I’m a big fan of movies & an even bigger fan of books. So when a book gets turned into a movie, my expectations are high. When The Hunger Games was turned into a movie, I was a bit wary. I love this book series & I was scared the movie wouldn’t be done well, but Gary Ross kept true to the story & the movie was great.
Then The Hunger Games: Catching Fire went into production with a new director, Francis Lawrence, and that apprehension I had with the first movie was back. Catching Fire is my favorite of the trilogy so my hopes were high. A bad book adaptation can sometimes ruin a book for me. But have no fear, Francis Lawrence is here!
First of all, this is quite possibly one of the most faithful book adaptations I’ve ever seen. But while the movie stayed faithful to the book, Francis Lawrence managed to expand on the world that improved on the book. With a variety of wide-angle shots, Lawrence allows us to explore more of Panem. And while the book is completely from Katniss Everdeen’s point of view, the movie takes us behind the scenes with President Snow & Plutarch Heavensbee, which was just fantastic. I loved seeing how Snow & Heavensbee come to the decision to put victors in the arena.
The script was very well done, with much of the dialogue coming from the novel. There were so many lines taken straight from the book that will make fans very happy. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is has a more serious theme than the first movie, but it’s broken up by the sarcasm & dry humor found in the book that lightens it up a bit. Katniss’ sarcasm was one thing I missed from The Hunger Games movie.
And the actors were fantastic. The new victors introduced were so well-played. Jena Malone as Johanna Mason was great (the elevator scene was probably one of my favorites), Sam Claflin was so good as Finnick Odair (his accent was amazing!), and Philip Seymour Hoffman as Plutarch Heavensbee was wonderful. The scenes with Hoffman & Donald Sutherland added so much to the movie!
But the best thing about The Hunger Games: Catching Fire has to be Jennifer Lawrence. I mean, can we just take a second to think about how amazing she is?? Between the subtle changes to her facial expressions in some scenes (e.g. her reaction to Chaff’s kiss) and the heart-wrenching sobs in the arena, Lawrence manages to make us experience the full spectrum of emotion. I came out of the theater physically exhausted from the emotional roller coaster that is Catching Fire.
For those who haven’t read the books (which is probably a minority), there is little that needs to be explained. Since the world of Panem was introduced in The Hunger Games, there is more depth & development to the story in Catching Fire. The action is good & we learn more about the characters that will help drive us into Mockingjay.
I will say there were certain things that I missed; Peeta’s paintings & nightmares, meeting Bonnie & Twill from District 8, learning more about Haymitch, Plutarch’s mockingjay pocket watch. But I understand why those things weren’t in the film. There’s only so much from a 391 page novel you can fit into a two and a half hour long movie.
So yes, as a book adaptation there will always be scenes that we miss, or characters we wish were in the movie. But you can’t deny that The Hunger Games: Catching Fire was an amazing adaptation. I could seriously talk for hours about this movie, so I’ll leave you with one more thought. I’m desperate to see what Francis Lawrence is able to do with Mockingjay.
*Note: This review comes after seeing The Hunger Games: Catching Fire twice (yes, twice & it was so worth it) and discussing it with fans of the books & one crazy person who still hasn’t gotten around to reading any of them.