Sunday, 24 November 2013

Film review: Catching Fire (Hunger Games book 2)

I read the Hunger Games (then, book 1 and only) several years ago when we bought it for Daniel in Spain in 2011. I enjoyed book 1 (as did D, and subsequently Miranda); and they've both read books 2 and 3, which I haven't (I briefly browsed the opening of book 2 and decided that I didn't like it).

The film is excellent, if you like an exciting action movie. The production quality is very high, it all looks excellent, and the pace is fast enough that the holes in the story / concept only jar briefly, and if you're watching for them. Some of the slightly subtle surrounding details of persons is good too: for example the metamorphosis of Effie from soulless PR-bot to someone still in that role - the change is not too jarring - but who cares about her team and their place.

The "hoverships" are lovely, they look like spaceships. Quite a few details of the districts are good too: the village-square bits, the thin snow cover, the housing, it all fits and looks and works well.

No more Mr Nice Guy

So, I genuinely think it was a well-done film: I enjoyed it, its pretty long, but it doesn't drag. Far from it; I was disappointed when it ended to realise it was over. However, I wouldn't be me if I didn't whinge a bit.

There are some trivial holes, which I'll mention as examples, but they also expose my contempt for the water-fat folk of Hollywood:

* when you see Katniss in the initial return-from-hunting scene, walking over rocks in the woods, its pretty clear that she's an actress walking in the woods; not someone used to it. Its in the way she moves, her awkwardness.
* In my experience, when there is snow lying on the ground and wind in the air its cold out, and you dress for it, hunkered down into warm clothes.
* Katniss has an infinite supply of arrows.

All trivia. Another one is the format of the Games themselves. We see them entirely from the viewpoint of the participants. But think of them from the viewpoint of the spectators - aren't they a bit boring? What you want to see is people stalking each other, cunning fighting, hardship, endurance. But death by poison gas is just a bit random. As is from waves of water.

The biggest hole, though, is the political structure of the world. The capitol is huge, as it has to be. New York, or London sized. Millions of people. All, apparently, living in luxury. District 12, by contrast, is small: the town-square meeting is of thousands, at most. There's no way these districts can possibly be meaningfully contributing to the economy of the capitol - the capitol is clearly not living off their backs. With that gone, the reason for oppressing them disappears too. I suppose you could wave this away - that the districts we see are only a sketch intended to represent a larger substance. It still seems hard to believe that, given their tech-level, the capitol would bother oppress these people.

Oh, yeah

I suppose the film could also be about making difficult choices: Katniss occasionally has to worry about the folks back home. And stuff. Balancing one good/bad against another. But a film is a bad place to explore such choices, and this one doesn't even try. Which is good; its there to be action, not thought.

1 comment:

  1. IIRC from the books, Dist 12 was supposed to have something over 10k people, maybe 14k. It was also supposed to have the smallest population, but it's still hard to get to supporting millions from that point.