Sunday, 28 December 2014

The Hunger Games : Catching Fire (2013)

I was pleasantly surprised to read the first Hunger Games novel in the summer of 2013 (blogged about here) and just as surprised to see the first big screen adaptation which not only did the source material proud it actually improved it in some areas (blogged here)

This sequel, Catching Fire, is an adaptation of the second novel which I haven't read. I had intended to get round to it but I have a 'to read' pile that would make Hercules think twice about taking the task on, so when my sister bought me this on DVD for Christmas (along with The Inbetweeners 2), I decided to go ahead and watch it on Boxing Day.

As with many sequels the tone is one of a more intelligent, deeper and darker hue. Much of the first film concerned itself with the horror of teenagers killing teenagers for the entertainment of the masses, both the sadistic rich and the cowed proletariat, which left us with two survivors Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark. Catching Fire expands on the theme by exploring the appeal the masses have for Katniss in particular, and increasing rebellious spirit her single minded, anti-authoritarian success has helped sow the seeds of. The film's baddie, President Snow, naturally cannot allow such agitation thrive and so he proposes another tournament which this time features veteran contestants.

The fly in the ointment continues to be the love triangle narrative, something which I think is supposed to appeal to the Twilight accustomed teen audiences hungry for such angst ridden romance. Katniss loves Gale but must pretend to love Peeta for their public image....*yawn* This narrative really doesn't do anything for me and neither Liam Hemsworth (Gale) or Josh Hutcherson (Peeta) can offer any interest here. Granted as a straight man and one who is in his mid thirties I'm not the target audience here I know, but whilst I can appreciate there is probably some aesthetic merit to both male stars I find nothing of merit in the deathly dull moping performances from either of them. Thankfully Jennifer Lawrence's admirable Katniss largely leaves them to it and continues to thrive as an independent proactive female role model.

I can only hope that the majority of the target audience ie teenagers and early twentysomethings can look beyond the naff wet blanket romance and open their eyes up to the real message of The Hunger Games; the inequalities within society, the war and suffering being masked and smothered by incessant 'celebrity' triviality to stop us all from seriously considering the injustice all around us that allows the few to prosper over the many. If just one impressionable viewer (or reader) realises the facade we live in then The Hunger Games will have done its job. 

It's a shame this is writer Simon Beaufoy's only foray into the series of films as I found his script to be a strong one and cannot shake the suspicion that his successor, Danny Strong, will be a step down, especially having witnessed his work on the turgid and laughable would be thought provoking epic The Butler. Given the so/so reviews for the next chapter, the first half of the conclusion to the franchise Mockingjay 1, one can't help but feel I may be right to have such qualms.

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