Friday, November 29, 2013

Catching Fire, still unbiased

For the appropriate background, you should go back and read my review of The Hunger Games. In brief, I have not and do not plan to read the books, so this review is based solely on my viewing of the movie.

Where the first movie failed to build a solid foundation for the world of the Hunger Games to stand on, Catching Fire came in to make that foundation more solid. Some of that is, for lack of a better term, accidental. For instance, the fact that Katniss and Peeta are the picture of good health (along with Katniss' family) is now to be expected, so that no longer worked against the movie. District 12 and its inhabitants were more rundown and dilapidated, so the contrast between Katniss and her fellow citizens (other than Gale) was more distinct. All of that was good and gave a more realistic feel to the movie than the last one had.

We got a broader view of the world in general and of the Peacekeepers in action, which was way more disturbing than the first movie would have lead us to believe. The second movie made us believe all the things the first movie only told us to believe. It's actually the whole "show vs tell" thing. The first movie tells us the people are oppressed, but Catching Fire shows us.

  • It shows us when Gale is taken and flogged and Katniss almost shot.
  • It shows us when the old man in District 11 is pulled from the crowd and shot in the head.
  • It shows when Katniss and Peeta are offered the puking beverage so that they can continue to participate in the party.
  • And it shows us when Cinna is beaten (to death, I presume) right in front of Katniss after the tube closes on her and all she can do is watch. And scream.

The political intrigue, almost absent from The Hunger Games, also elevates Catching Fire. Plutarch Heavensbee is a great character, and I was never quite sure what was going on with him. There was what I thought was happening, but Philip Seymour Hoffman was so good, I spent a lot of time doubting myself. Of course, Hoffman is great, and I was delighted to see him in the movie. Plutarch wasn't the only one playing games, but he was the primary one, and I almost felt sorry for President Snow and his inability to adequately play politics. Snow seemed to know one tactic: "Smash!" Or threaten to smash. Or kill.

The acting in Fire was much better than in Games.

  • Lawrence really stepped into the part and made us feel the horror and rage of the things she was going through. Also the lost-ness in parts. She was impressive this time rather than just existing in the role.
  • Woody Harrelson continued to be great as Haymitch.
  • Elizabeth Banks moved beyond her makeup, which was actually rather impressive considering that you couldn't really see her face. The emotion she was able to bring through in relation to how she felt about the injustices that were happening was incredible.
  • Stanley Tucci continued to be awesome.
  • As I already said, Philip Seymour Hoffman was tremendous.
  • Sam Claflin was really good.
  • But the big surprise was Jena Malone. She was great!
The greatest success of the movie, though, was that it made me want to read the books. Almost. I'm still not going to read them, because, based on many of the things I've read about it, the movie fixes many of the problems from the first movie and from the books. The focus on the politics seems to be a movie thing not a book thing, and that's the stuff I really liked. So, still, not reading the books, but I'm slightly less set against them now. That's an achievement.

"Shadow Spinner: Collection 3: The Garden (Parts 13 - 21)"
This collection has a short story by none other than Rusty Webb, who also draws pictures and has drawn all of mine. It's a great story based on the world from The House on the Corner, and it has... but that would be telling. Hopefully, there will be more to come from this story line, later. At any rate, pick up Collection 3, read my stuff, read his stuff. After you've done all of that, go back and leave a review!


  1. I have yet to see Catching Fire. I liked the books and the first film, but I cannot say that I loved them like some readers/viewers did. I found the final book in the series is the weakest link, so it will be interesting to see how the film deals with that.

  2. I'm seeing the movie this weekend. Read the books and it's great that they're also being made into movies. While I do love the movie Hunger Games, I must agree that it in some ways did fall short in some ways and what you said about Katniss, Peeta and Gale seeming way more healthier than other D12 residents just hit me. Your thoughts on Catching Fire only makes me more excited to see it.

    Also congrats on another collection from your book series Shadow Spinner.

  3. Almost makes me want to see it. Wait, not really. First one bored me to tears.
    Congratulations on the next big installment!

