Rating: 3.5 of 5
So, my review for Catching Fire will be littered with recommendations of other (better) books.
Because you can’t really talk about Catching Fire without talking about the book and I was really impressed that they managed to make a better movie than it was a book.
I was a bit wary going into this movie. I just finished reading The Dream Thieves and Catching Fire can’t come close to those characters. And the intrigue. And the way the story sinks into you. I’m not sure it would make a great movie but it’s an amazing story.
How many times have I said something would make a better movie than it is a book? (3 off the top of my head.) They’re full of action and decent characters and intriguing storylines but the writing is flat and unengaging and it should have just skipped all the bother of being a book and been a screenplay instead. (wait, 4. 7 if you count each of the Twilight books individually). And how many of those have lived up to their potential and been a better movie?
Because they weren’t concerned about slavishly adapting the book, they were concerned about making a good movie. The director took the time to focus on the characters and it brought the story to life. Where the book was just flat words these actors brought nuance and depth – to their interactions and to the political intrigue and to the danger of the Games. And it kind of did the impossible.
It made me understand the relationship between Katniss and Peeta. Because I liked Gale in the books. I understood his relationship with Katniss and their connection. Peeta was like everything else in the book – just words. The author telling me things but they had no depth and I didn’t really believe them.
But when this movie actually captured the trauma of what these characters have been through; gave way to their anger and fear and grief I believed it. Haymitch drinking suddenly wasn’t just a cliched mannerism. And Peeta was someone who had been through the fire with Katniss; who understood something no one else could understand. And he was there – he was always there by her side. And I got that moment with Haymitch before the Games – why she insisted that Peeta needed to live. And he was watching out for her. And I understood her devotion to him from then on.
The politics were also much more interesting. I could see the characters playing each other and the power struggles. The victors were dynamic in the way they ignited the political climate and played off each other. And it felt like there was a reason to send everyone back into the Games, other than Suzanne Collins retreading familiar territory. Finnick (I so wanted to type Finnikin – which is also a better book than The Hunger Games). I wasn’t sure about Sam Claflin the first time you see Finnick because the make up turned him into some sort of strange, effeminate doll. And it was like his face was made for it and it makes sense with the capital but there was a wrongness to it. Once the Games started, though, he was fierce and funny and vulnerable and really well cast.
It was a much more interesting movie than book. It was well directed and well paced. Especially since it didn’t feel like the movie was divided – with the first half happening outside the Games and the second half inside. Liam Hemsworth was less interesting than the last movie, but Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson were both more. They still don’t have great chemistry or charisma (which is weird because Jennifer Lawrence is such a dynamic human being. I wonder if she taps that down intentionally for the character). But despite that, the performances were good and fit the story.
(For the record, Twilight was the one book series I didn’t think should have skipped being a book and been a screenplay, but I did think the movies could solve a lot of the flaws of the books.)