Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark endure the road trip from hell as winners of the 74th Hunger Games, attempting to convince President Snow and the whole of Panem that their romance is real. People in the Districts start to rebel against the Capitol and adopt the Mockingjay, and Katniss, as their symbol of hope. And if that wasn't enough to deal with, victors of previous Hunger Games are once again thrown into the arena for the Quarter Quell. Tick tock...
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The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is definitely not a sequel. It's the second act of Suzanne Collins' story that moves us on from a Battle Royale style introduction to Panem to a much more politicised view of the Districts and how people unite for a civil war.
"I want you guys to forget everything you think you know about the games. Last year was child's play." - Haymitch
The film is really true to the book and contains the kind of small details that fans will go crazy for - just mention Peeta's laces and you'll be rewarded with crying and renting of clothing. Some changes have been made for the sake of the film, but the end result is so good I can forgive them.
Effie Trinket is right when she says that everything is bigger and better for the Quarter Quell, it's also true for the second act of the story. Katniss and Peeta have grown up, and the victors they're in the arena with are all older, wiser and angrier at the Capitol than they could ever be. This isn't children running around with knives and spears like the previous Games, this is 24 angry men and women fighting the Capitol as well as each other. With shinier weapons.
"Remember who the real enemy is." - Haymitch
The love triangle between Katniss/Gale/Peeta is handled really well and without the kind of vapid teenage angst you've seen elsewhere (*cough* Twilight *cough*). My niece loathes Gale, she's very much Team Peeta (or Team PeeNiss if you follow the fandom), but Liam Hemsworth has convinced me that Gale isn't as bad as she thinks. And I promise it's not just because of him getting shirtless at one point.
"Katniss, there is no District 12." - Gale gets the BEST line of the book/film
I loved loved loved the arena, complete with poisonous mist, mutated monkeys and terrifying Jabberjays. The relentless onslaught of very bad things is exhausting, which moves the action along so quickly you're suddenly faced with the trek to the lightning tree and you know it's almost over.
A few other things to note about the film:
- Jennifer Lawrence totally sells Katniss experiencing flashbacks and nightmares. This isn't the same stubborn girl we met in the first film, she's dealing with serious PTSD.
- Peeta can swim! Finnick doesn't have to save him from drowning like he does in the book.
- Prim didn't annoy me (that much).
- Liam Hemsworth manages to make Gale more than another lovesick young man who follows Katniss around. And also, that whipping scene.
- Effie Trinket FTW! Elizabeth Banks does an amazing job of showing us how much Effie has changed since the previous Games in the little screen time she has. And her butterfly dress at the Reaping is amazing.
- When Katniss tells Peeta "I'll see you at midnight" I might have sobbed a little.
- Sales of wet suits will soar. And perhaps sugar cubes.
BTW I should mention that I went to a midnight screening of this film, so I'm writing this after about 3 hours sleep. Please excuse any rambling.