Saturday, November 30, 2013

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

IMDB: 8.4/10
Rotten Tomatoes: 89%(critics), 94%(audience)

Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Donald Sutherland, Stanley Tucci, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jena Malone.
Written By: Simon Beaufoy(screenplay), Michael Arndt(screenplay), Suzanne Collins(novel)
Directed By: Francis Lawrence

Release Date:
Described by IMDB as:
Katniss Everdeen has returned home safe after winning the 74th Annual Hunger Games along with fellow tribute Peeta Mellark. Winning means that they must turn around and leave their family and close friends, embarking on a "Victor's Tour" of the districts. Along the way Katniss senses that a rebellion is simmering, but the Capitol is still very much in control as President Snow prepares the 75th Annual Hunger Games (The Quarter Quell) - a competition that could change Panem forever."

Now THIS is how you do a Hunger Games movie, apologies to Gary Ross, I'm a big fan of Big but The Hunger Games was not great. In fact it was pretty terrible, at the time my rating was 7.5/10 but after a few weeks of thought it had dropped easily to a 6.5. There were some huge flaws which I felt were all fixed in this film.

 My two biggest pet peeves were that they took out a character which I felt to be very important in the first book, changing both how Katniss(Jennifer Lawrence) gets her mockingjay pin, and how she manages to see the fights in the districts in this film. The second was that at the end of the first film Katniss(Lawrence) does't tell Peta(Hutcherson) that her feelings for him were an act, which is how the book ends. Luckily both of these problems were fixed very well in this film, in my opinion. They don't bring the character into the series, but I thought they came up with a simple and realistic solution as to how she sees the footage of the districts uprising. They battle the problem of leaving out the fact that she doesn't love Peta right away in this one, but to anyone who didn't read the books I imagine it was sort of confusing since the last film ended with them almost committing suicide for each other, but I think Francis Lawrence did his best with those things.

I thought the special effects were terrible in the first film, for example the fire on Katniss(Lawrence) and Peta(Hutcherson) when they first come into the arena during the opening ceremonies of the game, looked incredibly fake, as did Panem when we first see it on their way in on the train. That was totally fixed in this film, the CGI was fantastic, the fire looked much more realistic, and I loved the filming style much better in general. The arena where the opening ceremonies happened in the first film looks so fake, but this film really was different, looked completely realistic and perfect. Cinematography was gorgeous, and so much better then the flat, fake look of the last film. I loved all of the scenes in District 12, it was so gritty, but so beautifully shot. All of the scenes in the woods there were just breathtaking, I would have loved to have shot those locations.

As far as the character development goes The Hunger Games  was very much lacking, especially the relationship between Katniss(Lawrence) and Peta(Hutcherson), totally unbelievable. Even though there wasn't a lot of time devoted to the actual relationship development in this film, it felt much more real, and was much easier to believe. I felt like we really cared about the people we were supposed to care about. *SPOILER ALERT* The death of Maggs was pretty sad, I mean, not Dobby sad (Harry Potter reference..) but definitely pulled at the heart strings. I loved Wiress(Amanda Plummer) and Beetee(Jeffrey Wright) and I thought the actors really brought something great to the characters. Wiress doesn't have a lot of show time in the movie, but I loved them in the books so maybe thats why I enjoyed them so much. 

Whoever is in charge of casting for these films has done a perfect job. A huge number of the cast was back again, starting with Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss, Josh Hutcherson as Peta and Liam Hemsworth as Gale, all three of these actors gave fantastic performances, and like I said, the casting was perfect. Great performances by Woody Harrelson, playing Haymitch, and Elizabeth Banks playing Effie as well. Stanley Tucci came back to play Caesar and his teeth, one of my favourite characters from the movies for sure. Extremely entertaining, and I think the fact that everyone loves the character is entirely Tucci's doing because I don't remember having a strong opinion either way when reading the book. Donald Sutherland is unreal as president snow is pretty terrifying, especially with his unreal beard. He really captures the character perfectly, and I really love that in both films we get a behind the scenes look at him since the entire film isn't just through Katniss' view, like the books are. Fantastic performances from all of the new additions including Philip Seymour Hoffman as Plutarch, I totally pictured him very similarily so a great casting choice, I also thought Jena Malone was a great addition to the team, and I thought she played Johanna very well. I'm not so sure of Sam Cafflin as Finnick or not, but I also wasn't a fan of the character until the 3rd book so that could very well be the problem.

In my opinion the books get better and better as they go on, and so far the same seems to be true for the films. Mockingjay, the 3rd book, was my favourite so it was really hard having to deal with the huge cliffhanger of this film and know I'm going have to wait at least another year before watching the film. Sometimes I forget about how much I love a certain book or film, but this one really got me back into the series, which I definitely needed after the last film. I loved every second of this film and I've already seen it twice. Highly recommend for anyone to watch, I'd advice watching the first one first just to get your bearrings for whats going on.

I'm going to give it a 8.6/10. Really enjoyable all-around. 

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