Movie Review: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

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With the victory of the Hunger Games a year behind them, Katniss and Peeta continue to live a double life for the state. For the camera, they are a lovestruck couple, smiling and grateful to the state for the gifts they have been given. When the lights go down however, they are torn and tired of the play acting.

Then, when president Snow visits Katniss and tells her that she has become a beacon of hope to the rebellion, he threatens the death of her entire district. She has to convince him that the love between her and Peeta is real. Or else suffer the consequences. But the dual victory set in motion events which cannot be stopped by mere acting. Rebellions and outbreaks are becoming more and more common. To distract from this, the President declares for the 75th hunger games, all living victors of games past much be selected as part of the reaping.

So again, Katniss finds herself in the arena. Not with inexperienced kids, but adult trained killers. Allies are the key to her physical survival, but her death means success to the state. The game isn’t just inside the arena now, it is in real life. A political, manipulative, and deceptive game which will result in one victor. Moves and countermoves, are the key to one ideologies’ success.

Things I Liked

Katniss has grown a lot since the last games. She still lives in fear, but no longer lets that consume here. Rather, we see her decide to make a stand. This is first evidenced when see gives a speech in honor of her lost friend- Rue. She is consumed by the heartbreaking loss she experienced in the death of her friend, and she defies the state in a compelling way. This results however, in civilians showing rebellion, and many being punished for that.

If anything, Katniss does not want to hurt anyone deemed “innocent” in her eyes. This was shown in the first film in part, which caused immense moral ambiguity which I had problems with. Now, we are shown that if one is for the state, and actively pursues punishment of acts of rebellion, then Katniss has no desire to protect them. We see her transform from a girl trying to survive into a cunning solider of the rebellion.

Peeta remains the compassionate and caring person we found him to be in the first film. He is there to comfort Katniss in times of nightmares, and to be “just a friend” to get through the difficult times. When a tribute is dying a painful death, he directs their gaze to the sunrise, and provides them a peaceful passing while viewing the beauty of the new morning.

Haymitch, Cinna, and Effie all subtly rebel against the state in ways to promote the expansion of the rebellion. In fact, almost all the protagonists do so, knowing that it could cost them their lives. Katniss’ family tells her she can’t live in fear of losing them- because the rebellion is “Bigger than any one person”. Gale stands up against peacekeepers raiding district 12. Cinna designs a dress which embraces the symbol of hope all have come to believe in. We see over and over people placing the good of the people over their own personal interests. Even in the games, some tributes sacrifice themselves so Katniss may live.

Which brings me to the antagonist side. The state. It is shown that the government, controlled by the president, is in no way concerned or worried about the interest of the citizens. Rather, it delights in reigning through fear and oppression. It lives in gluttony as well, living like the greeks and drinking elixirs which makes them throw up so they can eat more. Perhaps most despicable though is the forcing of the citizens each year to murder each other in the games many delight in. It has no law, save for what the president decrees. The reign of terror reminded me of the way jews were treated in the holocaust. People have no rights, no protection, and no due process. They have no freedom, and are commanded to sin against each other. That is a just reason to rebel.

Things I Didn’t Like

Katniss kisses Gail and Peeta many times. The love triangle continues… *groan*  A female veteran Tribute provocatively undresses in front of Peeta, Katniss, and Haymitch due to mental instability. We see only her face and back, and the reactions from Peeta (awkward discomfort) and Haymitch (enjoys it).

The violence in Catching Fire is scaled down immensely compared to the first film, but that doesn’t mean it is without blood on its hands. The most disturbing images are brought in as rebellion begins. A man is shot in the head for a simple gesture. Masses are burned and gunned down for whistling the cry of a mocking jay. Several men who stand against the peacekeepers are brutally beaten with lashes or punched to death.

In the Victor’s Game in the arena. The initial start up results in us seeing a few tributes shot by arrow and killed via axe. After this, a preference is given to hearing a cannon go off, rather than watching each of the 24 tributes die. The ones we do see die, are killed by the environment, rather than the other tributes. Once is gored by a rabid monkey, another is consumed by a poisonous mist.

There is a twice bleeped out F- word on a TV show when a person speaks out against the state. Once used are the S-, D, and B- words. God’s name is used in vain about six times.

Closing Thoughts

You don’t win the games, you merely survive. There are no winners.
~Haymitch~

The second film in the “Hunger Games” series, I went into this movie quite skeptical to be honest. In fact, I was not going to see this one, but because of the overwhelming requests to review it, I decided to do so. I will say, I was in some ways pleasantly surprised, yet in others saw what I expected.

We find all the established characters grow into developed roles and figures. Katniss, the symbol of hope, Peeta, the symbol of compassion, and many others. These people finally determine the state is in no way to be supported, then commit wholeheartedly to that position. The result is powerful examples of courage, sacrifice, and strength. The leadership by example passes to other tributes, and to the common people as well.

In the course of these events however, much loss is to be heard of and seen. These are tragic to witness and listen to. We see peacekeepers take out any unarmed citizen who displays a glimmer of rebellion. This was violence I was not prepared for, and it hurt deeply to watch the brutality shown against a defenseless folk.

Perhaps the strongest theme shown, is hope. We see how powerful the gift of hope can be. It was touched on in the first film, and the thread continues to be woven in this one. We are told hope is greater than fear and finally begin to see the positive effects of that hope, and less focus on the results of living fear.

So while The Hunger Games is still a disgusting film full of child murders and selfish violence all around… Catching Fire provides the purpose (and attempts to justify it) to the first movie. It shifts focus from brutal murders, to the cause of these murders- which is from the state. We are shown a brave small group of people who decide to rebel against these scheduled killings and immorality.

It is not without faults, but what started out as a complete dismissal of the benefit of The Hunger Games Series, there is building a glimmer of hope, that maybe, just maybe, there is something worth value of discussion with others after all.

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