So I went to see Catching Fire on opening night with a group of friends. I’m tagging this write-up as “midnight showing” even though it was technically an 8 pm showing; most movies don’t really wait to premiere at midnight anymore, and although part of me thinks that’s a little sad, another part of me is getting old and appreciates not having to stay up so late. It was a good premiere; I wasn’t able to organize and prepare as much as I did for the first film, but we dressed up in Capitol fashion and the movie itself was, in my opinion, better than the first.
The thing about shows that start before midnight is there isn’t as much waiting-in-line time to fill, so I kinda over-prepared and we didn’t end up doing all the activities I had planned, but that’s alright since a lot of them didn’t take much effort. (For example, if we needed to kill time I thought we could play a version of the “telephone” game were you start with a phrase and whisper it from one person to another to see if it ends up the same at the end, but call it “mockingjay,” and use phrases like “Peeta has hot cross buns.”)
We did play the game that I spent the most time preparing for, which was Arena Trivia. Everyone playing was a Tribute in the Trivia Arena and started with a perfect 20 health. When it was their turn, they spun a wheel to see how lethal of a “weapon” question they would be able to wield against an opponent; easy questions were a knife and would only take five health points away if the Tribute they selected to aim the question at got it wrong, but harder questions were a machete (minus 10 health if missed) or near-deadly trident (minus 15). Tributes could form allies by helping someone else answer a question if they wished, but, in the end, there could only be one victor. The wheel also had a small wedge labeled “a gift from your sponsor”; if Tributes landed on that section when it was their turn, they could draw a healing card instead of a question that would give them back a portion of the health they had lost. (Most of the healing cards would only restore 5 health, but there were a couple 10s and 15s in there too). It worked really well, (except maybe I should have made some of the questions easier), and I’m pretty dang proud of how well themed it was. I think it’s totally marketable.
I really have very few negative things to say about the movie itself at all, which is pretty amazing given my tendency to be very nit-picky and critical. It stayed very close to the book with a surprising amount of dialogue coming verbatim from the pages Suzanne Collins wrote. The things that were skipped or condensed didn’t really alter any of the action or character development, (like Katniss figuring out what the spile is right away, and realizing what Wiress meant by “tick tock” faster, leaving out the bread drop communications and the prolonged healing from the poison fog scars, leaving out Bonnie and Twill because it was established through the visualization of the Victory Tour that there was an uprising and that Katniss was an inspiration to people, etc.), and like the first movie the elements in the film that were not found in the book added wonderful insight and depth to the story, (like President Snow’s granddaughter idolizing Katniss–that was genius! And I’m so glad we got to actually see the painting of Rue that Peeta did for the Gamemakers, to “hold them accountable, if only for a moment…for killing that little girl” as he says in the book, instead of just hearing about it.)
They even included a tiny visual reference to one of my favorite characters from the first film, Seneca Crane(‘s beard). When Katniss hung the dummy labeled with his name for her evaluation, she painted his signature swirly beard on it’s chin! I remember this being a common idea among the fandom after the first film, that oh, wouldn’t it be great if they really show her hang the Seneca dummy in the second film and they include the beard? To see it actually transpire that way on screen felt almost like it was a bit of an inside joke for the die-hard fans, whether or not they intended it that way. Speaking of amazing visuals, that mockingjay dress was spectacular. Even though I had seen most of that scene already in the trailer, I was blown away by how incredible it looked. Whereas Katniss’ flaming dress at the interview scene in the first film is a bit pathetic and too-obviously CGI, this time around I literally could not have imagined it better.
So far the only criticisms I can come up with are:
- Prim’s “Katniss! Katniss! Katniss!” screaming at the Reaping is too shrill, but really, I thought that last movie too. Maybe that’s just the actress’s voice.
- The music in some scenes was too exactly similar (or exactly the same?) to the score in the first film. It’s fine to reuse/recycle themes, but in a couple places it sounded 100% the same, like the Tribute Parade, (which is maybe understandable if they basically use the Panem national anthem for that every year), and the Victory Ball at the Capitol, (which really didn’t seem to match the music beat for dramatic beat effectively).
- In the Arena, they establish that there is no fresh water source except for the trees, but then when Katniss, Peeta, and Finnick are leeching the poison from their bodies they are in what appears to be a freshwater pool, not the saltwater at the beach. I understand the change since it allows for the monkey attack to happen sooner, but it’s an inconsistency.
- This isn’t really a criticism, more of a funny observance–why does Peeta stand up in the middle of his living room to watch TV? (When they are watching President Snow announce the Quarter Quell). Is it one of the tricks they tried to make us think he’s taller than Josh Hutcherson really is?
But really, almost everything was perfect. Effie was perfect, with her shallow growth and her gold hair! Finnick was lovely! Mags broke my heart with her warmth and sacrifice! Beetee melted my heart with his nerd-speak! Prim impressed me with her calm taking-charge to tend Gale. Plutarch Heavensbee, Haymitch, Cinna, (*sob* Cinna!) and Johanna were great. The whole thing was just spot-on! Peeta was still not as good as book-Peeta, but he was much improved over the last film’s bastardization of his character, and really all I can think about Peeta-wise right now is this. (Warning: that last link is a spoiler if you haven’t read Mockingjay yet).
I’ll definitely be going to see Catching Fire again. But now my movie-party-planning focus has to switch gears for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. It’s only a few weeks away!