“At some point, you have to stop running and turn around and face whoever wants you dead. The hard thing is finding the courage to do it.”
Directed by Francis Lawrence and the second adaptation in Suzanne Collins‘ The Hunger Games trilogy of novels, Catching Fire continues with the story of Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), as she returns home after winning the 74th Annual Hunger Games with fellow tribute, Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson). But it doesn’t take Katniss long to learn that surviving the games doesn’t mean that she has won, especially as President Snow (Donald Sutherland) is angry with her for breaking the rules and defying the Capitol at the end of the last Games. Sensing that a rebellion is simmering, the Capitol make a point to prove their control as they prepare for the 75th Annual Hunger Games, The Quarter Quell, a competition that could change Panem forever.
The following post is a review of the film adaptation in comparison to the book. You can read my review of the book on its own here.
As soon as it was revealed that Francis Lawrence was set to direct this sequel to 2012’s The Hunger Games, I had hopes about this adaptation. I loved the first film, so there was no doubt in my mind that Catching Fire wasn’t going to be anything less than a four-star film. What I didn’t expect, however, was that it would convert non-fans of the first instalment, so I’m quite pleased that this will be a film in many people’s Top 10 list of this year.
Many of the reviews I read before watching the film adaptation warned viewers of an excruciatingly dragged out first hour, but I think this is needed in The Hunger Games franchise. Personally, I don’t think it was an unnecessary opening hour or that it affected the film negatively in any way, as it sufficiently told the audience how the story had progressed, as the book did in almost the first half. This introduction successfully showed the threat and the power of the government in Panem, as well as the fear of its citizens; it’s how well this dystopian society is set up and developed that I admire most about these adaptations.
The Hunger Games novels do follow a dark story, with Catching Fire being even bleaker than its predecessor. To skip over how terrifying the society of Panem is would lose the film its impact and downgrade the novels themselves, which is why the films are such good adaptations as they aren’t afraid to show this grittiness.
The film may not use blood or graphic violence, though there is slightly more in this latest instalment, but the many deaths aren’t sugar-coated either. These adaptations certainly take a risk with trying to appeal to a younger audience at the same time, but whilst it is an exciting adventure to follow, it doesn’t come across as one big game without consequences either. Instead, these risks always pay off, which is what has made many viewers realise that this is a franchise worth following.
As for improvements over the first film, the most notable qualities are that the characters are better developed and their relationships are better explored. The love triangle at the heart of the story was badly dealt with in the first story and is what ruined the film for many viewers, but it was much better handled this time around.
With all of the cast from the first film reprising their roles, as well, we see the return of some of my favourite performances from Woody Harrelson, Donald Sutherland, Elizabeth Banks, and Stanley Tucci. But there are some great additions to the cast, too, especially with the addition of Philip Seymour Hoffman. This fantastic cast really does bring the story to life, with the new tributes (including Lynn Cohen as Mags, Jena Malone as Johanna, and Jeffrey Wright as Beetee) each being exactly as I pictured them when reading the novel.
Differences From The Book:
- In the film, Katniss often visits home whilst staying at her Victor’s house.
- In the film, Katniss has a drink with Haymitch when she finds out that she has to go back into the Games. In the book, she gets drunk with him and has a hangover the next day.
- In the book, Katniss and Peeta watch Haymitch’s win. This would have been great to see, but the film does not show any of the other Games.
- When Katniss is dancing with Plutarch in the book, he shows her his watch which has a Mockingjay symbol on it. We do not know what this means at the minute, but it is a hint at what’s to come. The film does not show this.
- In the book, Katniss comments on Snow’s breath smelling like blood and roses. In the film, we visually see him spit blood into his champagne.
- During this party, in the book, as well, Katniss sees an alert about District 3’s rebellion.
- In the book, just before the whipping, Katniss asks Peeta to run away with her, not Gale.
- In the book, Gale is whipped because, when Peacekeeper Cray is replaced by Thread, unbeknownst to Gale, he asks the Peacekeeper if he wants to buy a turkey. In the film, Gale is whipped by Thread because he attacks the Peacekeeper after the destruction of the Hob. In the book, Gale is then rescued by Darius, who is later turned into an Avox and serves Katniss at the Capitol.
- In the book, it is Madge, the mayor’s daughter who brings the morphine to Katniss’ house. Since they left Madge out of the first film, however, it is Prim that does this in the film.
- In the book, the fence is electrified when the Peacekeepers raid District 12, and Katniss has to jump over a tree to get out of the woods.
- In the book, Katniss shows signs of PTSD, having a flashback to killing Marvel whilst out shooting in the forest. The film does not explore this.
- The film does not include a scene where Katniss meets Twill and Bonnie, two members of District 8 who are running away to District 13. There is no mention of District 13 in this film, as Lawrence wanted to keep the ending of the film a surprise.
- On the train to the Capitol, in the book, Peeta shares his own nightmares with Katniss, telling her that he is afraid that he will lose her.
- During training, in the book, the tributes must all show a talent. Katniss chooses fashion design because she doesn’t believe that she has any real talent. In the film, she just shoots a few arrows.
- During training, in the film, Peeta’s picture of Rue is left for Katniss to see. In the book, she enters the room to see that it has been all disinfected and that the judges are looking disturbed.
- In the book, Katniss has a photo shoot for her wedding with Peeta.
- In the book, the Quarter Quell’s rules were sealed in an envelope when the Games were established. The film suggests that Snow has changed the rules in response to Katniss’ actions in the Games before, and Plutarch then suggests changes (setting it in water since District 12 cannot swim).
- The film does not mention that Katniss and Peeta cannot swim. Katniss learns in her father’s abandoned cabin in the woods, which we don’t see in the film either. Peeta does not learn and, therefore, has to be helped by Finnick at the start of the games. In the film, neither have any problems with swimming, and Peeta even kills somebody in the water during the opening of the games.
- In the book, bread rolls are sent to certain tributes during the Games, sent as a code.
- The film shows a scene of Snow’s granddaughter. In the books, she isn’t mentioned until Mockingjay, but this scene shows us a more personal side to Snow’s character.
This is a film adaptation that will please fans of the books, fans of the first film, and new fans alike. With all the entertainment of the first film, everything changes with the end of Catching Fire, and there’s so much more to look forward to.