Additional Thoughts on The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

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I wanted to take a moment to jot down a few thoughts as an addendum to Snippets’ official review of Catching Fire from Tim Combatti.

I wanted to write on why it works so well. Because it works really, really well.

If you permit me to be hyperbolic, I’m looking to rain some praise.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is phenomenal and the best big budget spectacle blockbuster to be released this year. Perhaps it was the fact that I saw it in IMAX (from the 3rd row no less), but I walked out of the midnight showing completely blown away. Catching Fire is confident, unrestrained, emotionally potent, and viscerally unrelenting. It is big budget, commercial, young-adult filmmaking at its absolute best.

The reason is simple: Catching Fire integrates character driven human drama into its spectacle based format. This may seem like a no-brainer, but it appears to be a particularly difficult task based on nine-tenths of Hollywood’s big budget output. Screenwriters Simon Beaufoy127 Hours ) and Michael ArndtToy Story 3 ) wrote a script that shows us who Katniss and Peeta are rather than having an exposition mouth piece tell us what we should think of them. In other words their characterization is dramatized. Perhaps this is a spoiler, but it is minor, skip this if you’re so inclined.

Peeta is supposed to be kind and selfless. We know this through his behavior. Part way through the arena sequence he is saved by a competitor he never met. His savior throws herself in harms way to protect him and she is mortally wounded in the process. Peeta, defying what the Hunger Games encourages in its participants, carries the dying woman free from further harm. He cradles her in the surf as she dies. Her final moments are soothed by Peeta’s words. He tells her to look at the colors of the setting sun, to just pay attention to the beauty of the moment rather than her pain. She slips away in his arms. The moment is brief, but resonant. Peeta’s wholesome nature is cemented in a moment that furthers the narrative. This is expert storytelling, and it is beautiful.

Catching Fire is full of dramatic moments that simultaneously tell the story at hand while showing us the characters we have to relate to. This balancing act is boosted by confident and convicted performances from each and every player. Jennifer Lawrence continues to prove she is a force to be reckoned with. But it is Josh Hutcherson who brings heart and soul to the film. He lays bare Peeta’s pain and love in an honest and beautiful performance.

A bigger budget, a stronger script, and a steadier camera all combine to make Catching Fire a superior film to its predecessor in almost every way. Finding the human in the spectacle it hits the heart as well as the awe-factor.

One final note – a significant portion of the movie was filmed with IMAX cameras on true 70mm film. If you can go see it on a true IMAX projection, then you absolutely must. It is awe inspiring.

Be sure to check out our other Hunger Games coverage:

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