Film Review: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

I missed the 74th playing of the Hunger Games when it hit the cinema’s last year; only catching up with it later after its release on Blu-ray, but I must say I enjoyed it, it was tense, gripping, exciting, and for a franchise film didn’t feel overly commercialised. And so, when the trailers for the follow up – Catching Fire – started to appear on the big screen I was expecting big things.

At this point I must confess I haven’t read the books. And therefore, don’t know the story/what happens next where I am going to be taken. My entire preconceived expectations around the plot and direction of the film are based on the trailer and the fact that I know this is the middle book of the trilogy.

However, what I was expecting and what I received on screen were worlds apart. I spent the majority of the film wrestling with two totally unexpected emotions – boredom and anger – you can essentially split this movie into two parts.

It starts off attempting to develop the characters, create a deeper back story and “set the scene” for the 75th Hunger Games. The problem is, there’s just no real connection to anything. You almost feel as if the first film doesn’t exist. There is no real link back to it. Obviously the characters for the first film are there, and the on the surface the story flows into each other but they seem to spend their time talking, but never really explaining. It’s background chat.

It feels as though they almost assume that “everybody has seen the first one, so ignore that and just push on forward”. Yes I know that this is the “difficult second album” and all that, but honestly, I was just sitting there bored, thinking that as they travel around a world of differing cultures where the peasants live in 1960’s coal mine mixed with Medieval England, while the upper classes dress like someone has moved ladies day at Ascot into outer space and asked Dale Winton to present the coverage for channel 5 that really I would have better made use of my time doing the Christmas shopping.

Then Act 2 Scene 2 arrives – the actual fighting – and let’s face it, it’s the bit we’ve been waiting for. It’s the fighting, death and mixed emotions that come with the situations that make this Hunger Games really claw at you. The first film asks questions of you that really make you look deep inside you. How would you act, how would you face those situations, could you cope. Instead Catching Fire says right, we’re just going to bully people.

Honestly, at a time when I felt I should be having my senses of right and wrong, morality and the human instinct to survive questioned, I sat there angry. Angry because I had none of this. Instead I felt like I was watching someone bully somebody for no apparent reason. It’s like seeing the school yard bully beating up a weak kid not because he wants his lunch money but simply because he can. It’s uncomfortable and it happens because for the first half of this movie, when the characters should have been developed, and the audience allowed to connect to them and understand their reasoning’s and motives they just chat, aimlessly.

I’m not going to talk about the ending in any real detail, after all spoilers spoil, but it even misses the point! It has a “set-up the next one” cut off that Peter Jackson would be proud while failing to hit even the obtainable low cliff-hanger levels of a cheap daytime soap opera.

I haven’t left a cinema as disappointed in a film as I did after The Hunger Games: Catching Fire for quite some time.

6 out of 10 stars (6 / 10)

Posted on by 5WC in Film First Edition

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