Sunday, April 14, 2024

CATCHING FIRE: Remember Who the Real Enemy is

By Val Amiel Vestil

hgAfter having my glorious fill of the first Hunger Games movie, I knew I had to be first in line for a ticket to catch the second one. But before anything else, I also knew I had to read the book series beforehand. Once I finished burrowing through the pages of the Hunger Games and Catching Fire books, I cringed in one corner and waited anxiously for the movie, just for a moment in reel time.
As soon as the dreaded date of November 22 came, I became anxious. Anxious that the impeccable thrill of the book might not be seen in the movie; anxious that the ultimate scare of the book might not be as terrifying in the movie; anxious that the characters that were brought to life in the book might die a terrible death in the movie (and no, not through spears or tridents or arrows, but by bad acting); and more anxious even, that they might remove some important focal points and add some peculiar scenes that might bring the adaptation as far as the Bahamas.
It is difficult to critique a movie from a movie-goer’swwww point of view, especially so that I have learned to love every word that Suzanne Collins, author, had written on each page of the book. It is so difficult to remove the fact that I have read the book and I expect very highly of the movie, just as I did with JK Rowling’s Harry Potter Series. But for the benefit of every kind of moviegoer, both the reader and the intent watcher; both the first timer and the die-hard fan, I am going to tackle this movie at a very fair vantage point reviewing the movie on different levels: Characters,set,cinematography, and comparison with the book.
In “Catching Fire,” a traumatized Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) goes around the twelve districts in a mandatory “Victory Tour” after her death defying stint in the 74th Hunger Games. Seeing the families of the ones she killed was as worrying as finding out that the blood seethed President Snow (Donald Sutherland) did not like how she defied the rules of the Capitol and that it resulted to a boiling rebellion among the districts.
Francis Lawrence (director) takes on what could be the biggest challenge of his life: picking-up from the gripping reality of the Hunger Games and successfully allowing viewers to hunger for the two-part finale. To produce a movie that requires the overcoming of these challenges is a feat and F.
Lawrence succeeded.
I expected too much from the Girl on Fire, and truly there was too much going on for J. Lawrence. Most of her acting was becoming so much like the off screen J. Lawrence and not so much of the hopeful but emotionally dilapidated Katniss Everdeen. The movie revolved around her and I could imagine the pressure that she had to go through, getting a hold of the whole movie itself. Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) was not a surprise. His side-kick impression had been evident from the beginning until the end of the movie. He was nothing more but Peeta, the side-kick. Hutcherson could have delivered more outwardly, a sense of importance to his role.
“Catching Fire” was an emotional struggle for both independence and interdependence, and the lead actors didn’t really let me salivate for those two themes.
Johanna Mason (Jena Malone) and Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks) gave surprising stand out performances. Malone had given so much justice to the dangerous girl who wanted nothing much but for Snow’s head to be cut into pieces. I was already angry at the
Capitol ever since the first movie, and Mason just channeled my capsuled anger into the movie.
It was breathtaking. Banks, in her portrayal of the flamboyant Effie Trinket, was the only character who brought tears to my eyes. When this Capitol-bred chaperone uttered the words “You two deserved so much better. I’m truly sorry,” I went haywire.
Nothing could have been more authentic from someone so physically aesthetic. The Capitol, seat of the brutal
and totalitarian government of Panem, was disgustingly portrayed in the movie. As disgusting as the Capitol really is, I disliked how they set it to an a la Empire Strikes Back (1980) feel. It was visually unappealing. However, the Quarter Quell arena exceeded my expectations as they patterned it beautifully and terrifyingly after what I imagined it to be in the books: tick tock tick tock!
This installment of the youngadult series has now acquainted itself with everyone’s good, old friend, the IMAX. We presume that everything set in IMAX will give us that memorable cinematic experience, and Catching Fire didn’t fall short. Some first person point-of-view (POV) from the first movie was still so delicately maintained in the second. That kind of POV gave the viewer reel time action and drama. That gave me the opportunity to run away from the aloof monkeys, feel the pain of the boils that the treacherous gas covered in my body, and close my ears as the jabberjays mimicked the screams of my loved ones. The only difference? They were in the arena; I was at Robinsons MovieWorld.
To contain the experiences of a 391-page book in an almost three-hour showing is nothing but stimulating. From pages to screen, all I can say was that it was PRE CISE. It was as if Collins was at every shoot, script-reading, set-designing, and screen play building. Every peso in that Php145.00 ticket had served me well.
Now the question remains, and I cringe again in a corner to wait for the answer, why is there no District 12?


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