Top 10 Reasons You Will like the Catching Fire Movie better than the Original.

I think we’ve hit that ever-so-rare Wrath of Khan phenomenon, where the sequel to a movie far surpasses the original. And, though I know our Headmaster had his issues with it, the Hunger Games franchise certainly did not start from as low a point as Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

I hit the 8:30 showing with my seventeen-year-old daughter and two of her friends last night, breaking my usual rule of no post 10-PM activities on a school night.  And, I am glad I did because I think this will go down as a memory my daughter and I will treasure. There was a unanimous consensus that this movie was a better and more faithful adaptation of the book.  Personally, I have always thought Catching Fire, though quite good, was the weakest of the trilogy.  It would not surprise me if the movie turns out to be the strongest.

So, without further ado, and appropriate spoiler warnings, here are the top  10 reasons you will like this movie better.

1. Better looking Katniss.  Though I like Jennifer Lawrence’s work in the first films, she was criticized for not looking the part: too old and round-faced to be a starving Appalachian teen and this, among other things, ruined the bread-tossing scene.  This time, she is supposed to look well-fed, and with talk of marriage and babies, the maturity works. Her clearly dyed hair and the elegant knitted scarf she is wearing in the first scene are out of place on our Huntress, just as Katniss is artificially being forced into her celebrity role.

2. Snow’s granddaughter.  Only the true book fans will remember that she was mentioned briefly at the end of Mockingjay, when the Victors were voting on whether to subject Capitol children to their own Hunger Games.  So, including her felt like finding a special Easter Egg set out just for us. She still has no name and only appears twice , but her innocent remarks to her grandfather about how all of her schoolmates are mimicking Katniss’s hairstyle and her hope that she will one day have a boyfriend like Peeta are both charming and chilling. You can see fear creeping into Donald Southerland’s face as this, as much or more than the Mockingjay symbol, tells him he is losing control of the situation.  Besides, Erika Bierman is adorable in the part!

3. Stanley Tucci gave another delightfully over-the-top performance as Caesar Flickerman, and I loved his pink eyebrows. But it was great to see him lose control of the interviews after multiple Tributes diss the Games, and to see him anxiously cut the film early was priceless. While I missed the “merry sportscaster” banter being broadcast to the audience, its absence pointed out the crumbling inability of the Gamemakers to spin the story anymore.

4. Effie.  Just as delightful and even more bizarre-looking than last time, gold hair and all.  I predict that the filmmakers have too much invested in Elizabeth Banks to let her go for Mockingjay, and, given that the “three stooges” of Katniss’s styling team are whittled down to two for this movie, I bet that they will be gone entirely and Effie will be the one “summoned” to District 13 to beautify the Mockingjay icon, and perhaps be tossed into the dungeon for stealing bread.

5. Lots of baptismal and Christ imagery in the arena, from Peeta’s return from the dead to dunking each other under the water to heal the fog-induced blisters to Katniss’s cross-like posture as she is airlifted, corpse-like, into the hovercraft.  I was mentally ticking off a “John’s going to like this” list in my head as the film progressed. Speaking of which…

6. Poison mist effects:  Hunger Games may have been snubbed by the Oscars last time, but the visual effects of both the mist and the gruesome blisters it causes were very impressive.  I could see a “best make-up” nomination at the very least. Also, the Cinna’s of the film deserve a nod for costumes…  they were wonderful, especially the Mockingjay dress.

7. Jena Malone as Johanna. She was the hands-down favorite new character in the series of the teenagers who were with me, which is saying a lot given Sam Claflin’s performance as Finnick. From her elevator strip scene (which was both funny and tasteful) to her bleeped out interview to her ranting at Snow in the arena, she was a lively edition. I never had much affinity for the character in the book, but I loved this performance.

8. Peeta’s painting of Rue, Katniss’s Seneca-in-Effigy and her perfect imitation of her sarcastic bow to the Gamemakers in the first movie.

