Friday, December 13, 2013
Catching Fire is Hot!
Politics, power and performance propels The Hunger Games: Catching Fire into a must-see end-of year epic
ARTH VADER (AV): Hot on the heels of the highly acclaimed—and super successful—Hunger Games, based on the incredibly popular book series of the same namesake; The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is the series follow-up to what is shaping up to becoming an epic set of films. Character progressions are portrayed powerfully and the story progresses as well onscreen as I'm sure they do in the novels (definitely on my to-read list, Ponty!). A new set of twists, takes our heroes in challenging new directions but it is the storytelling that will leave you breathless.
THE PONTIFICATOR (TP): There were some minor changes from the page to the screen, but nothing that detracted from the film being something great to watch. Gale’s whipping, for example, didn’t go exactly the same way in the film like it did in the book, but the change in circumstances that caused the incident actually worked better for purposes of having a more profound impact on the theater audience.
CASTING, DIRECTING AND ACTING
AV: With a healthy array of recurring actors, THG:CF is a captivating directorial experience. With the momentum-paced camera work and just downright impressive cinematography, Jennifer "Catniss" Lawrence and Josh "Why was I in the Red Dawn re-boot" Hutcherson have plenty of worries left in the post-victory world of Hunger-Games. The powerful vision of director Francis Lawrence keeps viewers engaged and enthralled in a well-paced and entrenched story. What's more, while I do feel the roles of the primary actors in this movie are all 'dialed-in' (except for Catniss) the personalities of the actors are so strong that nothing is lost.
TP: All the usual suspects are back, Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Woody Harrelson and Stanley Tucci…and they all deliver as well, if not better than they did in the first film. Enter new cast members making a splash onscreen and in our memories with excellent performances: Jeffrey Wright as the tech wiz Beetee, Philip Seymour Hoffman as the new game master Plutarch Heavensbee, and Jena Malone as the scene stealing (every one she was in) Johanna Mason. Excellently cast and well directed, although I did find myself restless at times Vader.
AV: The visual effects of today's big budget films is expected to leave the audience bewildered, dazzled and speechless. Does this happen in this movie? Does the film warrant it? The answer is; kind of. While the story–and world–of THG:CF is enormous, the SP/X are appropriately compelling. Make no mistake, the sweeping CGI cityscape, the backgrounds and environments are eye-grabbing. But what this film does well is give us visual effects that are polished but don't overwhelm the scenes. This is a very hard balance to strike and this movie does a remarkable job giving the visual effects the right balance of immersion.
TAKING A DEEPER LOOK
AV: I must confess, I wasn't looking forward to this film, Ponitifcator. I'm not a fan of the story content and do not condone the premise of children killing children–the inescapable reality of the many district "Pledges" in the world of the Hunger Games. I have no problem bearing witness to the blight of human conflict but watching 12 and 13 year-olds getting butchered by 17-and-18 year-olds is beyond gut-wrenching and a hard pill for me to swallow. Once you're past that though, there is real substance here.
While this is far from a perfect film (there are some sequencing and story-transition issues as well as holes in the dialogue which actually deflate the impact of the President's –Donald Sutherland's–villainy). However, this is such an good-looking movie with an enduring message, it is easy to skip over those minor pitfalls, wouldn't you say old friend?
TP: Well Vader, I was expecting the same shock value the first film delivered with regards to the issue of children killing children. Shame on me for not taking an empty cup with me as this film was very different in this area. Obviously with the advent of former tributes being thrown back into the ring, the whole child violence dynamic changed, but I was surprised at what degree the whole level of personal violence was toned down. I must admit it was somewhat pleasant to concentrate on the intricacies of the hidden agendas and forming relationships of the characters rather than the usual gratuitous violence. Of course, the statement the first film made with regards to our current society’s issue with classism continued in force, literally and underscored the reality of a world we all could soon be living in if we are not vigilant.
AV: This series will keep on trucking from here, Ponty. Deep down in it's genetic code, The Hunger Games was engineered to be a multi-movie exposé that gets us (ahem!) fired up—a good thing, too.
Since today's "I can't remember what I did five minutes ago" culture needs to be cattle-prodded into returning to see something we think we remember we liked. This movie could have easily been a three and a half hour epic and while I certainly left the theater wanting to see more, that's exactly how a good movie-going experience should leave you. The third book, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay (THG:MJ) is going to be given to us in two more films. Unlike how I was going in to this one, I'm super excited for those next films, P-man. You?
TP: Without question, there will be more films before this ride is done, and like you Vader, I look forward to Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 (2014) and Part 2 (2015). Now, if only I could remember what I did five minutes ago… LOL!
ARTH VADER rates The Hunger Games: Catching Fire: To put it in easy terms, I really liked this movie. In fact, much better than I had originally thought I would. Thoroughly captivating story, great screenplay and a powerfully familiar cast help make Catching Fire a great holiday blockbuster and a great way to spend some of your end-of-year film-going dollars. With that, I draw back my compound bow and let a flaming arrow fly to ignite eight (8) busted–but very flammable–blocks.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire 8 / 10 Busted Blocks