
What I loved so much about The Hunger Games, and what I loved so much about Catching Fire as well, was how much bigger the picture is in the movie as opposed to the books. In the first movie, we really got to see how the media manipulated what people saw at home; in this second movie, the focus was on the political implications of what the media is doing (with several instances of censorship and other examples of the Capitol controlling information in order to maintain their grip on power). We also got a more clear understanding of what an inspirational figure Katniss really is for these people, something I knew logically while reading the book but was played up a lot more in the movie. For example, including President Snow’s granddaughter – who is a huge fan of Katniss – was a stroke of genius, because she showed just how far-reaching Katniss’s influence is. Also, I thought she was a brilliant juxtaposition between the Capitol and the Districts, since President Snow’s granddaughter is obviously living in the lap of luxury, whereas this same man is sending other people’s children to die for a small, elite portion of the population’s entertainment in order to remind people of how much power he has.
I have to admit I’m still concerned about Mockingjay being split into multiple movies, but seeing as how Catching Fire was, if anything, better than The Hunger Games, I’m slightly less concerned than I was. I’m looking forward to the next movie, but in the meantime, I’ll just go watch Catching Fire a few more times.
Have you seen Catching Fire? What did you think?