Needs the Books to Succeed
Catching Fire is an incredible improvement on the first Hunger Games film. Every. Single aspect of this sequel is better than the first film, from the acting, storytelling, cinematography and editing. This film is not perfect though, it’s a tad slow and I think the filmmakers expect the audience to have read the books before watching the films. That’s not something you can count on as a filmmaker.
The cinematography of The Hunger Games was abominable. The sound design was too. This film is immediately a major step up. The first shot of Catching Fire is better than any shot in the first film. There seems to be an actual artistic vision in Catching Fire and its a very refreshing change. The CGI elements of the film are also really good as well as the production design.
The acting in this film is really good. Jennifer Lawrence is a very serious actress and although having done multiple action movies, like X-Men I think her real talents lie in more serious films like Joy and Silver Linings Playbook. Yet, she manages to bring some skill and maturity to this role and that’s pretty impressive. I have a knack for calling out bad acting moments, especially in this genre of films, but for the most part, all of the acting is good.
What this film lacks that the first had, is clarity. Some sort of understanding of the bigger picture. Although, the protagonist, Katniss Everdeen and her companion Peeta don’t necessarily know what’s really happening and why, this problem goes deeper than that. I felt like I was supposed to know more about the new characters and the relationships between them than I was told. In the books, a lot of this information is given in detail, so it feels like if I hadn’t read the book I’d be a fair bit lost. The Hunger Games tells us fairly clearly what’s going on, it introduces a new world to our characters but also establishes their old world. Catching Fire begins with a Victory Tour, and continues on into the capitol introducing new characters with specific motivations. However, this seems more like a checklist, marking things off a list of what happened in the books without really meshing them into a compact story that anyone can understand without knowing the details of said checklist. It is a good story, but I can’t imagine anyone who hasn’t read the book would see this as anything more than functional.
Overall, this film is a major improvement on the first film. It is a bit slow paced and some moments I thought were trying to be comical didn’t necessarily hit, but I can’t complain too much. The story is compelling and it’s pretty nice to look at too. I wish these films showed more from Gale, Prim and her mother to what was happening while they watched the Games. The only times we get reaction shots are when Katniss kisses Peeta and Gale is sad. It’s not supposed to be funny, but if anything is comical in these movies, it’s that. Would I watch this again? Yes, I would. Should you watch it? Yeah, watch it after reading the books and watching the first one, it’s worth watching it as a series.