The lesson here – the lesson in life – is do not underestimate the power of word-of-mouth.
I was underwhelmed and frustrated by the first film adaptation, so despite my love of Elizabeth Banks as Effie Trinket/Fashion Diva, I swore not to watch the rest of the trilogy.
Because it will most likely suck, and I didn’t even like Catching Fire the book all that much, and the cinema costs money.
Then word-of-mouth. More like word of my social network feeds. I see people recommending the film, people who have not read the book, people who have read the books and hated the first (flawed, forgettable) adaptation.
Thank you, friends and your digital prodding.
Casting and cinematography are A+, but we know this already from the first film. Hunger Games’ gems (and by “gems” I mean “Elizabeth Banks”) just got buried under a ton of shaky camera work, poor characterization, and bad editing.
In Catching Fire, the filmmakers knew what changes should be made to make the story flow, to make the scenes that come after be the only scenes that can ever come after. (Even the Harry Potter films are flawed in this department, with most installments confusing non-readers and frustrating the books’ fans.)
What this produced is a highly entertaining, watchable film, effective in key moments, with a story that flows so well you don’t realize more than two hours has passed.
[Cut for further discussion and spoilers.]
The film is also an improvement on the source material. The books are in first person POV, so it’s mostly conjecture on the part of Katniss Everdeen, because she’s not privy to the politics. So when the Quarter Quell came up in the book, it felt gratuitous. Here, since we’re no longer restricted to Katniss’s (emo, flipfloppy, annoying because teenager) POV, the sequence of events made sense, like there’s no other way for Snow (manipulated by Plutarch) to go forward but to put the Victors back in the ring. It’s really a triumph of editing and pacing.
This helped make Jennifer Lawrence shine, finally. (She’s acting that she’s acting! And she is brilliant!)
And can I just say Philip Seymour Hoffman (Plutarch Heavensbee) looks so formidable, even though by Capitol standards – since he has no makeup, no weird hair – he looks like a homeless man. Look at Seneca Crane’s beard, for God’s sake.
And yet Hoffman’s simple “Let’s start” exudes enough power to make you sit up and pay attention.
And Effie Trinket’s “You both deserved better” broke my heart. That was a great scene.
Not to belabor the point but: do watch the film.