Catching Fire is the second film of the Hunger Games trilogy and has far surpassed all expectations one might have had after seeing the first film.
The dystopian teenage thriller invites the audience into the world of Panem, a totalitarian state in which twelve districts are controlled by the ‘Capitol’ through means of fear and reality TV. Each year the teenage population are subjected to the Capitol’s sadistic ‘Hunger Games’: 24 teenagers – or tributes – fight to the death, only one survives. Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) is the feisty heroine struggling through the aftermath of her own experience in the Games in the previous film. Whereas in the first film the audience occasionally find themselves experiencing the Games through the eyes of a Capitol citizen, Catching Fire is much more from the perspective of the tributes and, as a result, we feel more included in the revolutionary spirit of the film.
Everything about Catching Fire is superior to The Hunger Games; the script, acting, costumes and effects all surpass the first of the trilogy. Lawrence, despite the middle aged roles she has been seen playing recently, portrays the teenage Katniss perfectly. Even Josh Hutcherson, who disappointed many fans of Suzanne Collins’ original books with his portrayal of Peeta, wins the hearts of the most cynical of them the second time around. The constant suspense and tension throughout Katniss’ experiences has the audience laughing, cringing and crying right up to the end credits.
A few interesting details from the novel were neglected in the film adaptation, such as the build-up of the mystery surrounding District 13, which could have added much to the atmosphere of the film had they been included. To the delight of many fans, however, the film is surprisingly true to the book, even with Hollywood’s compulsion to prettify things occasionally taking over, such as when the tributes’ what-should-have-been-permanent blisters are miraculously cured by the magical water in the arena.
These occasional moments of Hollywoodisation may distract from the political message of the film in the particularly grisly moments, but it is still prevalent in the film as a whole. Suzanne Collins claims that ‘too much of people’s lives are put on television, and we’re desensitised to actual tragedy unfolding before us’. Her exaggerated scenario in which the population is distracted and controlled by reality television demonstrates her point well. The inequality within the regime is elegantly exemplified in the contrast between the Capitol citizens, who make themselves sick so they can consume more food, and the inhabitants of the districts who barely have enough food to keep them alive.
Atlantic Magazine has called Katniss Everdeen ‘the most important female character in recent pop culture history’. This opinion may not be one shared by everyone but it is undoubtable that the Hunger Games trilogy has successfully involved young people in the world of social criticism and political comment.