The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
dir. Francis Lawrence
Faces, gaunt with hunger for food and freedom. The games, filled with contestants no bigger than the weapons they carry, fighting to the death. This is the world of Katniss Everdeen. A girl, whose fire for survival and rebellion against her oppressors ignites a spark of hope to all her countrymen. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is a marked improvement that greatly supersedes its haunting and thought-provoking predecessor.
The story continues the journey of Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark in their return home from their upset win at the 74th Hunger Games. Their stomachs and purses are full, but their souls are empty, tormented that their spoils of victory come from the murder of fellow children in the blood-stained arena. After a long tour of the Districts celebrating their victory - which feels more along the lines of a series of regretful eulogies - they are thrown back into the Games for the Third Quarter Quell, in which the contestants are chosen from the pool of previous Tribute victors. All the while, rumors of rebellion are spreading through the Districts, hushed whispers of change in the air. And whether they intended it, Katniss and Peeta’s actions for survival in their victory of the previous Hunger Games has kindled hope of true freedom in Panem.
This film is no child’s play. Dark, foreboding, and with beautifully on the mark pacing, Catching Fire does more than give us a distraction from our day to day as a piece of entertainment. It is a story that ruthlessly pits hope & despair side by side, enraging us with what’s wrong in their society and shooting straight truth from the gleaming bow of Katniss into the bullseye of Panem’s inward corruption.
The violence is of a different nature than the first film. With skilled warriors and former champions, these games are more strategic and less chaotic than the first, but in each passing moment the game makers throw more difficult turns their way. It was familiar to the results of playing the game in Jumanji, where each obstacle is not simply a physical danger, but also psychological. These similar type of challenges in Catching Fire do not simplyleave an indelible mark on its contenders, but on us, comfortably removed from the battle.
In the midst of such gluttony of fantastical and mindless brutality of gigantic blockbusters bombarding the eyes and ears of theatergoers, it is refreshing to see violence being used as a magnifier of injustice. Katniss & Peeta suffer nightmares from the games, the Districts are rounded up like wounded animals, increasingly subjected to harassment and physical abuse. Tributes are killed in brutal and primal fashion. These dark instances never take violence for granted. There is a very serious toll, and it’s one we can’t simply shake away.
That is what makes Catching Fire an entirely different vision of a dystopian future. It is one where violent ends are the means of their entertainment, and violent means are the ends of the very marrow of control in Panem society. What I found surprising was how powerful the feeling of unrest was that I shared with Katniss, Peeta and those in the District. And when the lights of the cinema faded back in, and reality set in once more, I couldn’t shake that feeling. Restlessness, quietly settling deep in the back of my mind. The need to know what happens next. And the undeniable sense of change, singing out in the clear voice of the fiery Mockingjay.
Yes. Hope is in the wind.