Let’s talk Catching Fire!!

Posted on November 23, 2013

Here’s where I go 100% fangirl on you guys. If you haven’t seen the film yet (or, obviously, read the book), don’t go any further, because spoilers lurk within!





For a slightly more detailed breakdown:

Stuff I Didn’t Like (i.e., the very short list)

1) WTF was that animated mockingjay at the end? The final shot of Katniss’ face was so incredible — the sheer journey of the emotions Jennifer Lawrence portrayed there, in only a few seconds — and then, suddenly, flaming cartoon bird? I thought it didn’t match the mood or tone of what had gone before at all.

2) Philip Seymour Hoffman underplayed nicely as Plutarch Heavensbee, but where was the costume and makeup department? Heavensbee is a Capitol man, and while he might not be as outlandish as Effie Trinket, he should have looked at least somewhat different from the average guy on the street in real life. He had a purple waistcoat in one scene, but that just didn’t cut it. The costumers underplay the looks for President Snow and Cinna very nicely while still adding touches that make them look at home in the Capitol, but with Heavensbee that just wasn’t there, and I found the lack really jarring.

3) They are emphasizing the Gale relationship more even than in the books; in the novel, I felt like Katniss cared for Gale deeply but had not at all made up her mind about wanting to be with him romantically – maybe she did, maybe she didn’t. The movie made it seem like they were definitely, 100% together. You know, I’m not actually complaining about more kissing scenes with Liam Hemsworth, because WHY WOULD I DO THAT, but it’s going to be interesting to see how they’re going to take Katniss from where she is in this movie to where she winds up at the end of Mockingjay over the next two movies … especially given that Peeta’s not going to be in most of the next one. They’ve got their work cut out for them, is what I’m saying.

4) There is no four, because OMG AWESOME.

Stuff I Liked (i.e., the very long list)

1) Jennifer Lawrence, you are incredible. As Cleo said to me on Twitter, “think about how much mileage they got out of J.Law’s face.” Not only in that brilliant final shot, but repeatedly throughout the movie, the director conveys some of the most important emotional shifts without dialogue, and without any other visual cues except the close up of her subtly expressive face. It’s not like we didn’t already know she was fantastic, but this is yet more evidence of what an accomplished performer she is.

2) In fact, all the acting was terrific. Sam Clafin was 100% how I pictured Finnick in the books, both in terms of beauty and arrogance. Lynn Cohen was so eloquent without a word of dialogue as Mags. And hey, how about Jeffrey Wright as Beetee? In the books, I was never like, “Wow, if only we got more about Beetee,” but today as I watched “Catching Fire,” I thought, “I wish we could have a Beetee movie.” And kudos to Jena Malone for winning me over, because she was 100% NOT how I pictured Johanna in the books, but she came in with her own interpretation, sold it and owned it. Donald Sutherland – do I even have to say he was incredible? Stanley Tucci killed as Caesar Flickerman again, as did Lenny Kravitz (oh, Cinna!); Amanda Plummer was great as Wiress, so on and so forth.

3) Singled out for special love: Josh Hutcherson (wounded but coping with it like a grown-ass man, decent and noble to the core without ever being dull), Liam Hemsworth (intense, at times to the point of desperation, without ever losing his hunter’s cool), Elizabeth Banks (had no idea Effie Trinket could break my heart), and Woody Harrelson (who skillfully kept the plotter in Haymitch in view at all times, while still making it possible for Katniss believably not to see it).

4) Those baboons freaked me the hell out. So did the poison smoke. So did all the dangers of the arena, really; I was in almost unbearable tension at times. EVEN THOUGH I KNOW HOW IT ENDS.

5) I love how swiftly but convincingly Prim’s greater maturity was portrayed. The moment where she gives Gale the injection – you know, that was where you went, yep, that’s Katniss’ sister.

6) Despite the misgivings I spoke about above, I actually really liked the scenes with Gale and Katniss. The post-flogging stuff I found intensely moving. And that very first scene — man, that was maybe the single most brilliantly done part of the whole thing. Katniss has a flashback to killing someonel in the arena. She freaks out. Gale keeps saying, “Shh, shh, you’re safe, I’m here.” So we see how strong, supportive and caring he is, AND that he fundamentally doesn’t understand something about what Katniss went through. Katniss wasn’t flashing back to being in danger; the horror that haunted her most was having to kill. It’s this small difference between their perceptions of combat that eventually comes to be so significant for them, and it came through there with such subtlety and perfection.

7) OK, there should have been more making out during the beach scene, which is a whole lot hotter & heavier in the book – but I thought the necessary emotional moment came through anyway. When Katniss says, “I need you,” I didn’t feel like there was any doubt (either for the audience or for her) that she was speaking not for the cameras but from the heart.

8) If you follow me on Twitter or Tumblr, you already know my love for Mags is a deep, abiding thing. But oh, it was so beautiful here, and honestly, I felt like the bond between her and Finnick came across even more strongly than in the book. Maybe there’s just something visceral and compelling about the actual sight of Finnick very literally running for his life — but carrying on her back, all the way, without so much as a flicker of hesitation or doubt. Here, when Mags kissed him goodbye, we knew she was doing this because she realized otherwise Finnick would keep protecting her at the risk of his own life. Mags sacrifices her life twice – once for Annie, then again for Finnick – which is why she is and will always remain my favorite HG character.