9. They pulled off Mags much better than I thought they would; I was wondering how an elderly stroke patient who had to be carried much of the time would come across on screen as a heroine, but the actress managed to look both frail and spirited at the same time.  We could quibble about Finnick trying to stop her from walking into the mist, but overall I was pleased.

10. It ended as it should.  Though Snow had a great last appearance (“Heavensbee?  Heavensbee?” as it dawns on him he has been bretrayed), the film closes with a close-up of Katniss as she learns, “There is no District 12.”  First shock, then horror than determination portrayed in the subtlest of expression changes.  I am glad they choose to make it a true cliff-hanger rather than try to bring it to a tidy close.

I did have a few minor disappointments, but not any worthy of their own post.  I am anxious to hear what other Hogpro readers have to say.


  1. I have just finished watching Catching Fire and I must say that I was very impressed with the set, the costumes, and the cast. All of them look like how the characters should be. Although I wish they showed the part when Katniss and Peeta were watching the old games, I would have loved to see how Haymitch won in the 2nd Quarter Quell.

  2. Mike Bierman says

    Great article, and thanks for your mention and kind comments about Erika.

  3. Thanks for the great review, I am waiting for Tuesday ($5 Tuesday at our local theatre)
    All points well noted and eagerly awaited.

  4. I saw the movie on Friday and loved it.

    I liked the first film, though I thought Peeta’s portrayal was disappointingly wooden and one-dimensional, and I hated many of the completely unnecessary departures from the book’s dialog (why couldn’t Rue have said: ‘I’ve never had a whole leg to myself!). Still, quite to my surprise, as I watched Catching Fire I found myself missing the intense focus on Katniss’ POV in The Hunger Games. While I was not a major fan of the hand-held camera work, it did give a sort of immediacy and intimacy to the film, letting us BECOME Katniss. This may be one of the reasons that I found Catching Fire oddly less violent than THG. In THG we are with Katniss each horrific step of the way at the Reaping as she mounts the dais to volunteer for almost certain death; we feel her desperate, heart-pounding terror, running for her life from the cornucopia bloodbath. In Catching Fire’s broader perspective and more conventional cinematography, we lose some of the nightmare of the violence; even Gale and Cinna’s beatings and Mag’s walk into the fog did not have quite the same emotional impact for me as the death of the small boy in the cornucopia in THG.

    That said I appreciated many of the same things that you did. I especially loved the subtle evolution of Katniss’ feeling for Gale and Peeta in CF — and Hutcherson’s much more nuanced, mature portrayal of Peeta this time around. The beach scene is lovely: in the flickering sequence of emotions that play across Jennifer Lawrence’s face we watch her dawning discovery that she is falling in love with the ‘boy with the bread’.

    I also appreciated the fidelity to both the letter and the underlying substance of the book — yet it was that very fidelity that gave me more than a few deja vu moments.

    Perhaps this is why I enjoyed the new lines and twists to old scenes more than the recaps. I loved the Snow and Plutarch scenes and the scenes with Snow’s granddaughter. I loved the foreshadowing of Mockingjay, when we start to realize that Snow actually respects Katniss as a worthy, though dangerous, challenger and focuses on her, rather than the more immediate threat of Plutarch, who is smoothly manipulating Snow in each of the CF scenes they share. Snow’s utter bewilderment as he calls for “Heavensbee, Heavensbee!” only to be met with silence, and his shock as the power goes down in the control room –“this can’t be happening” — is a brilliant moment that promises great things to come.

    I came out of the movie and went right back to Mockingjay to read over that pivotal scene where Katniss confronts Snow in the greenhouse and Snow admits, “My failure was being so slow to grasp Coin’s plan….I wasn’t watching Coin. I was watching you, Mockingjay. And you were watching me. I’m afraid we have both been played for fools.”

    The positive signs are there, the fandom is psyched, and Francis Lawrence is now firmly in charge with a mega-hit and lots of goodwill behind him. Here’s hoping that he will spread his wings in Mockingjay and give us some a couple of truly groundbreaking films.

