‘The Hunger Games: Catching Fire’ (2013) Review

Catching Fire

With the success of The Hunger Games (2012), a sequel would immediately get put into development. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013) would be released the following year and it would adapt the second book of The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins with Jennifer Lawrence returning as the series’ main protagonist of Katniss Everdeen.

The story picks up roughly six months later and Katniss is back in District 12. She is still continuing to hunt, fish and gather food and as much as much as she would love nothing more than to go back to her old life as if the Games had never happened, it’s no longer that simple. Because of her winning the 74th Hunger Games, life for her and her family has drastically changed. Whereas they were constantly starved for food, now they want for nothing. They have more food and money than they know what to do with. Instead of living in a broken down shack, they have been moved to Victor’s Village, a group of luxurious houses just outside of town.

She is just about to embark on the Victor’s Tour across all of the districts. The tour a very lengthily process that she is forced to do by the Capitol. But what this does is two things; it makes sure that whoever comes out of the arena victorious, they come to understand that nobody actually wins the Hunger Games and it also keeps the Games fresh in the minds of everybody from the districts. It reminds them of just how much power the Capitol has over the nation of Panem … and it’s only a matter of time before those people start an uprising.

Plot Summary

Prior to the tour, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) gets a house call from none other than President Coriolanus Snow (Donald Sutherland), himself. He is unconvinced that her actions with the poisonous berries during her time in the arena was an act of desperation for the sake of true love. The people in the Capitol were fooled but those in the districts view it rather as an act of defiance, which could then inevitably lead to another uprising.

President Snow insists on Katniss keeping the peace while they are of the Victory Tour and not fuel the fire within the other districts. Before leaving, he promptly threatens to kill her mother and her little sister, Primrose (Willow Shields) and Gale (Liam Hemsworth) if she does not cooperate. Katniss reluctantly agrees to abide by Snow’s demanding requests.

Katniss is then thrown back on the train with Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks), Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson) and Petta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), and they go around making speeches of their victory to the various districts. Katniss ultimately end up failing to please Snow as she unintentionally entices riots which leads to some people getting killed, sending a message to those who would dare to embrace her as the “Mockingjay”.

Unbeknownst to Katniss, mostly due to the districts being unable to communicate with each other, she has become a source of inspiration to many of the residents. She then reiterates to Gale that she saw people were setting fires in their districts and fighting back against the Peacemakers, he then insists that another uprising has already begun.

President Snow is aware that Katniss has very much become a liability, but he also knows that he can’t kill her outright as she could still be used as a martyr for the rebels. As it has now come time for the 75th Hunger Games, — known as “The Quarter Quell” — Snow has decided to give the Games a twist. When a victor is crowned, they are no longer required to participate in the Games but this year the tributes will be selected from the existing pool of victors. Since Katniss is the only female victor from District 12, she will have no choice but to go back into the arena, which Snow is hoping will lead to her imminent demise.

While at the Capitol, Haymitch insists that they need to make some friends if they want to survive and Katniss makes him promise that since he helped her last time, he will choose to help Peeta this time around. Something which Haymitch solemnly agrees to do. During the games, they are forced to make allies and are then teamed up with Finnick Odair (Sam Claflin) from District 4, and later on Johanna Mason (Jena Malone) from District 7 as well as Beetee (Jeffrey Wright) and Wiress (Amanda Plummer) from District 3. Together, they all form an alliance and choose to work together in an attempt to ensure their survival against the other tributes.

However, both Katniss and Peeta are completely unaware of what is really going on with the other tributes or the larger game that is being played. Katniss’ only goal this time around is to keep Peeta safe and help him win. But after the two of them get separated, Katniss is unsure of who to trust and Finnick has to remind her of who the real enemy is and in one last final attempt to defy the Capitol … she decides to do the truly unthinkable.

Upon awakening, she is greeting by three familiar faces. Instead of saving Peeta, she was saved instead. News that she is none too happy to hear. She is told that they rescued her from the arena because she has become the face of the resistance and they are on their way to District 13, which has long believed to have been whipped out by the Capitol years ago.

Katniss Everdeen

Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) has been suffering from PTSD ever since she has come home from the Capitol. She has visions on people dying that trigger while she is out hunting and she wakes up screaming from the nightmares that plague her every night. She and Gale (Liam Hemsworth) still meet up every once in a while to go hunting every once in a while but not as often as they used to due to him having to go work down in the mines.

Jennifer Lawrence was beginning to form a rather large amount of popularity around this time. She had starred in Silver Linings Playbook (2013), — a role she would go on to win an Oscar for Best Actress — and with The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013) being another hit with audiences, she had by all accounts become Hollywood’s new “it girl”. This felt very symmetrical to both Jennifer Lawrence herself as well as the character of Katniss Everdeen as it felt like all eyes were on her in both the real world and the fictional nation of Panem.

Ever since Katniss was crowned the victor of the 74th Hunger Games, she is not simply an underdog anymore. She stepped up to take care of both her mother and Prim after her father died which gave her a leg up on her survival skills in the arena, but if she ever had any doubt in her mind about how strong she was, her time in the arena made her — and everybody else — realize that she isn’t just a girl from the Seam, but that she is turning into a solider who is able to endure so much more than she ever dreamed was possible.

