After reading the books and loving the Hunger Games, going to see Catching Fire was a long-anticipated treat for me and my daughter. We gained a child along the way.
Much has been written about what a great role model Katniss is for girls. She does challenge many stereotypes. In the film she is often made to look like a female Gladiator (as in the picture above); she is about as far from weak and helpless as it is possible to get. She appears taller, stronger and more reckless than her male counterpart Peeta,and what’s more, she appears to be falling in love with him throughout the second film, because of rather than in spite of his kindness and vulnerability.
Jennifer Lawrence, the actress who plays Katniss, has regularly been interviewed talking about how she enjoys food and is a healthy weight. This can only be a Good Thing, although my daughter did very quickly point out the obvious, after I showed her this clip .
‘But she’s not fat.’
Her eyes widened when I explained that Jennifer Lawrence is seen as fat in Hollywood. I could almost see her thinking
‘If she’s fat, then I must be fat’ so I think this is a rather mixed message, but at least she is giving out the message that she is happy with herself and isn’t conforming to the expected ideal.
Her strong, confident image is a refreshing change from the usual insipid heroines (not mentioning names Bella from Twilight), as is the role reversal between Katniss and Peeta. She is the one capable of killing to defend them both, and he is the one who loves her and supports her emotionally.
I think it’s a shame either of them have to run around killing people, but this is a blockbuster action story and Hollywood, after all. I have read all the books and let my daughter follow the stories, because despite the violence, I felt that they have a heart and a purpose; the violence doesn’t seem gratuitous. (Well, mostly not gratuitous). Although many of the characters are cannon fodder within the storyline, we see their deaths being mourned and experience the deaths as tragic. We are made to feel angry at how disposable they are.
The film is visually stunning, full of contrasts – from the bleak, grey mining town Katniss and Peeta come from, to the lush green forest which Katniss sneaks into with Gale (love interest number two) to hunt for extra meat, and then to the colourful Capitol where the garish costumes and opulent surroundings bring to mind the foppish excesses of Georgian royalty. We feast our eyes in the Capitol, as the characters gorge on food, and Peeta is handed a drink to make him sick, so that he can eat more. He declines, commenting to Katniss
‘There are people starving in District 12, and here they are being sick so that they can eat more,’ just in case we missed that.
We follow Katniss and Peeta on their victory tour, from district to district, as revolution spreads despite Katniss attempting to pour water on the flames. At the first stop on the tour, she makes an impassioned speech to the family of Rue, the girl she mourned in the first Hunger Games, and sees a man shot for making a protest salute. She sticks to a script for the rest of the tour, but she has become a symbol of the revolution whether she likes it or not. She thinks of running away at first, but by the time she is preparing to enter the Hunger Games arena for the second time, we see her staring down the evil repressive President Snow. She is ready to fight.
By this time, the film has already been going on for some time and I hear my daughter and the friend she brought with her shifting in their seats. I wonder if it can hold their interest for another hour. The Games, this time around, are slower paced, with less violence. There is plenty of tension, suspense and emotion throughout, right up until the explosive finale. My daughter read the books a couple of years ago, and I hear her explaining parts of the plot to her friend in a loud hiss.
It ends with a sudden cliffhanger, nothing resolved, tension high. We’ll definitely be there for the conclusion.