Given that the film adaptation of Hunger Games: Catching Fire managed to earn $70.5 million dollars in its opening day, I think it’s safe to say that this was a hotly anticipated movie this holiday season.
The first film had a few misses but overall has been viewed favorably by the trilogy fans. Rotten Tomatoes has the average approval rating for the first film at an 81%, a solid B effort. Not bad considering how beloved these books have become and how tricky the subject matter can be translated to the big screen while still keeping the films MPAA accessible to teens. It also made a ton of money, which is a lot to live up to for any sequel, let alone one with a rabid YA fan base.
There was hype, expectation, and excitement– so how did the new filmmakers do with our Catching Fire?
Catching Fire gets a Grade A from this Hunger Games fan, and I’m not alone. Rotten Tomatoes Top Critics’ gave the film an 89% approval rating and their Audience rating is 94%. Jennifer Lawrence, if possible, is even better in this second film. It feels like they really used her expressiveness in the best way possible for this film. Part of what was missing from the first film is the connectedness we want to feel with Katniss. She is the narrator of the books, giving the reader a front row seat to her internal struggles. Catching Fire does a much better job utilizing Lawrence’s talents to give us that front row seat.
The wardrobe department also stepped up their game for this movie. People always used to talk about how cool the costumes were for the Capitol folks in the first film, but I was underwhelmed. It is always a struggle as a reader when these fully developed worlds in your mind are translated on screen and your imagination does not fit the visual style of the people making the film. This can also be the struggle we sometimes have with casting in these movies. I’ve been in many arguments with people over Josh Hutcherson’s casting as Peeta. I personally like him for the role and truly believe the naysayers will be changing their tunes after this film. Maybe it’s the hair change or maybe he just has more to do in this one– but either way, it is working.
There will be people who want to know how close to the book do the filmmakers keep it. Entertainment Weekly wrote a great article about the changes from the book to the movie and why they don’t matter. To be honest, I didn’t pick up on half of these changes. As a rule, I don’t reread books right before the film adaptation comes out. It makes me too critical over small plot points. The last time I read the book Catching Fire was probably over a year ago, which is just enough distance to remember the important details but forget a lot of the small stuff. The movie stayed true to the essence of the book while also making a great movie. This is always the trickiest part of a film adaptation, and Catching Fire was able to come out on top.
What about you, Hunger Games fans? What did you think of Catching Fire?
Also, for anyone truly bummed that we have to wait another year before the first installment of Mockingjay, the first full trailer of Divergent, coming out in March, was attached to Catching Fire. Enjoy!
-Katie Shanahan Yu, currently reading Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein