It’s not often that I get to go into a movie with such low and uninterested expectations, only to walk out more than impressed. I watch a lot of movies and that is in no way a complaint. I’m just use to being disappointed. But every so often something big comes out and takes the nation (and world) by storm. In this case it was The Hunger Games, which I disliked so much that I didn’t even bother writing up a full review, because my negative thoughts and general disliking of the film would have translated to a long-formed hate letter and that’s just not what I do.
Despite what some people think, I don’t like to hate on films. Disliking a film isn’t something that gets me excited or gives me some weird feeling of superiority over others. I don’t root for the underdog just for the sake of it and I don’t crap on the big guys because that’s what’s considered “cool”. I just don’t do that.
I go into some movies with high expectations and some with low and occasionally something surprises me. Sadly, most of the time my expectations prove to be right, because if you watch enough movies for a long enough time you’ll eventually start to know what you like and what you don’t and there’s just no way around that.
But I was wrong about The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. Dead wrong.
Gary Ross‘ The Hunger Games is a tedious bore that plays poorly on flimsy elements that were adapted from a book that was apparently a young teen sensation. I never bothered reading it, which meant I had nothing to hold me back from embracing his film and loving it.
But I didn’t. Jennifer Lawrence‘s acting was awful and everything about Josh Hutcherson made me gag. Those two factors, paired with Ross’ shaky cam direction and a script that spent more time with its main character in a tree, made me despise The Hunger Games. I’ve only seen it once and I will openly admit that I’ve been pretty hateful towards it ever since, but I just didn’t like the film and instead of shitting on it publicly, I’ve mostly kept my mouth shut, in hopes of someday re-watching it and finding something to like about it or to eventually see one of its sequels and discover that someone else got it right.
And boy did Francis Lawrence get it right. Now, I’m not sure if this is a simple case of the second book improving vastly upon the first or if Lawrence really was the man to capture the look, feel and intensity of the story, but Catching Fire blows the original film out of the water in every single way that counts.
Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson have somehow went from being unwatchable to suddenly interesting and full of inner rage and emotion. The arena has gone from a simple battleground to something much more intricate and the scope and scale of the story has gone from small potatoes to large world disaster and destruction. The stakes have been raised to the highest of points in Catching Fire and now all of a sudden I’m starting to care about these characters and where they’re going to go from here, because we all know that there’s two more films left on the docket.
Talented veterans like Stanley Tucci, Woody Harrelson and Philip Seymour Hoffman have definitely helped raise the stakes, meaning that each and every side character is suddenly given the same amount of care and on-screen time to help shift and shape the story of the film, which echoes with revolt and rebellion, while touching up on what it means to live a lie every day in exchange for peace and safety. Eventually though, one must ask if the deadly truth outweighs a peaceful lie.
These are things that Lawrence doesn’t just skim over, but fully invests and works the entire film around. I’m not going to sit here and list all of the important themes and messages that this film is trying to accomplish, because there are too many at play and because a film like this works best when experienced.
Catching Fire has some issues though. The film’s a bit too long and some of the Capitol stuff is just too overdone for my tastes, not to mention the horribly done CGI monkeys, but this isn’t a formal review of the film. This is just me owning up to being completely wrong about this film. I’ve been trashing it ever since the first trailers popped up, because it honestly looked like the same garbage that the first film dumped onto us, but I couldn’t have been more wrong and I feel like it’s important for me to recognize that and admit to that, in hopes of turning anyone else out there with my mindset onto the film.
Those of you that disliked The Hunger Games will still want to check out Catching Fire, because it corrects all of the wrongdoings from the first film and adds upon them greatly, giving us a film that more than touches up on relevant social topics, while also delivering some intense action to boot. Catching Fire may not be my favorite film of the year or even one to grace my top ten list, but it’s a strong blockbuster, with a female lead that’s actually worth rooting for and getting behind.
It deserves its number one spot at the box office and I am now looking forward to the next entry, despite being told by a reader of the novels that the source material is a major decline in quality.
I love it when Hollywood comes along and completely surprises me, knocking me back and forcing me to eat my own words. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is a major improvement over the previous film and proof that the right director and cast can help escalate any franchise or series.
It’s also proof that you just can’t know what to expect for any film and that you should always keep an open mind. I may not be looking forward to a film going in, but I always give each film a chance to prove me wrong. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire more than did that and I’m definitely glad that I gave it a shot, because it blew me away and more than exceeded my expectations.