9) The Caesar Flickerman show – when all the tributes take hands together at the end – was outstanding. I actually got chills. That image of all the tributes standing together, proclaiming the injustice, worked so brilliantly.


In short, LOVED IT.

What did you guys think?

11 Responses to “Let’s talk Catching Fire!!”

  1. Jordyn

    You ABSOLUTELY nailed my exact feelings; Catching Fire is my favorite of the three novels, and I think the film actually did it justice. One scene I would add to the list of favorites though was the last one, where Katniss finds out the Capitol has Peeta and she /attacks/ Haymitch and he has to hold her down. They both acted beautifully in that scene. But I agree with you: OMG AWESOME

    • claudia

      Oh, that final scene for Haymitch and Katniss was terrific! Thanks for reminding me of the awesome. 🙂

  2. C.C. Finlay

    3 things:

    1) OMG AWESOME. I loved this movie.

    2) I loved the scenes with President Snow and his granddaughter. They revealed so much in such an understated way and created so much tension.

    3) Wiress was played by Amanda Plummer, not Amanda Hocking. But she was still great.


    Okay, so that was 4 things, not 3. But 1 and 4 definitely deserved to be counted separately.

    • claudia

      LOL re: Amanda Hocking! I knew that, but apparently I have Amanda Hocking’s books on my brain (no wonder). I’ll edit.

      VERY good point about the scenes with the granddaughter. That was a prime example of something not in the books that added so much to the film. I feel like the people adapting the HG trilogy have had a very smart sense of when and how to deviate from the novels, doing so only where it really adds to what’s going on cinematically.

  3. Debbie

    LOVE your comments and agree with most of them. Going to disagree just a teeny bit with a couple of things:

    The Mockingjay animation thingy is shaking out to be a “love it or hate it” proposition, I’ve noticed. I actually loved it. It’s the transition–unconsciously, at this point–of Katniss into the Mockingjay. Too literal? Yeah, I get that. But I thought it was super-cool anyway.

    I was bothered way more by the Jesus symbolism when she was carried out of the arena, and her resurrection in the hovercraft. They could have still done it, that’s fine–just not so literally.

    I was also surprised by how low-key Philip Seymour Hofmann played Plutarch and how, well, NORMAL he looked for a Capitol citizen, and wondered at first if he had an attitude like he was slumming in a YA adaptation. Like he ran away from the make-up people screaming “Keep your eyeliner to yourself!”

    But I think I get it now. It’s his way of foreshadowing Plutarch’s rebellious nature. It’s similar to what Cinna does, but he’s a stylist, hence the gold eyeliner.

    Also want to give extra props to Josh. I had tissues marked for certain scenes, had one out for the District 11 scene, the whipping scene and its aftermath, Cinna, Mags, etc. But the death of the morphling, even though I knew it was coming, hit me like a truck. And it was all due to the way Josh played that scene.

    I admit I was VERY unsure of the Francis Lawrence hire and now feel like I should bow to the man and chant, “I’m not worthy! I’m not worthy!” He didn’t just do a good job, he went above and beyond.

    • claudia

      For me, the animated Mockingjay came across as something out of a kids’ movie. Given the increasingly dark tone of the HG films, it seemed glaringly out of place; also, the transition of Katniss into the mockingjay was already there, just in her face. I wish they’d trusted both Jennifer Lawrence’s ability and the audience’s perception a bit more.

      Meanwhile, I didn’t think it was Jesus symbolism when they lifted Katniss out of the arena. I definitely thought it was rebirth symbolism, and that they were trying to make us wonder for a moment if she was dead. (Jennifer Lawrence went a LONG time without blinking there. My eyes stung in sympathy.) Yeah, her arms hang out, but if something tows you up by the torso, they’re going to hang out.

      ITA that Plutarch should not be all gadded up like Claudius Templesmith; his attire should be more conservative than most in the Capitol. But it should still look like it belongs in the Capitol to some degree, and to me it didn’t. I felt like I could bump into that guy at Costco.

      You are SO RIGHT about the beautiful scene with the Morphling’s death. That was actually the one moment in the film where I got choked up and nearly wept, and I’m not one who cries easily in the movie. And it was a great moment to show that Peeta’s decency and generosity really are fundamental to his nature, not just something that he gives to Katniss because of his feelings.

      Francis Lawrence nailed it! Kudos to him for stepping into some big shoes, and filling them magnificently.

  4. Flo

    I thought it was very well done — very true to the book, but I saw it with non book readers who also appreciated it.

    Thanks for this blog post!

    • claudia

      Yeah, my friends who haven’t read the books still respond to and love the movies. Glad you enjoyed this!

  5. Tenisha

    I swear I cried every time I saw Effie even make a sad face because she’s such a happy upbeat person and to see her like that it was devastating! I was a little bit sad about Plutarchs costume but that was the only thing that bothered me overall. Peeta, Gale and Finnick were all perfect! I thought overall the movie was AMAZING! And stayed very close to the book.

  6. Chelsea

    I think the movie was AMAZING!!! But I wish that they would have eluded more to what district 13 produced when they weren’t undercover and maybe added in the scene with Bonnie and Twill from the book. I understand why they didn’t though the movie didn’t really need it, it was already perfect!! Maybe we will learn more about 13 in the next movie.

    • claudia

      I think you are right about learning more re: District 13 in the next movie. Since they are making Mockingjay into two films, probably they figure they will have more time to get into it then.