Alas, I was unable to see this on the day it was released like I had been planning to; nor was I able to see it on Friday or even Saturday – I had to wait until Sunday, three days after its release! But it was definitely well worth the wait. From the opening scenes until the closing credits, I was absolutely hooked and my eyes were glued to the screen (just about literally, that’s how close to the screen I ended up…). I admit I was pretty apprehensive about seeing this, because although I did enjoy the first film, it wasn’t as good as I had hoped, nor did it stick to the book particularly well. But Catching Fire more than made up for what its predecessor lacked. It was clear to me there was a better budget and the new director definitely knew what he was doing – not to say the previous one didn’t, but Catching Fire’s director had just about everything spot on. Note: This will not be a chronologically done review, just me putting things down as I remember them.
So, the cast. Jennifer Lawrence was excellent as Katniss, as I knew from the first film, but she certainly seemed to get into the role a lot better in this one. Likewise with Josh Hutcherson; I wasn’t a huge fan of him as Peeta when The Hunger Games came out, but he’s grown on me – and I loved him in this. Effie, Haymitch, President Snow, and Cinna (and the rest of the team) were again fantastic – Effie brought me to tears in Catching Fire, although I think most things managed that! Now onto the new additions… I wasn’t sure about Sam Claflin as Finnick, but goodness me, seeing him in his first appearance in this film… Damn, that was a good casting choice! He just had Finnick down to a t, and I absolutely adored him. I felt so sorry for him when Mags gave him a kiss before walking into the fog. Speaking of Mags, she was one of only a few new cast members that I loved from the beginning. She just had such a sweet and friendly look about her and I knew she was going to be brilliant – I wasn’t wrong. I loved the scenes with her, and she just had such a lovely smile! When she sacrificed herself for Katniss, Peeta, and Finnick… Oh, it broke my heart!
Beetee and Wiress, again, were great choices. I really liked them, and when Wiress was killed I was really rather upset – I’d forgotten it happened, and she was so lovely as well. Her wee “tick tock” and the almost hypnotic way she recited “hickory dickory dock” was just fantastic, but certainly rather eerie at times. My final favourite new cast member was Jena Malone, who played Johanna Mason. Like with Sam Claflin, I wasn’t sure about her at first – she just wasn’t how I’d pictured Johanna! But, when she made her first appearance in the film, I realised just how perfect she was for the role – she was just so completely Johanna, and it was brilliant. I spent much of the time she was around staring at her face and trying to work out why I recognised her, and it turns out she played Rocket in Sucker Punch, another favourite film (and character!) of mine. If there’s one thing Catching Fire has taught me, it’s that I shouldn’t judge the cast before I see them in action – both Finnick, Johanna, and even Peeta managed to surprise me, and it just made the film that much better. The rest of the cast were excellent too (like Caesar. I love Caesar), but the aforementioned people were just the real standouts to me.
So, the cast proved to be excellent, but what about the arena? One word: perfect. In every way, it was perfect. I loved knowing that it was the clock, but just waiting for them to work it out for themselves created some excellent suspense. The cornucopia looked great, and I like how that little stretch of sea separated its little arena from the rest of the island; in The Hunger Games it was all the one piece of land, as opposed to the layout in Catching Fire. I’m so please with the way they did everything; not only was it all correct, it was all done really well too! The only thing I’m a bit disappointed with was when Katniss and Finnick were with the jabberjays, who were screaming, shouting, and sounding so like Prim, Annie, and Gale. Katniss realised really quickly, and I don’t remember it happening quite that fast in the book – I think it would have been better if they had drawn it out slightly before Katniss realised what was going on. That’s the only thing I didn’t like about the film, which is pretty good going if you ask me! The weird monkey things were horrible, I wasn’t a fan of them – I got such a fright when that first one screamed at Peeta! It brought me straight back to the first film, when the first muttation jumped out, because I got a fright then as well! Oh, and the fog – that was really well done too. I couldn’t remember what it was the fog did (I just knew it was something bad), but of course you very quickly found out. Honestly, I was just about on the edge of my seat when Katniss, Peeta, and Finnick (with Mags on his back) were running from it, because there were times it genuinely looked like they weren’t going to make it. As I mentioned earlier, when Mags sacrificed herself so that Finnick and Katniss could help Peeta away, it just brought tears to my eyes. It was done well, and even though they obviously couldn’t dwell on it because of the poisonous fog coming towards them, it was so easy to see how heartbroken Finnick was over it. I would have loved to see what horrors would have awaited them in the other sections, or even just catch glimpses, but alas it was not to be (I felt like that with the book as well). Overall, though, I’m just so glad they got the arena right – I feel the film would have been spoiled if they had mucked it up.
