Sunday, 27 September 2015

It's appalling. Still, if you abandon your moral judgment, it can be fun.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)

Chosen because someone told me "I'm going to stop being friends with you until you watch all the HG films."
And I promised them i would review any I watched. 

A film almost entirely stuck in the 'Refusal of the Call' act of The Hero's Journey. Katniss is a curiously passive lead who is constantly told what to do by everyone around her and does nothing to drive the plot or action herself. She is a mere pawn in a game we dont even get to see played. Though viewers paying attention to the "moves and counter moves" should figure it out early enough (a bunch of the plot makes little sense unless you realize a character twist) which just furthers the feeling of Katniss being kind of dull in not appreciating why people are sacrificing themselves left and right around her.

The film follows the structure of the first quite closely to diminished effect once again spending a long time before getting to the Games (which are promised to be completely different but that, like many things in the movie, never really follows through). It has many of the same flaws - little idea of who the other tributes for the games are, a world that doesn't really make sense, but has none of the small touches of interest the first managed to feed in. The relationships dont feel as lived in and the dour grimness is not lightened by any warmth of character. 

An exception to this starts to half arse itself around Elizabeth Banks seemingly one note act of camp. She seems genuinely put out by the plot turns at what seems at first a break to her status quo and annoyance at her job being disrupted but threatens to mean something more interesting as she shows perhaps a concern for the two leads but also the subtlest hint of rebellion in wanting to have a connection between them. Unfortunately this proves to be (for this movie at least) just a plot point to serve up a reason for a character to do something later entirely unconnected to Bank's eccentric.

A game and talented cast of supporting actors help fill some of the void left by a lead that doesnt want to do anything (though Lawrence herself is fine). I'd much rather watch the Hunger games where Jeffrey Wright electrocutes six people to win or follow Amanda Plummer's weirdo to her victory and Phillip Seymour Hoffman is always worth watching.

The reluctant hero trope and the refusal of the call exist for a reason. Not least we dont want our heroes to be vain egomaniacs but Catching Fire goes to far in the other direction though the movie closes on a shot of Lawrence squinting in steely determination that suggest she's crossed the threshold for the next film and will hopefully have a lot more agency.