Review For Two – Catching Fire

 

Hugh, last night we caught Catching Fire.
To be honest, I was blown away. Very impressed.

Oh, absolutely.
Although I think we should establish that we caught the FILM, Catching Fire. We ourselves did not catch fire at any point.

Touché!
Was there any actual fire in the film?

Well, Katniss catches fire several times of course, usually wearing a gorgeous evening gown/wedding dress. But I don’t think she was harmed in any way.

Oh yes, the dresses were amazing!

I have to say, the moment the flames transformed her wedding dress into the black mocking jay gown, my first thought was, “Oh my god, it’s Natalie Portman in Black Swan! She’s going to go crazy and attack someone!”

 

Impressive wingspan.

Impressive wingspan.

When in fact, she did probably the least attacking in this film.

Yeah, the actual Games were surprisingly homicide free this time around. Just a lot of running from unnatural disasters, poisonous fog and murderous baboons.
I think they may have gone overboard with the baboons.

It felt like the whole Hunger Games was really an afterthought, tacked onto the second half of the film.

Definitely. It’s the same problem that the later Harry Potter films suffered from; there was just so much exposition to cover that they skimmed over quite a few areas. You’ve read all the books before – was the plot relatively unchanged in the film? Were there certain things they left out?

Without spoiling too much, I suppose.

I read the Hunger Games series some time ago; way before the film (although there was a whisper of it on the horizon). And I was hoping to reread before watching, but have been too busy gaming. Anyway, I was really surprised at how vividly the memories of the written words came back to me as I was watching Catching Fire. Scenes created visually for the film felt as if they were created from my very memories at times (particularly the first half).

What disappointed me was the development of Finnick Odair’s character.
Weirdly, because he wasn’t even a character I thought I was that attached to.

I was a little confused by his character. Do they want us to see him as another potential love interest for Katniss? So the love triangle becomes some kind of weird, amorous polygon?

Yeah that’s exactly it!
In the book, he is painted very much as the Adonis of the Hunger Games. Every man wants to be him, every woman wants to be with him.
Until he is in the arena with Katniss, where you realise he has a lot of emotional baggage and is really a prime example of how The Capitol creates propaganda.
Although he seems like The Capitol’s pin up, he is really one of the most wounded victims.

Ahhh right. I don’t think they really captured anything more than bravado in the film. Maybe his story will be explored further in the next movie.
I wondered if he might be gay at first, given his immaculate hair and his extreme attachment to Mags.

In a way, I’m afraid they’ve missed the boat on that one. Anyway, it gives you a reason to read the books.

Haha, yes, I should actually read them at some point.

Hugh, be honest, you were secretly just hoping!

Hey, I create the story I want to watch!
But seriously, Katniss was basically saturated in man candy, when she wasn’t in mortal danger. And even then…
And c’mon, Finnick was just a little too enthusiastic about resuscitating Peeta!

I’m almost always an advocate for reading before seeing. The distinct time I remember not doing so, ironically, was for the movie The Reader. When I read the book after, I couldn’t get Kate Winslet out of my head. It’s the true character definition you miss out on if you see the film first.
And see, nothing about Finnack in the book seems gay.

Clearly you didn’t pick up on the intricate homoerotic context woven throughout.

Ha, I’m sure there’s plenty of fanfic out there for your private enjoyment.

 

"Sooo, Katniss... Did Peter say anything about me?"

“Sooo, Katniss… Did Peeta say anything about me?”

Hahaha, only if it’s extremely poorly written.
That’s the best kind.

I think what I like best about these films is that they’re actually very critical of America’s class system and extreme inequality of wealth.

I’m interested that you only mention America in that critique.

Well, Panam is basically the truncated Pan-America. It’s just a post-apocalyptic American landscape, isn’t it?

Wow, I never looked at it like that before. I’ve always appreciated the universal quality; that it could be any country, at any point in the future.
But I see where you’re coming from. I think if I were to think of it as only America, like an American class problem, I’d feel… separated from it? I mean, who really cares about America.

Well, inequality is certainly not just an American concept I suppose, but that was my first assumption. You have an opulent Capitol populated by ghoulish narcissistic harlequins, drowning in material wealth, and a starving population who live hand-to-mouth, oppressed and downtrodden…

I guess it could be pre-revolutionary France or Russia, haha.
Either way, there’s a revolution coming.

Don’t you think Australia could easily fall into that trap?

Oh, definitely. It could be an allegory for a lot of societies I guess, but for some reason my first and overwhelming thought was of modern America.

Valid. And entirely logical based on your earlier arguments. Perhaps I just don’t like realising that these ideas are closer to reality than we realise.

 

Neither do I, but I that’s what I really love about these films. They make a real social statement, one that’s not necessarily popular in the society in which they’re produced.

