“The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” Lights a Spark at the Box Office

This weekend, “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” had the largest Thanksgiving box office on record, earning over $110 million from Wednesday to Sunday. The movie got into record books, but did it stay true to the book that it is adapted from? I’m a book lover, which often makes me hate movies. Every once in a while, though, there is an adaptation like “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” that makes a perfect transition from page to screen.

“Catching Fire” starts just a little while after the credits rolled in the first movie. Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) have settled into their new mansions in Victor’s Village after managing to win The 74th Annual Hunger Games.

They head out on their victory tour where they have to face the families of those they killed in the Games. They see the people revolting against the government, despite Katniss putting forth her best effort to pretend she supports President Snow (Donald Sutherland) and the government in the Capitol.

This is where “The Hunger Games” really shines as a movie and book series. Katniss does not try to be a hero or lead a revolution against the government. She just wants to protect the people she loves. Snow knows that the people see Katniss as a symbol of revolution though. So he wants to figure out a good way to kill her. Thus, The 75th Annual Hunger Games puts only previous winners in the competition.

This introduces us to fun new characters like Johanna Mason (Jena Malone) and Finnick Odair (Sam Claflin). Johanna is sassy and angry, as she is in the books. Malone is a great choice, and the added scene of Johanna cursing out the Capitol in her interview was gold. I’m not one to enjoy additions not from the book, but it is absolutely perfect. 

The added scenes of Snow watching his granddaughter watch Katniss and Peeta are also great additions. Showing the heartless villain as a doting grandpa seriously gave me the creeps and made me even more afraid of Snow. It also conveys just how influential Katniss is becoming. She isn’t just a political figure, but she is a celebrity (and let’s face it, celebrities are often more influential than political figures). Little girls copy her hair and want her love story.

It goes without saying that Jennifer Lawrence is fantastic, as are all the other returning cast members. Elizabeth Banks really shines as Effie Trinket in this film, more so than in the first. Now Effie isn’t just some PR woman sent in by the Capitol. She knows Katniss and Peeta, and she is clearly distraught by the idea of sending her winners back into battle. There are so many people trying to stay strong and watching Effie break a little really makes the reality clear: No one wins in “The Hunger Games.”

A change of directors also helped “Catching Fire” succeed. Francis Lawrence was a welcome change from Gary Ross (though Ross was by no means a bad director). While the first film had a lot of shaky camera work to convey the fear and intensity of the Games, this movie keeps the shots steady. It’s a welcome change. I’d rather actually see the action than just feel disoriented and see the aftermath of the fight scene.

My only complaint is that there were added kisses between Katniss and her friend Gale (Liam Hemsworth). It adds to the love triangle story in a way that’s entirely unnecessary. This isn’t a movie about a love triangle (despite what reporters make interviews with the actors look like). It’s a film about political uprising and a dictatorship.

Though it’s hard to complain when there is so much to like. Even the costumes were amazing. They clearly upped the budget for this film because they look fantastic.

First of all, I want Katniss’ victory tour clothing. Katniss’ clothing was always an important part of the books. Her clothing usually represents something. In the first film, she wore a lot of girly dresses to make her seem sweet and likable (Katniss has some attitude problems). Cinna (Lenny Kravitz) designed clothing that made Katniss catch the eye of every sponsor and viewer. Trish Summerville did an amazing job designing for the film. She’s a real-life Cinna.

This is the rare film that is both a great page-to-screen adaptation and a sequel that is even better than its predecessor. It isn’t surprising that “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” is breaking box office records. More importantly, it’s well deserved.

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