Hunger Games Needs More Hunger

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A very short non-spoiler note about “Catching Fire” written on my phone.

What I think is missing from the thematic resonance of “Catching Fire” is the culturally ingrained fascination and addiction to the sport and the implied reflection born onto real life. Without having read the books, it’s not hard to see that Suzanne Collins was clearly going for commentary about the way society consumes sports and reality TV and how such a ubiquitously brutish mass intake is not only reflective of the sadism of Roman Civilization but how it serves as a distraction for how bad real life actually is for everyone but the haves. But the movies are doing a pretty terrible job capturing that in order to give greater perspective of the overall environment.

Both their narratives and cinematography are too swept up in Katniss and her immediate struggles/love life (which isn’t bad so much as it is a little arid on the will-they-won’t-they stuff) than the bigger picture. They fall prey to the Tom Hooper trap of cinematic tunnel vision, putting all the focus on a well acted main character and going to extraneous lengths to humanize her at the expense of more varied screen time that could be used to make the film more rounded, compete, and interesting.

For one, it becomes nearly impossible for some of Panam’s popular culture to NOT be seen as either ripped from bad sci-fi or just plain weird. I feel more curious than wowed by it.

Also (and this ties into the author’s intent), it misses a lot of opportunities to show just how influential and meaningful Katniss is ostensibly supposed to be to everyone. I wanted to see more of the alleged uprisings. I wanted to see the kind of effect these games have on society, which would do more to show just how bad they really are. I wanted to see more of a fan culture beyond little girls styling their hair after Katniss. I wanted to see more of the kind of thing we saw in “Inglourious Basterds” where a movie theater full of Nazis were soaking up the violence in a war movie the way Tarantino fans soak up the violence in his.

Those are my immediate thoughts after seeing “Catching Fire.” It is better than the first film but I really just can’t muster up any enthusiasm for it. If I had to score it the usual way, I’d give it a 6.4/ 10.

1 Comment

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  1. CMrok93

    Nice review Vivek. There’s plenty promise left in this franchise, which is exactly how this movie ends, and done so perfectly, too.

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