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From Page to Screen: Hunger Games: Catching Fire

2013 November 25
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hunger_games_catching_fire_movieGiven 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

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2 Responses
  1. December 1, 2013

    I love how they allowed Josh Hutcherson to actually act in this one! I think it was a much stronger film than the first, though occasionally Katniss was a little too Jennifer Lawrence (whom I adore, but who shouldn’t be the same person as her character) when she made faces.

  2. Cristy M permalink
    December 2, 2013

    I think that this movie succeeds most in improving on Mockingjay, honestly. Mockingjay is an awful book on so many levels but, mostly in two respects: 1. established-character betrayal (of absolutely everyone up to and including Ms. Katniss Everdeen from page 1 to the last page of the book), and 2. logistically (one cannot honestly visualize a realistic image/ mind movie of anything that occurs in the SPOILER ALERT Capitol climactic scenes). In even very small ways, the direction and the script guide the actors to do things – make expressions, gestures, or even say small things – that will lead to logical conclusions in the two-parter Mockingjay adaptation/s. They make, for instance, Peeta a guy worth keeping around for four movies rather than just a lump of clumsy weight that Katniss has to carry around for no reason the whole time. He fights and he kills to survive. Go, Peeta! It’s about time. For Katniss, they actually deliver – in the final scenes of the movie SPOILER AGAIN – the feeling that Katniss is, in fact, NOT the guiding force in anything. She’s just a girl who needed to survive. She’s a brave kid who managed to make it to the end of these “games” only to be made into a figurehead – a picture on the mantle – with no real cause for rebellion and no real desire to lead because that’s not what she is. She is betrayed by everyone around her – including Gale – who want her to stand up as a symbol of something she doesn’t really care to participate in while everyone around her urges her on without her consent. That’s not something you see in the books. In the books she goes from being a heroine – in a sense – to a wilting lily which is awful.

    Anyway, the best thing about Catching Fire is that it corrects the first movie AND the novels – all of them. It makes it BETTER for those of us who don’t just ride the wave of the hype for the sake of it. Kudos to Collins for standing by and supporting films that essentially improve upon her novels. It means she has to admit to the fact that the novels are weak in some ways. Acknowledging criticism and letting it improve your narrative is a show of true character and strength as a writer.

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