I mean, I REALLY despised The Golden Compass for that reason – it was so afraid to stand behind the themes of the books that it was based on that it got twisted and mutilated into an absolute mess of a film. Just atrocious. You shouldn’t adapt something for the screen unless you’re willing to follow through with what the novel is saying!

Yeah, Catching Fire really packs the punches in the societal reflection department.

Oh yeah. Just ask Lenny Kravitz.
They didn’t pull any punches there.

Or they pulled too many….
You mentioned Mags before (an older Victor sent back into the Hunger Games) who was carried around by Finnick. I even thought mid-movie that this could be an active metaphor for how many people feel about the older generations; as though they are a burden.
When really, it was her involvement that saved certain main character’s lives.
And it’s her wisdom in the book that really allows Katniss to grow.

I think it was also a statement on just how barbaric Snow and the people of The Capitol could be. I mean, they drag in a poor, mute old woman for sheer entertainment value, stick her on television, dress her in a wetsuit and launch her into a death zone, knowing full well that she has absolutely no chance of survival. It was pretty confronting to watch, to be honest.
And Katniss didn’t catch one damn fish with that fish hook!
So she teaches Katniss far more in the book?

Yeah, I feel like a lot of Katniss’ training time in the book was spent learning skills from Mags that she put into practice during the Hunger Games.

Ah, I would have liked to see more of that in the film.

 

Mags. Osteoporosis may have severely impaired her combat skills, but the woman can bake a perfect lemon meringue in life threatening conditions. Survival 101.

Mags. Osteoporosis may have severely impaired her combat skills, but the woman can bake a perfect lemon meringue in life threatening conditions. Survival 101.

 

(Could be wrong… maybe someone will pipe up and correct me? Anyone?)
Yes, while the film explored massive concepts extensively, they did seem to shy away from displaying actual character development… Would you agree?
I mean, did you really feel convinced that she was now falling for Peeta?

Not at all. I think she shares a fairly desperate bond with Peeta, one born of fear and codependence and pity and survival, which, during the Games, she sometimes confuses for romantic affection. Basically, she kisses him when she’s terrified or when one of them almost dies.
It’s not fair to Peeta, poor guy.

You never know, he could get lucky in the future…

Pity sex. Yaayyy!!
Or maybe that crazy axe-swinging nymphomaniac, Joanna?
They’re both captured, after all. There could be some prison romance…

I’m not sharing any spoilers.
Further proof that reading the books pays off.

Oh my god, he taps that, doesn’t he?!

No comment.

Horny bastard!
Well, the woman does get naked in elevators.

Oh yeah. That scene is so random.

They obviously just needed a comic moment to break up the tension, so they said, “Hey, what if that chick in the peat moss dress got her tits out?”

If you haven’t seen Catching Fire yet, just another reason to go see it.
Even though there is no real nudity.
I mean this is a kid’s film, right?

Oh please, I challenge you to find a film in which Woody Harrelson DOESN’T get caught in an elevator with a naked woman half his age.

Okay. Point made. It’s probably in his contract.

Oh, there’s a clause in there.
Do you think the first Hunger Games film was a kid’s film though? There were a lot of children killing each other with medieval weapons, after all.

What better message can we teach kids? Do not let the opulent Capitol populated by ghoulish narcissistic harlequins, drowning in material wealth, overtake a starving population who live hand-to-mouth, oppressed and downtrodden…

You’re right, Dr Seuss should have put that into rhyme.
I was actually surprised at how I felt about Katniss and Peeta’s chaperone in this film, compared to the last.
What’s her name again?
The one with the outrageous eyelashes?

Effie?

Is it Effie? The one that got everyone matching jewellery.

Played by the delightful Elizabeth Banks.

Yes!
She was actually very human this time around, very sympathetic.

Which is something that I clearly don’t recall as significant from the books yet provided a nice human side to an otherwise inhuman Capitol.

Well, I think even she had to concede that what they were doing to Katniss and Peeta was bullshit. She’d managed to justify or brush off every edict until then, but pulling them back into the arena was definitely a turning point.
She basically admitted in her own way, “Yep, this is a load of crap.”

For those who haven’t seen the film (shame), the basic premise of the movie is that President Snow wants Katniss, symbol of all hope, killed. And the best plan he has is to throw a bunch of previous Victors back into the Hunger Games where the winners kill the winners and everyone loses.

But he doesn’t want to wait for the winners to kill the winners, so he fills the arena with flesh-eating baboons.
So many baboons.

 

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Hahaha. Yes, if anything from our little discussion, remember to fear the baboons.

THEY DO NOT FEAR THE WATER.

On that note, what rating would you give Catching Fire?

I’d give it four stars. It glossed over a lot of narrative in places, but plenty of excitement and beautiful men and baboons.
And you?

I’d give it four stars too. I felt much more emotionally involved in Catching Fire, I enjoyed the social messages and the thrilling storytelling.

If “thrilling storytelling” is a euphemism for elevator nudity…

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