Wednesday, 4 December 2013

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013) - ★★½

Director: Francis Lawrence
Writers: Simon Beaufoy, Michael Arndt (Screenplay), Suzanne Collins (Novel)
Stars: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Sam Claflin, Donald Sutherland, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Jena Malone, Liam Hemsworth,  Philip Seymour Hoffman,  Lenny Kravitz, Stanley Tucci

If one word was to sum up my experience of watching Catching Fire, it would have to be 'dull.' It's filled with very slow, long, tedious exercises in plot development. I didn't love the book, but the action was much more exciting on paper than on film. There were a few things I really liked about the movie. The costumes throughout the film are astonishingly beautiful, and the performances by Donald Sutherland and Elizabeth Banks were both highlights for me. But whenever the film gained a bit of excitement and momentum, it was taken down a peg by unconvincing scenes of romance and urgency.

Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) had won The Hunger games with Peeta (Josh Hutcherson). They must continue their fake-romantic relationship for the public, to convince them that their choice in the last movie was an act of love, and not an act of defiance towards the Capitol. President Snow (Donald Sutherland) knows very well that Katniss represents hope to the people, and may cause an uprising. In order to take her down and restore order to his disgruntled subjects, Snow devises a scheme that may very well destroy Katniss and her world.

President Snow is a total dick. Well-played Sutherland!
A lot of people love this movie, yet it left me feeling utterly bored and restless. Here's why. Lawrence has no chemistry with either Hutcherson or Henderson, so the romance just fails completely. The special effects are at best underwhelming, which took me out of the moment a few times. They stayed faithful to the novel, which subsequently made the early plot-development (first hour of the film) a tragic mess of slow melodrama and unconvincing urgencies. When the Quarter Quell finally got under way, I was even underwhelmed by that. It made me realize how little action takes place in the book. This is a franchise that is marketed mostly towards teenagers, and it's not hard to see why. It's mind-numbingly simple and cheesy to the core. The amazing thing is, people just don't care. Whatever flaws there are with the movie, its all about the overall experience. I'm happy that they're happy, but it just couldn't capture excitement within me. Now... let's talk about some positives, shall we?

The highlight of the film for me, was by far Effie Trinkett's butterfly dress. It immediately caught my eye. It's so meticulously detailed, with smaller butterflies on her fore-arms and in her hair. I'm not sure if it's an original creation for the film, but it's still one of the greatest costumes I've ever seen in a movie. I know, I know, this movie is about uprisals and action and romance and drama... but man, when a dress astounds you more than all that, you know you've found something special.

I also loved the designs for the flaming dress and suit on the chariot! This movie had me feeling numb to the core with boredom, but when that dress burst into flame and showed awesome little patterns, I immediately became interested again. Credit to Suzanne Collins for writing these awesome designs, and credit to the costume designers that brought them to life.

I wasn't blown away by the white dress flame-transformation, but it was a pretty cool scene. Props to Stanley Tucci for providing much of the comedy in the film. He plays the over-eccentric, terribly styled Hunger Games host, Caesar Flickerman. I enjoyed his performance very much, as well as the performances of Sam Claflin, Jena Malone, and the wonderful Elizabeth Banks. I'm warming to Woody Harrelson as Haymitch, who I initially didn't think was right for the part. I'm starting to see it now, with his perfect comedic timing. Most of the supporting cast really were phenomenal (the ones with experience anyway). What this movie needed were three astounding lead actors with truly convincing relationships. While Lawrence is one of the best actresses today, there's not much she can do with two 'one-expression' actors.

I didn't hate this movie at all. It's just really, reaaaaally boring. I'm not one that usually points out costume designs, but not much was happening on screen, so they just caught my eye and became the most memorable aspect of the film. I would like to end this review with a suggestion. What The Hunger Games needs is a powerful score to uplift the moments on screen. It needs the extra boost to the action, it needs the extra boost to the emotion, and it needs the extra boost to make it more memorable. In many cases, musical scores can be the heart and soul of the film (just look at the Lord of the Rings). That's what The Hunger Games is missing, a good score to make it great. Oh well, but look at Katniss's dress. So pretty!


  1. Good review Ben. While the first still works a bit better in my end, I still can't help but feel like they're going to keep the story moving, and it's going to continue to get more and more interesting.

    1. Even if they keep the story moving, it won't be a great experience if it's not executed right. I just don't think they can pull it off with Hutcherson and Henderson holding them back. With that being said, most of the girls love them, so I'm outvoted on that count. I know what I wanted, and Catching Fire just didn't deliver.