In one final last ditch effort to convince Snow of their love affair to try and calm the districts, both Katniss and Peeta agree to throw a faux proposal. This was just for show on Katniss’ part at first as she had been extremely cold to Peeta ever since they returned to District 12 after their victory.

However, while they on the tour and once again forced to be around each other, Katniss actually started to come to know the man that Peeta is and it became increasingly difficult for her not fall for him. This eventually led to Katniss giving into the fact that she have real feelings for Peeta and that their “star-crossed lovers” story isn’t just a ruse but that she is reciprocating the same feelings of admiration that he has towards her.

Even though Katniss had agreed to not instigate the districts while on tour, she had already become the spark the would lead to the rebels starting an uprising. Of course, this would all be unintentional, on her part at least. When she proposed to eat the berries while she was in the arena, it had nothing to do with being an act of defiance against the Capitol. She has become a symbol and the people who have been wanting things to change take advantage of her, and the situation, and are choosing to use her as a pawn in their own grand schemes.

The Mockingjay as a Symbol

The Mockingjay pin that Katniss wore in arena in The Hunger Games (2012) has become something of a fashion icon in the nation of Panem. For those in the Capitol, it’s nothing more than a style or trend that one would wear if they wanted to copy somebody’s steez. But for those who live in the districts, it has become so much more. Because of Katniss’ actions with the Nightlock in the arena — it has now become the symbol of the rebellion.

During her interview with Caesar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci), she spins around in a wedding dress that she is forced to wear. Katniss’ fashion stylist, Cinna (Lenny Kravitz) has made a few changes and the dress burns away as she spins around, revealing an entirely new dress.

Cinna has turned her into the Mockingjay. This interview is being broadcast to all of Panem, so not only does everybody in the attendance of Capitol see her in the dress — including President Snow — but everybody in the other districts are able to see her as well. This is meant to send an intentional message to the rebels and to inspire them to keep on fighting.

Differences From the Book

Surprisingly, a lot from the book has been omitted from the movie. Whereas with The Hunger Games (2012), it was pretty much a full on blown by blow with most of the last third of the book being cut down. This time around, most of the middle of Catching Fire has been cut out. A lot of important stuff does still happen in the movie; the meeting with President Snow, Gale’s whipping in the square as well as the Victory Tour with Haymitch and Effie.

Katniss doesn’t enter the 75th Hunger Games until the last third of the book, which seems to get adapted in full when it comes to the movie. She also finds out about the Mockingjay becoming a symbol because of her actions with the Nightlock as well as finding out about uprisings in other districts in a much different way as well. Even with these changes, much like in the book, Katniss is still very much in the dark about what is happening with the rebellion as well as not knowing what side anybody is on … or who it is that she can trust.

The same difference with the first movie comes again with the second, Catching Fire is told in first person and the entire book is told of Katniss’ point of view, meaning that we the reader only know what is happening in the story and with other characters whenever Katniss is in an immediate audience. But what the movie expands on is giving the new head Game Master, Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman), a storyline of his own. We only get a few appearances of him in the book, one when Katniss first meets him at the Capitol during the tour and again right at the very end when they are on their way to District 13, but the movie expands on his story and gives him a much more significant role to play than the book ever did. I won’t spoil the twist but he is a very significant part of what happens in and out of the arena as well as what comes next for that of the rebellion.

Other than that, it’s difficult to say what was cut from the book that should’ve also been included in the movie. As mentioned, Katniss doesn’t enter the arena until the last third of the book which then becomes the best part of the story so it’s understandable that they would want to get to that portion rather quickly, instead of lingering around District 12.

Again, when it comes to “the book being better than the movie”, it’s difficult to say which is the superior version of Catching Fire because both adaptions complement each other, and the film is a fairly faithful adaption even thought there are a few parts that get overlooked or rushed through. Of course, there is always going to be cut content from the book when it comes to a film adaption, and even though most of the same plot points happen, they end up happening in much different ways. There isn’t anything too important missing from the movie but since Catching Fire is the pinnacle of series’, the book is very much worth reading.

Final Thoughts

I didn’t know anything about The Hunger Games prior to the movies. As much as I loved The Hunger Games (2012), it wasn’t until I saw The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013) that made me fall in love with the franchise and want to rush out and read the source material. Most of the first movie spent a lot of time with Katniss in the arena, but the world building that was developed in the sequel had quickly made me realize that this was turning into something special. The depraved and thriving societies on the threat of a rebellion interested me on a much higher level than any of the other fictional worlds getting film adaptions at the time.

There are few movies sequels that can be coveted with the title of being “better than the original”. With movies the T2: Judgement Day (1991), Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and The Dark Knight (2008), there is almost universal praise that claims them to be the superior installments. Even though it may not be as influential on film as a whole, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013) definitely deserves to be in that camp because it took what The Hunger Games (2012) did and amped up the ante on this roller-coaster ride. However, none of those movies would be what they are if they weren’t able to build upon what the first movie had already set up.

If you have seen The Hunger Games (2012), than you have probably already seen The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013) and are already aware of how amazing this movie truly is. But if you haven’t then this is definitely one of those must-see movies that you have to watch, as it is a sequel that not only compliments the original but also delivers on the so-called hype.