  4. Just bought it, and grabbed some of my reviews from the chapters at issue and posted them. I hope this is selling well. You'll get a mention in the Indie Gift Guide soon, and you were featured on "Me, Annotated" today, too:

    Anyway, "Catching Fire" didn't appeal to me any more than "Hunger Games" did. It's nice to see that they made it a better movie than expected, but the whole thing just seems boring to me. I don't really know why. I do know that it for some reason really bugs me, the whole 'hunger games' setup, in that I don't feel it could ever work and seems contrived.

    Sometimes I can get past that stuff and sometimes I can't; I think it depends on whether I view it as "serious" fiction or "fun" fiction -- like I said in the Oblivion post. If it's a "Hitchhiker's" book it's fine if it all seems made up.

  5. I've read the books. The first was definitely the best. Haven't seen the movies, don't intend to.

  6. I haven't read the books or seen any of the movies - don't know if I will or not. It's nice to know they're getting better.

  7. I loved Catching Fire. So much better than the original film. I haven't read the books either and I don't plan on to any time soon.

  8. Kathryn: My perception is that the movies have changed the focus of the story which accounts for the improvement of the second film.

    Sheena: I have to admit that I was not anticipating this movie at all. The only reason I went is that my daughter wanted to go see it (which was why I saw the first one), and, prior to it coming out, I was hoping that she wouldn't remember. All of that to say that I'm glad we went to see it, because it was so much better than I was anticipating.

    Alex: I didn't think the first one was boring, just... lacking a realistic setting/foundation. This one fixed a lot of that.

    Briane: Oh, I think the premise is ridiculous, which is part of the reason I didn't enjoy the first movie. But, to some extent, the premise is subverted in this one and not dealt with directly, so, if you look at just this movie, so to speak, it's pretty good.

    Jo: And I still don't intend to read the books, so I guess that makes us even?

    TAS: You have a daughter, so don't be surprised if they come up at some point.

    Livia: Exactly!

  9. I liked the first movie, but this one was so much better. There weren't as many spots where it dragged out, and the acting was a lot stronger. It really managed to improve upon the weaknesses of the book.

  10. My daughter has been insistent on me reading the books since they first came out, and since I won't see the movie without reading the book first, well, here we are. Haven't read the books yet, haven't seen the movie.

    But it sounds great! Philip Seymour Hoffman is excellent in everything he's in, I think.

    Jennifer Lawrence is our hometown girl (she's from Louisville!) so no one's allowed to say anything bad about her, soooo, I'm sure she's awesome in the movie! LOLOL

  11. Jeanne: The acting was a lot stronger. I thought Lawrence, especially, was so much better. She could have been any of a dozen actresses in the first movie. But, then, maybe it was just a much stronger script.

    RG: Well, I don't know what to tell you, because I haven't read the books, but, then, I don't plan to.

  12. I have yet to see the new HG movie, though my son did get to go see it with my dad and nephew, so he's actually seen one before me. Not sure when I'll make it in to see it. Hubby and I like to grab the occasional day date while the kids are at school, but Thor has been out longer, so we'll probably see that one first. This HG is getting good reviews, though, so I'm looking forward to seeing it, and I hope it lives up to the hype.

    Also, have I mentioned that I love that you're featuring a short story by Indie authors in each of your collections? No? Well, I do. It's a cool thing to do, and a great way for us to get a sampler from an Indie author with each chunk of Shadow Spinner.

  13. Shannon: Oh, yeah, go see Thor! It gets a higher ranking from me, and I think it's also better than the first one.

    I think it's a cool thing. Not that I'm the best source to spread the word of other authors, but everything helps, right?
    I really want more people to read Pagel's story in collection 2; it's a great read. So says me.

  14. I saw the first Hunger Games and I know I am probably among the few that thought I just didn't get it. :/ I really didn't understand all the hype after I saw it. If there is another part to it I hope that it is better than the first one.

  15. G_G: Well, this one was. I just hope that part 3 continues to be better than the book.

  16. I read the first book and decided I was not the target audience and stopped reading after that. I thought the movie was - not amazing.

    Still, the wife read them all and loved the first flick. I hope I'll like the second one better too.

  17. Rusty: I definitely found the first movie not amazing. My wife, who only just recently watched it, liked it better than me. It's too bad the initial premise is still so unrealistic to me.

  18. i love katness and petta team up. now they got new team such a very nice movie, hope to see mockingjay soon