The Hunger Games: A Worthy Sequel that Improves on the Original

This article was written with Ruth Chung.

1Suzanne Collins’s renowned book trilogy, The Hunger Games, has gained a cult-like following throughout the years. After The Hunger Games movie was released and received such positive reviews, news of Catching Fire coming out this month sparked excitement in fans worldwide. Highly anticipated from both book and movie lovers, Catching Fire opened November 22 and quickly ranked third highest box-office title of all time. The estimated 161.1 million dollars brought in from just this first weekend shows the burgeoning anticipation since news of the movie first caught the public eye.

Young adult literature adaptations have often been demarcated by their hit-or-miss nature. Many times, they sizzle down to nothing more than a watered-down, unintelligent version of the original. What sets Catching Fire apart is how forceful, poignant, and exhilarating it manages to be. This development broke any stereotype and “wow-ed” viewers all over the world.  It explores themes such as oppression, selfishness, consequences, and sacrifice with maturity and depth, whilst still being able to cover all important aspects of the Catching Fire novel in a cramped amount of time. The refusal to deviate from the original novel and its loyalty to the much treasured plotline factored into the satisfaction of dedicated book-lovers nationwide.

As with any other franchise, The Hunger Games series is indisputably defined by its heroine, the talented but reluctant Katniss Everdeen, played with subtlety and heartbreaking anguish by the eternally talented Lawrence. While the movie is surging forward, it is Katniss that keeps all eyes locked onto the screen. Her three-dimensional portrayal results in a protagonist that is both complicated and likeable, thusly solidifying the picture perfect Katniss. The supporting cast features a number of equally exceptional performances. Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth reprise their roles as Peeta Mellark and Gale Hawthorne, both wounded in their own ways. Woody Harrelson returns with his witty comebacks as Haymitch, the alcoholic mentor determined to keep Katniss and Peeta alive. Newcomers Sam Claflin and Jena Malone also bring charisma and jeopardy in their roles as Finnick Odair and Johanna Mason. Academy Award-winning actor Philip Seymour Hoffman steps into the role of Plutarch Heavensbee, flawlessly covering his duplicitous role as the ethically questionable Gamesmaker. A surprising standout performance comes from Elizabeth Banks, whose comical yet touching portrayal of Effie Trinket lets us see a Capitol-bred chaperone beginning to realize the injustice of the institutions that employ her.

Part of this “wow” factor was due to the convincing special effects. Because nearly the whole movie takes place in a setting that is not one’s typical living quarters, special effects had to be implemented everywhere. The movie begins with a scene in the woods, and then later goes to the inward bounds of District 12; later scenes include the capitol building, the metro train and the games Cornucopia. With the help of these special effects, the movie was breathtakingly resounding. When Katniss shoots her arrow into the sky towards the end of the movie, hitting the top dome of the force field in the boundaries of The Games, the effect of the arrow hitting the invisible barrier and the realistic features of the breaking of the dome pulled viewers completely into the pointedly dramatic scene. The metro made believable the comfortable transportation of many in a compact bullet-like train. The make-up and costumes, too, continued its unique flare from the first movie yet added more to the individuality of the fashion of the capitol, using the emphasis of the contrast between itself and the other districts to further fuel the fire between the controlling capitol and its fighting districts. Although the effects of the fire when Katniss and Peeta was announced was almost cartoon-like, the overall effects convinced the watchers and added underlining enrichment to the movie.

Despite all its breathtaking elements, what was most astonishing about Catching Fire was the emotional experience. We can clearly envision a realistic nation of abused people desperately clinging to the hope that a single girl has brought them, and the Capitol’s vanquishing of all those who speak out are artfully executed. It is with Katniss, forced to be the face of the Capitol under the threat of death, with whom our hearts break, as she remains helpless to stop the cruelty that surrounds her. Ultimately, it is the human sentiments, passions, and morales in The Hunger Games that we see in ourselves that makes the entire movie franchise so appealing. When you mix this healthy dose of compelling emotion with the wonderfully directed action that ensues, what you get is an utterly gripping film. [SPOILER] When the movie concluded with Lawrence’ comprehension of District 12’s obliteration and her subsequent furious expression, the intensity was palpable. With the stage flawlessly set for an explosive two-part conclusion, we can’t help but feel that the games have just begun.