The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and Why I Loved It

by sketchyfeminist

Pencil sketch of Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Katniss in the arena. Sketched while listening to songs from Lorde’s Pure Heroine (mostly “Team” and “Glory and Gore”).

A while ago now, the Boyfriend and I went to see Catching Fire. I know that this film is no longer exactly a current topic of conversation, but I just wanted to share my reaction to it.

Catching Fire was incredible! In terms of pacing, camera angles, costumes and special effects, it was in just about every way superior to the first movie. And it gives me high hopes for Mockingjay.

Say goodbye to the unrelenting shaky hand-cam. While I’m sure there was still some deliberately shaky camera work in this film, it was not nearly so obtrusive–nor so constant–as it was in the first. People who suffer from motion sickness might even still be able to watch this one in theaters.

Catching Fire has a run time of 146 minutes, and I think I spent about 60 of those minutes tearing up. Katniss made me cry, Peeta made me cry, Prim and Mrs. Everdeen made me cry, extras in the Districts made me cry and Cinna made me cry like woah. Effie Trinket made me cry, people.

Except I wasn’t really crying so much as getting that choked feeling with tears welling in my eyes, and holding them back with that stubborn I’m-not-gonna-cry-in-the-theater determination, because if I start crying and then stop in the middle, my eyes will sting, and then it will be hard to see until I dab them with a damp paper towel, which would require getting up and missing part of the movie! Which I was just not gonna do, because tickets are ridiculous expensive and I was enjoying myself.

And the thing that was really awesome was that, just about every time I teared up, it wasn’t because something sad had happened (though lots of sad stuff did, because Hunger Games). Each time I teared up, it was because someone was being brave. Standing up for themselves or for their loved ones or for strangers, even knowing they would suffer for it. Even knowing that the people around them would suffer for it. But people were still being brave, facing near-inevitable retribution, because it was the right thing to do, and because to enact change, people have to act.

It was really powerful that the movie was able to capture that feeling.

There were things from the book that I missed, and the movie, of course, is not a perfectly faithful adaptation. However, most of the changes I noticed (though keep in mind that I have not read the book since shortly after it was first released) made sense, and seemed dictated by the move from text to a more visual medium.

And some of the changes I liked. Katniss’s post-traumatic stress disorder, for example, I do not remember being nearly so pronounced in the book. My assumption is that, since the books are in first person and the movie is in that third-person omniscient style that most movies are in, Katniss’s PTSD is more pronounced in the film than in the book because the most efficient way to tell the audience she’s suffering is to show her having a panic attack early in the film. (I think in the book she kept everything more under wraps.) But I like this change. I like a movie with an action hero who can cry, and have panic attacks, and wrestle with extreme fear. Not because it makes Katniss more “human” or more “sympathetic”–nuts to that; as far as I’m concerned, she’d be just as sympathetic and human if she were stoic the whole way through. But what I like about Katniss’s panic is what it means for the rest of us–that we can panic, and be afraid, and may not be able to overcome past trauma (in whatever form), and that doesn’t mean that we’re not brave, or that we cannot learn to become brave.

My own issues with panic disorder may have colored my reading of the movie, just a bit.

Related Reading: See “Why Strong Female Characters are Bad for Women” over at Overthinking It.

On a lighter note, there is apparently a group which calls themselves The Tributes and makes Hunger Games fan music and fan videos–which The Tributes act out. I love fans! So, merry birthday:

The Tributes’ “The Arena” Music Video.

The Tributes’ “Run Away” Music Video.