The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

By Christopher Redmond

Mailed on November 22, 2013

Stamp image Standard
StarStarStarEmpty StarEmpty Star

Dear Dominic Drane
Crowd Supervisor

Dear Dominic,

In a world of authoritarian dictatorship, you need to keep a close eye on the masses. Make sure nobody steps out of line. If people disobey orders, they need to be eliminated. Erased from existence. After all, if even a few get out of hand, they could disrupt the whole delicate system. Which is of course why you were brought into the world of The Hunger Games. Well, the post-production visual effects world anyway. But I'm sure the same rules applied.

See, in the dystopian vision of the future imagined by Suzanne Collins' popular book series, tall poppies aren't just cut down - they're poisoned, uprooted, and exterminated. Much like extras on a film set, no one is allowed to stand out unless "chosen". In the first film, Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) were drawn from the crowd as sacrificial lambs to represent their district in The Hunger Games. They emerged as co-victors, but are now dragged back into 75th anniversary super-games with previous winners. Or "survivors", as they more aptly put it.

And thus we have _Catching Fire, _which retraces many familiar plot points from the first film. Too many, in fact. Like the games themselves, the story is treated like another season of a desperate TV show. We get a slightly new setting and a few new secondary characters, but the larger world is explored much less than I had hoped. The biggest difference is supposed to be that the crowds you had to supervise are getting restless and revolting. Although even that element was shown in the first film (in a small sequence directed by Steven Soderberg). This time, there doesn't seem much the oppressed can do other than salute in defiance. Yes, this has some pretty grave consequences, but ultimately it feels like you and your collaborating overlords exuded a little too much control over this other storyline.

"But wait for the next film!" I can already hear you say. I do look forward to the upcoming installments, but I couldn't help but feel like this chapter was more about stalling. The focus on Katniss and Peeta's complicated and deceptive relationship is a worthy emotional anchor, but their agency as characters feels strangely defeated. Too much happens outside of their knowledge and control, which, unfortunately, seems to be the more interesting part. And when the crowd is making more important decisions than your lead characters, you know you have a problem.

Here's hoping the others finally get their moment in the upcoming revolution.

Blending in,


comments powered by Disqus
(% endraw %}