  5. The movie was great….really solid performances. Only two major complaints….They dropped the idea of Katniss being pregnant after Peeta announced it….We should have had at least one of the contestant allies pat her on the tummy. More importantly, we lost the scene with Peeta and Katniss in which he says he wants to spend the rest of his life with her, and she says “okay.” For the length of this movie, the Katniss/Peeta love arc really got short shrift. You could really argue that she wanted to save Peeta because her own life put her family + Gale in danger..There was one scene with Snow in which she did the math…Peeta comes back, everyone else out of danger. The costuming was amazing, but I like Katniss’ hair color better in the original movie. The dark brown was too intense for her coloring….but maybe that was the idea…This is the made-up Katniss, not the real one.

  6. Thanks for joining us, Mike! Erika was fantastic! Would she like to answer a few questions for us about her experiences? Has she read the book(s), or did the director just have to fill her in on how creepy Snow is, shudder? We also wish her well in all her future adventures! Come back, soon!
    I look forward to your “repeat” responses, Hana!

  7. Mike Bierman says

    Thanks for your kind words. Erika had not read the books before filming, but has read them now (minus Mockingjay, which she is about to start). Donald Sutherland is a superb actor, and with very little instruction or guidance, Erika was able to pick up the tone and understand what was going on. They got along great, and were able to interact very well. Francis Lawrence is a gifted and extremely nice fellow. Erika really enjoyed filming. Thanks for the well-wishes!

  8. Sharon Slade Jackson says

    I agree, Elizabeth, the second movie was much better than the first. I think overall the obvious three-part nature of the story: Train/rebellion – Capitol – Arena really drew well upon the original arc of the story in the book. This de-emphasis on the arena and increased emphasis on the rebellion helps to make the transition to the third novel’s coverage of the rebellion easier to accept; of course, this was a feature of the books as well. It also contributed to making the arena events seem less threatening. I think it is important that we saw less intense focus on Katniss (as Hana observed), since this movie was more about how she is moved and manoeuvred like a chess piece by Haymitch, Plutarch Heavensbee and the allied tributes. I think the scenes with Snow and Heavensbee and then with his granddaughter were a wonderful contribution and reinforcement of the story arc as well, as he begins to see himself squashed into a smaller place also.

    I think my favourite visual of the whole movie was seeing Effie’s butterfly costume. It’s a long time since I read the books so I can’t be sure there was ever such a costume mentioned in CF, but that whole outfit just epitomised the frivolity and transience of Capitol delights to me. Those costumes! That makeup! Did you see the lists of costume-makers and makeup and hair artists in the credits? They were huge! What it takes to make a capital the Capitol.

    I also loved the scene at the banquet where Katniss was offered a pink emetic and Peeta’s comments after, although I thought the word used by the Capitol man (was it spew? sick up?) was too childish. There were lots of short snippets like this where I thought, ‘yes, just like the book.’

    I thought the biggest miss was not having Katniss watch Haymitch’s previous game, because that was what should have given her the inspiration to break the force field, and instead it just came as an intuitive leap. Which is odd, because Katniss is presented as soooo totally clueless about the negotiations and arrangements going on around her in this movie (as it should be) for her to make an intuitive leap seems out of character.

    Peeta looked much more like Peter the Rock in this movie. He didn’t have much chance to show himself as Pita the Bread though.

  9. I know I’m late to the game but I wonder if there will be more with Snow’s granddaughter in the next two movies. Her comment, “I want to be loved like that” (while watching Katniss cry over Peeta when he’s electrocuted) and his comment, “and so you shall,” seems a bit like foreshadowing. I wonder if she will be one of the children killed around his house, perhaps showing that he will even put his grandchild in harms way to keep his power OR if Prim will be killed tending to her. I think that the granddaughter will somehow be tied into the losses everyone has suffered, either with Katniss/Prim or to show that even Snow is not immune to great personal loss.

  10. Louise M. Freeman says

    Oh! I like that idea! (From a drama/filmmaking standpoint, not because I want anything to happen to the little tyke!) Besides, it would mean more work for Erika!

  11. She really is a very good actress and adorable to boot. It would be a shame to not use her in the next movie.

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