So we wound up heading off to Holland for our movie fix on Saturday, the last day of November, followed by a quick grocery run at D&W, and satisfied our pizza lusts with Crust 54 -- a Chicago stuffed (more deep dish than stuffed) large 14" with sausage, mushrooms, spinach, garlic and anchovies. Mmm. Just shy of $30, and several non-turkey meals worth.
Thar Be Spoilers Ahead
Normally I try to not write spoilers into my reviews. But let's face facts.
(1) Millions have read the trilogy.
(2) Millions have seen the first movie.
(3) Since this was always going to be a three film series, there is very little effort to explain what happened from movie 1. Much like the movie versions of Harry Potter 5, 6, 7.1 and 7.2, there is no expectation of need to introduce the characters or the setting.
(4) Much like the original Star Wars trilogy -- the first movie, The Hunger Games, is capable of standing on its own. If all we had was The Hunger Games, I would be happy. But Catching Fire needs the next movie/book, just as The Empire Strikes Back needs The Return of the Jedi.
So with these in mind...
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire [PG-13]
Holland 7 Theatre #7 Noon 2x$6.50
According to Dr. Phil's Rule of Sequels, there should be an innocence lost from the first to the second movie. Boy do we get this in spades in Catching Fire. Sure we have a familiar cast, but everyone has grown up. Katniss and Peeta have not only have played in the 74th Hunger Games, they BOTH managed to survive it. And now, rather than be set for life, it all gets even more terribly deadly. For life back in District 12 is still grim, the Victory Tour to the other eleven districts doesn't go well and the Capital is putting down its jackbooted thugs.
Of course, this wouldn't be the Hunger Games without some Hunger Games, and though in our innocence we didn't think much of the last games being the 74th, the 75th Hunger Games would be the Third Quarter Quell -- a "celebration" guaranteed to be special. The special part is well known, of course. The pool of players will come from the previous victors. Katniss being the lone living female victor from District 12 gets a guaranteed in. Lucky girl. Even Effie, their effusive sparkly shepherdess, can feel the unfairness of it all. She tries to be upbeat, but she's much human than in the first film.
The Hunger Games is all about forcing children to slaughter other children. But given that they must take their players from 23 different years -- Katniss and Peeta being the only two co-victors -- this isn't a children's game anymore. And the victors resent it, even as it would do no good to refuse or fail to compete. The Capital and the Gamesmaster would kill them anyway.
As in the first movie, the Arena takes on a role as a character, too. And this Arena is devious and mean. While they didn't show all its details, they kept most of it intact from the book. What they did cut, in order to go from book to film, was Katniss' "career" as a clothing designer and a lot of the Capital's meanness to District 12. Also the subplots involving the fence -- we only get one scene with it. No problem. Compression is a requirement for film. You want details and more plot? Read the books.
And I can't talk about the Arena without pointing out how much our world has changed. A while back someone had found the watery Cornucopia set -- on Google Maps Satellite View. If you've read the book, you know you'd be able to recognize even a piece of that set from space.
This is a harder film to make than the first, because of the tech being shown. Thankfully, the franchise is in good hands and with a money making machine in this series, they make things like subtle forcefields and hoverships look convincing -- and big. And there's no subtlety to the excess of the costuming in the Capital, either.
The cast continues to be great. Stanley Tucci -- as overly tanned as possible -- still amazes as the over-the-top television personality. Donald Sutherland's President Snow is so evil, you'd think that HE was the one who filed his teeth to rip flesh from throats, only he does it with oily words. For those in the know from the books, we saw a drop of blood at the corner of his mouth in The Hunger Games and here there is a subtle darkening of his drink after touching it to his lips. And Jennifer Lawrence. I've heard some complain that Katniss is powerless and whiny, but that's not how I see it. What she is really, is being out of her league -- she's not a killer by nature until provoked -- and she often acts easily in response to stimulus. Meanwhile, Woody Harrelson continues to improve in my mind. His half-drunk, half-wiley operator strikes hard. And Jena Mallone has come a long way from Juno, with her Victor role here and the calculating bitch in the Hatfields and the McCoys.
It's impossible not to look at The Hunger Games phenomena and not compare it with another YA series with a rabid following. Turns out that while both The Hunger Games and the Twilight Saga have huge followings, I just read in the paper that they have little overlap -- only about 20%. This makes me feel better, since I know so many SF/F writers and readers who have no love for sparkly vampires, but can read and watch a good dystopian SF series. Certainly the 2012 Olympics saw a real surge in interest in archery -- the number 1 sport shown on NBC's cable channels. (Jennifer Lawrence was taught by one of the Team USA women's archers.) There is hope for our next generation. (grin) And just as many Twilight fans are twenty to thirty years past YA status, I noted that there were plenty of adults at Theatre 7 yesterday.
I have to say that all along I've been worried about how they would film the third book. There's a lot of complex big set piece battles and it is very unlike the first two. But having seen Catching Fire, I feel a lot better about Mockingjay. I will surely be there.
This is a solid franchise, and as much as I liked the first one, I think Catching Fire May be the better movie
NOTE: From the Wikipedia entry on the film series:
Mockingjay, the third and final novel in the series, will be adapted into two feature-length parts. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 will be released on November 21, 2014 and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 will be released on November 20, 2015.This is not unexpected, and given the complexity of the third novel, I appreciate that this "modern practice", seen with Harry Potter, Twilight and The Hobbit, will not eviscerate the third book to shoehorn it into two hours.
TRAILERS: The Hobbit Part 2, of course. Ben Stiller in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. I'm not sure we need a remake of the James Thurber classic, but the daydreaming reimagined life looks good and I'm equally unsure of a plot life which requires Walter to actually become extraordinary. Kind of a human Mister Limpet. (another-alternative-life-grin). Divergent shows off another YA book about young people being tested -- and it's got Kate Winslet in it! That one comes out in March. I'll be there for SF and Kate. (grin)