The film made me cry, or at least tear up, a lot more than I expected to. In The Hunger Games, I cried when Rue died, and I think that was it. But in Catching Fire, I cried (more like broke down; honestly I was a mess) when Katniss and Peeta visited District 11. I got really teary when I saw Rue’s face on the board, but it was when Katniss started her little impromptu speech that I had my little meltdown. It was just so heart–breaking, especially seeing Rue’s mum and siblings either crying or trying not to cry. I’m getting all sad again just thinking about it! When the man from District 11 gave Rue’s Whistle and raised his hand in the three–fingered salute, and was swiftly followed by so many others, I just got even more emotional. I have to say, I wasn’t expecting to see the spray of blood when the Peacekeepers shot him though. It actually surprised me, because in the first film they cut out a lot of the blood and gore so as to give it the 12A rating (if you’ve seen the uncut version, you’ll notice a difference), and Catching Fire was still a 12A so I was expecting much of the same blood–wise. But just as the door closed when Katniss and Peeta were being dragged away, you heard the gun shot and saw the really visible and obvious spray of blood before the door finally closed. I wasn’t expecting it. It was the same when Gale was being flogged by Commander Thread; I wasn’t expecting it to be shown so brutally – and the marks on his back were awful.
I nearly forgot; everything with Cinna was just amazing. His wedding dress for Katniss which, when she span, revealed the Mockingjay was just phenomenal. When the Peacekeepers (were they Peacekeepers? I can’t remember) came for Cinna, just before Katniss went up to the arena, made me so sad. I knew it was going to happen, but I couldn’t remember if it was in Catching Fire or Mockingjay. It was so awful what happened, and it made me really upset (AGAIN!) and I know it’s only going to get worse with the next film!
Catching Fire was, I found, a lot more emotional than the first film, and of course it’s the same in the books. I was always confident I wasn’t a fan of the last two books, and greatly preferred the first one, but now seeing the film has made me reconsider – I think that, whilst I really love the first book, the second one is a bloody good sequel. It was the same with the films; not often will you find a sequel that is so much better than the first, but Francis Lawrence did a stellar job. I’m so glad he’s directing Mockingjay Parts 1 and 2 as well, because even though I wasn’t a fan of that book, after seeing what he did with Catching Fire I honestly can’t wait for the final instalments.
Oh, and the build up at the end was amazing! I was just waiting for Gale to say “Katniss, there is no District 12”, (and yes, I mouthed the words along with him) which obviously I knew he would say from reading the book, but hearing it said, and seeing Katniss’ face… It was brilliant. I’m glad they didn’t try and add anything else into the ending, as that would have really annoyed me. I’m just so excited for Mockingjay Part 1 next year! I want it NOW!
Overall, I thought this was a stunning film, and so true to the book – Francis Lawrence definitely did it justice, and I hope he’s really proud of what he’s achieved. It’s difficult to please book fans when you make a film adaptation, and there was a divide over The Hunger Games, with some fans thinking it was great, and others being really displeased – I was somewhere in the middle. But I feel that Catching Fire may just have managed to close that divide, because it was truly brilliant, and all the reviews I’ve read so far agree.
If you’ve not already seen this film, do so! I’d also highly recommend reading the books (preferably BEFORE seeing the film, but it’s up to you!), but just make sure you see this film! 10 out of 10 for Catching Fire, and I’ll be going back to see it very soon.