Sunday, 25 March 2012

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

Well, I guess by now you're feeling the full effect of that Hunger Games hype.  I finished the second book last week, but since there's not a hell of a lot I can say without giving you SPOILERS, I thought I'd wait until the movie was out and give it a compare.

First up then - Catching Fire.  I guess it's not too much of a SPOILER to suggest that maybe Katniss Everdeen survives the Hunger Games.  And The Man isn't too happy about the way she did it.  The first half deals with the victory tour of the districts - how the events of the first book have sparked the beginnings of revolution, and how the Capitol deals with it.  The second half and we're back in the Hunger Games, but this time with a different arena, different traps and - of course - different contestants.

The good news is it's still really good.  Perhaps the first half is a little unfocussed, but I preferred how the Games panned out in this one, especially when it looks at how unrest in the outside world changes what happens in the arena.  It kept me guessing throughout about what would happen next and it sets everything up nicely for the (inevitably disappointing?) final book.

So...the film version of the Hunger Games.  It's all in there, although the survivalist aspect is taken down a notch.  The actors are good - Jennifer Lawrence in particular, but Woody Harrelson also reins it in as their drunken mentor Haymitch, who survived the games years ago.  Also props to Lenny Kravitz for looking great in gold eyeliner, Stanley Tucci for having big blue hair in a ponytail, and Wes Bentley for rocking some first class facial beardage.  The bizarre fashions in the decadent Capital are really well portrayed, and I liked how the focus often shifted to behind the TV cameras, rather than staying on Katniss all the time.

But the big failing is the action.  I don't mind them taking out some blood spurts to get it a 12A or whatever, but it's succumbed to the post-action disease which seems to be the law in Hollywod these days - "all action should be filmed by shaking a camera six inches from people's faces."  Awful, but still worth watching.  Worth reading even more.


James said...

I found, on the whole, the movie to be a fairly thrilling experience. Paced really well, better than the book at times, it completely flew by considering it's pushing 2 and a half hours. Lawrence was fantastic, but that was no surprise. Mostly I thought the action was hadled really well. The initial burst of violence as the game starts was fantastic; chaotic, brutal, tense. There were moments in the action sequences where the 7 seconds that were cut to get a 12A seemed apparent, but overall they were great. I don't have a problem following them as so many people seem to, although I remember when I first saw Bourne 2 in the cinema I didn't like how shaky everything was, but when I saw it again on DVD I changed my mind.

I would be intrigued how this goes down with someone who hasn't read the book. I didn't feel the Tributes, other than Katniss and Peeta, were very well defined. For example, had I not read it I don't think I'd have any idea who Thresh was and therefore his moment would have felt false. This was the same with all of them.

Helen's initial response wasn't as warm as mine because she kept comparing it too rigidly to the book. For example... they don't show how Katniss's survival skills are possibly her most important weapon, but do you really want a 10 minute sequence of a girl gradually dehydrating over a day and a half while wandering the woods? The horror of survival doesn't come across in the movie at all, just the horror of having to kill kids.

Overall I would go so far as to say it's the best Hollywood franchise start-up movie in a good few years.

Joe said...

Yeah, it's hard to judge the effectiveness of any film when it's such a close adaption of a book you've read. I was a lot better than it had any right to be, although you're a lot more tolerant of the chaotic (or just badly shot) violence than I am. If I've paid to see an action film, I want to see the action, not just given an vague impression of it