Transforming a beloved book series into a film is never an easy task. There will be haters who quote the book to you, pointing out each and every derivation from the original plot and story. The truth is that a movie is inherently different from a book and changes must be made in the transformation. You cannot please everyone. Sometimes you get an awkward disaster (cough…Twilight…cough), and sometimes you get The Lord of the Rings.
It’s still a little too soon to tell with “The Hunger Games” trilogy, but “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” is most definitely another step in the right direction. In fact, I’ll risk death by book bludgeoning and say this, I think the films may surpass their literary inspiration.
For those unfamiliar, in “The Hunger Games,” we were introduced to the war-torn nation of Panem—a post-conflict North America, where people are kept in check with an annual nationally televised barbaric competition pitting children against children in a battle to the death.
In “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire,” our heroes, Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) are facing the bleak reality that they will never be free of the Games, unless drastic action is taking.
A nervous President Snow (Donald Sutherland) sees Katniss as a huge threat to his political machine. He enlists the help of new gamemaker Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman) to remove that threat by any means necessary, and as the Quarter Quell (75th annual) games commence things are not quite what they seem. I’d say more, but spoilers are not my style.
Lovers of the books know that the story is told entirely from the perspective of Katniss. We see what she sees, we hear what she hears, we know what she’s thinking and experiencing and not much else. The movie is a bit more omniscient, but only a little.
In the movies we see things as they happen that Katniss only hears about later in the books. We also get a glimpse at the production side of the Games themselves and see more of President Snow than the text tells us, and it all works beautifully.
These additions and changes in “The Hunger Games” was a jump for loyal readers. I think if there were any doubt about the power of these shifts in storytelling “Catching Fire” has doused those concerns.
This franchise had me at “The Hunger Games,” but “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” has shown just how brilliant this series could (and dare I say will) be.
What’s most impressive and was seen in the first movie as well as this one is that the story manages to hold on to Katniss’ introspection (gloriously without the use of voice-overs). Credit here belongs to the director, screenwriters, and the fabulous Ms. Jennifer Lawrence who can tell a story with a glance. She really is fantastic in this role.
Although the movie has added much-needed depth to the overall picture Katniss is still the soul of this story and that responsibility could not have been put in better hands.