The Hunger Games: Catching Fire DVD Review
Reviewed by Jordan Goodier
For some reason we forgot to give our opinion on this one, here at Cult Fix. So here it is; better late than never and just in time for the UK DVD release! When I first heard about this Hunger Games craze back in early 2012, I thought that this was merely the next teen movie craze, in the same vein as High School Musical and The Twilight saga. So when I actually got around to seeing the movie (I’d only just heard about the Hunger Games, so I just went straight for the movie seeing as it was about to be released) I was shocked to find that the film was incredibly good; far above what I was expecting. I never got around to reading the books after this though, I’ve no idea why; books take up more time than films, but I’ve heard they’re quite excellent. Naturally, when I saw how well the first film ended up doing at the box office, I started anticipating the release of the sequel straight away.
And here we are two years later. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is the sequel to The Hunger Games based on the second book in The Hunger Games Trilogy, Catching Fire. So far, so obvious. After Gary Ross’ (director) and Tom Stern’s (cinematographer) obsession with not mounting their cameras on tripods in the first film, it appears the studio wanted a very different feel for the sequel and put Francis Lawrence in charge as the director instead. The difference is actually staggering. When I first watched The Hunger Games, I didn’t notice how much the “shaky cam” style was used, but upon re-watch you can see that it’s everywhere. And once you notice it, it gets really annoying, really quickly. So this change of director and cinematographer was greatly welcomed. The screenplay was written by Simon Beaufoy and Michael deBruyn with no input from Suzanne Collins this time (author of the book trilogy, she helped write the first film).
The story picks up what is presumably a few months after the end of the first film, with Katniss Everdeen suffering from what appears to be post-traumatic stress. She and Peeta Mellark have returned home to District 12 and moved into the far more luxurious homes in the “Victor’s Village”. President Snow visits Katniss and tells her that her actions in The Hunger Games have inspired rebellion in the other Districts and that she must pacify them or her family will be at risk. The attempts by Peeta and Katniss to calm to districts fails and President Snow announces that for the 75th Hunger Games, only previous winners of the Hunger Games will compete. There’s your basic premise, I don’t want to ruin anything else in the film if you’ve no idea what happens.
As said before, the change of director and cinematographer is a massive welcome and the film definitely benefits from Francis Lawrence’s directing. He chose to shoot all footage in the arena on 65mm film on IMAX cameras and thus everything that takes place in the area looks pretty incredible. I have to wonder though, the excuse that I’ve heard in the past for not shooting an entire film on IMAX cameras is that they create too much noise, they’re pretty hefty machines and the amount of noise that they generate creates issues with recording dialogue. But there’s tons of dialogue in the arena that was probably done with ADR (additional dialogue recording) in post production. So they could have just as easily shot the whole film in IMAX? Mindless rambling; but food for thought. The film is very different in its approach to the first film’s “shakey cam” and it just looks far better as a result.
The acting is superb from the whole of the cast. Jennifer Lawrence is obviously Hollywood’s sweetheart at the moment and everyone adores her work in the films she’s currently in; needless to say, she’s fantastic here as well. Josh Hutcherson, also fantastic; he gets some great material to work with in this film. My favourite character is still, by far, Haymitch (Woody Harrelson) and he gets some great scenes as well. My personal favourite, although only an extremely short sequence, is when it is revealed that only previous victors will be competing in the Hunger Games. Haymitch goes crazy and launches his drink (and this guy loves his alcohol) at the TV. Just this little “tid-bit” gives great insight into how much the Hunger Games can affect the people that survive it.
Of course, mention also has to go to the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman. I’d watched this film only a few days before news came of his death and, as it did everyone else, the news came as a huge shock. He is of course fantastic in his role. When I’d seen the first trailer for this film I’d been very excited to see Hoffman in it due to his pretty awesome and sort of sinister line “They’ll hate her so much they’ll kill her for you.” That and the fact he’s a great actor anyway. The world has lost one of its greatest actors and my thoughts are, and have been, with his friends and family.
Though the writers for this film are not the ones who worked on the first film, the quality has not dipped in the slightest. Great writing, great acting, great directing; Catching Fire continues the high standard set by the first film. Considering that I thought this series would be the next Twilight/High School Musical, colour me impressed! Roll on films three and four. I can’t wait to see how they handle the big and fairly dark themes of the final novel.
I can’t think of anything I didn’t like about this movie. There may have been a couple of cheesy lines here and there, but that’s it.